For a campus renowned for being the centre of a hustling, vibrant city like Los Angeles, USC is pretty quiet these days. As I’m sure many of my peers would attest to, it feels at times like the city that never sleeps at night has been replaced by a city that is beautiful, sure, but a little emptier, a little less exciting, and a little less full of adventures. I’ve certainly struggled with trying to maintain some semblance of a social life and trying to retain the same wonder and curiosity I felt during my first three years living in LA while also making sure I adhere to local public health guidelines and keep myself and those around me safe, so I thought I would use this opportunity to talk candidly about how that’s going. 

First off: it’s rough. As someone who planned outings in LA based on which new food spot to try or which movie theatre to swing by on a weeknight, having to replace a lot of those activities given COVID-19 guidelines was at first, very disheartening. 

So instead, I have committed myself to becoming an outdoors person! Which leads me to:

Tip #1: Scope out hiking trails (especially on weekdays!)

While hiking has become the de-facto social activity for many Angelenos during the pandemic, timing your hikes on weekdays or off-times such as early mornings often is a good way to avoid crowds. As an engineer, I trust the data: I’ve recently been using AllTrails to scope out past hikers’ reviews on which trails are most busy, and which ones provide a nice solace from reality! 

Admittedly suddenly trying to become a hiking person is tough, and I often need (lots) of external encouragement, including fun new restaurants in LA to try. While outdoor dining remains a tricky situation to navigate given high COVID transmission rates, at-home delivery services and pick-up (takeout) options abound! And so we have:

Tip #2: Keep living your best foodie life

I have notifications on for all of my food delivery applications (Postmates, Uber Eats, and Grubhub) so that I am well updated on when helpful promo codes are available (for a more college-student-friendly budget!). While food delivery applications are definitely not as ideal as picking up directly from a restaurant, not everyone has safe access to transportation (like a car), so these are a helpful alternative. I’ve found it particularly helpful to scope out small businesses/eateries in LA that do drop-off delivery at set timings (like once a week!) – such as SoCal Indo Food.

Ambitious meal planning and themed grocery store runs (my roommate and I will spend an hour every Sunday night deciding what ~vibe~ of food we want to cook for the next week in anticipation of our Monday morning grocery run) also help to break up the monotony of staying at home, and cooking nights over Zoom can be a fun social event to destress after a long day of classes!

This past year I have been lucky to live in an apartment near campus, and as such have access to USC’s beautiful campus, provided I get tested twice weekly as part of our public health guidelines for the student body. Not only does this help me feel like I am being more safe, but I also try to: 

Tip #3: Make the most of [on-campus] COVID testing requirements!

My roommate and I often schedule our test appointments for the same time so that we have an excuse to go on a long, fun walk around campus, and it is also a great way to say hello to people socially distantly and outdoors! 

Staying socially active and keeping up a ‘social life’ so to speak may be more difficult now than ever, but hopefully these tips are helpful in keeping us all safe, healthy and sane! 

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.