As anyone who has spent even a marginal amount of time with me here at USC can attest to, I. Love. The Sun. If I could, I would spend every waking moment soaking up the gorgeous LA sunshine (who needs sunscreen?) by lying on the beach, a fun picnic spot, or simply on the grass in McCarthy Quad in between classes. Coming into USC as an engineering major, I heard countless stories from upperclassmen: long hours spent in the depths of Leavey library, the ever-present host of engineering students you would find camped out in classrooms at any given hour of the day, and the recurring joke, ‘Viterbi kids need to get out more’. Given how lucky I felt to attend university in LA, where the weather ticked all of my boxes (sunny? Check! 0% humidity? Check! Skies so blue they seem fake? Double check!) I was determined not to let these stories distract me from what has undoubtedly become the defining goal of my college career: soaking up as much LA sun as possible. 

If, like me, the idea of studying indoors all day mildly terrifies you, fear not, for I have compiled here a list of my favorite outdoor study spots on campus! Cramming for that difficult engineering class, be it physics, fluid dynamics, or perhaps organic chemistry, becomes that much easier when you do it in a setting that fills you with joy. 

1. Ronald Tutor Campus Centre

Number 1 on this list is my absolute favourite study spot on campus: the outdoor seating next to Ronald Tutor Campus Centre. The high tables and chairs provide ample space to spread out your laptop and books, and for those days when you need your laptop battery to last as long as physically possible, the bright red umbrellas can provide some well needed shade. If, like me, you are willing to brave the blazing sun, there are a range of seating options, from collaborative tables and couches, to the stone stairs lining each side of the courtyard. Even better, this study spot is located in the heart of some of the best food options on campus, including Seeds Marketplace, California Pizza Kitchen, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (for that mid-day studying caffeine boost) and, to beat the heat: Lemonade! 

2. Viterbi E-Quad

The best way to convince people that engineers do not ‘spend all their time inside studying’ as the stereotype goes, is to take them to E-Quad: USC Viterbi’s very own outdoor study space. Whether you prefer lying in the grass while reading your chemistry textbook (as I do), working with friends on a group project at one of the tables, or taking a much needed mid-day nap on one of the comfy sofa-chairs, E-Quad is the space to be. For engineering students in particular this is a great study spot because it is conveniently located in the middle of the buildings where most engineering classes are held in, and so it is the perfect place to spend that awkward one hour of time that often pops up between class periods. There is also something quite beautiful about being able to study in the sunshine while having a direct view of the iconic USC Viterbi logo on the wall of Biegler Hall. 

3. LiteraTea

This one is a bit of a hidden gem; situated right behind Doheny library, this outdoor study space is located next to a small café with comfy couches, delicious chocolate chip muffins, and if you’re a fan of NorCal coffee shops, Peet’s coffee. From large tables that can hold up to 5 people to smaller two-person study areas in the shade, LiteraTea’s outdoor courtyard is a great space to transition from a catchup with a friend over coffee to a few hours of studying in the fresh air (and, if you time it right, a chance to catch a glimpse of the sunset). The rustic design of the chairs and tables make this little study spot seem oh-so-separate from the rest of campus; for a few hours, it seems almost as if you can escape into the confines of an outdoor Parisian café.   

Being an engineer does not need to come at the cost of getting your daily dose of LA sunshine: these spots around campus are the highlight of my college life, and a reminder that even when I am knee-deep in studying for whichever engineering class is currently giving me grief, there are little things, like a selection of sunny study spots, to be incredibly grateful for. 

Sheetal Madnani

Sheetal Madnani

MAJOR: Chemical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Guangzhou, China PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @sheetalmadnani On campus I have been involved with Model UN, Freshman Academy, and interning abroad through the Global Fellows program! I also conduct research in environmental policy and climate mitigation, and am involved in climate advocacy through the LA Mayor's office.