As international students, we are always worried about not fitting in, not finding the right group of friends and all the other concerns that come with being far away from home. I’m from Pakistan –a country that is a 21 hour journey, and sometimes more, by plane. Many of you who live in Asia or South Asia would understand how difficult and expensive it is to make that journey. But one thing that has really helped me adjust to this new environment is trying to find interesting ways to find your place at the University of Southern California (USC).
I am going to use this blog to tell you what you can do to make yourself at home in this beautiful city. You should always know that you are never going to be alone. As per Fall 2018, there were 11,308 international students enrolled at USC and they’re all in the same boat as you and me. We all miss the food at home, we miss being with our families and celebrating exciting holidays like Thanksgiving or the Chinese New Year and we miss our friends that we have grown up with. So my first tip to you is to keep an open mind, put a brave face on and take this as a challenge. While doing this, it is important that you be yourself.
You will find people who will be in awe of your diversity and they’ll be curious about your culture and your life back home, you will find people who you gel with perfectly and also some who you won’t gel with at all. But you’ll only really find a close group of friends if you put yourself out there.
Sometimes after spending so much time at or near USC (whether in class, at clubs, or even living in a dorm), it is nice to get off campus and explore outside of South Central. When thinking of California, celebrities, the beach, or even the Hollywood Walk of Fame may come to mind for most people, but outdoor hiking and nature trails are common and a fantastic attraction. Around LA, there are hiking trails in the city, North, and South. Most are dog friendly, feature crafted hiking trails with maps, and even offer parking. One important aspect to consider when visited these parks and trails is the risk and past occurrences of wildfires. Remember to always leave nature better than how you found it! I have listed my top sites 5 below:
Located in the Hollywood Hills, Runyon is a fairly known hike and trail around Los Angeles. Often, you may see the beautiful view of Hollywood posted on Instagram or Facebook tagged at Runyon. People commonly known Runyon as a place to bring dogs, spot celebrities, and see a full skyline. Many dog owners take their pets to Runyon for the off-leash areas. This trail is not very long, as it only extends around 3 miles round trip, but it is still a challenge especially in the summer Southern California heat. Since it is so popular, parking can be a challenge and Uber is recommended, but there is one lot and street parking around the entrance.
Solstice Canyon is located near Malibu just West of Los Angeles, so it works best to drive instead of paying for an expensive Uber. Aside from the 2.6 mile round trip hike, Solstice Canyon also features historical ruins and a waterfall. Also, along the Solstice Creek there are picnic tables for a nice outdoor lunch. When passing the ruins, you should see the Roberts Ranch House, which is now protected by the National Parks Service. Next on the trail, you’ll spot a short waterfall down the rocks into the creek. It’s a beautiful sight!
Another park in the Hollywood Hills is Cahuenga Park, which leads to a view of the Hollywood Sign and the Wisdom Tree. Again here, there is not much parking except street parking around the bottom. Heading up the East trail, there is a 1.6 mile round trip hike to the Wisdom Tree. This trail is more rugged and less paved than Runyon Canyon, and it gets steep at points. To the West, the trail gets even steeper and more rugged, but eventually leads to the back side of the Hollywood Sign. Both of these trails offer a large amount of elevation for a short distance.
Santa Anita Canyon
The most challenging hike on this list, the Santa Anita Canyon, is a whopping 8.7 mile loop, best made for a full day hike with lunch and swimming stops. The Santa Anita Canyon is located Northeast of Pasadena, so it is again best to drive and park in the lots or along the street below. Along this trail, there are numerous cabins, a 60-foot waterfall, and an escape from Los Angeles. The waterfall is comes up in the first half of the trail, so you can jump in then dry off the rest of the way.
Sandstone Peak is the furthest hike to the East, past Santa Monica and Malibu but is one of the highest points in Southern California. You can see jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Bay. The summit is over 3,000 feet and follows a 6.25 mile loop. This hike features another picnic area and plenty of shade on the way up. Another beautiful aspect are the Grottoes with creeks and pools.
Gabi is a Pre-Law sophomore majoring in Law, History, and Culture in Dornsife with a minor in Culture, Media, and Entertainment from Annenberg. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia before fulfilling her dream of moving to Los Angeles for college. On the weekends, Gabi loves to go to the beach, visit museums, go shopping, watch movies, hike, read, work out, do yoga, and spend time with friends. Back home, Gabi has one younger sister, who she is very close with and for whom she acts as a role model and mentor. In high school, Gabi worked with many international exchange students through an organization called ICES. She loves traveling, meeting new people, and learning about other cultures.
While San Diego may be best known for its beaches or attractions such as Sea World, as a native, I know that there are several other less-known opportunities that anyone can enjoy. San Diego is probably best known for its beaches, including the beaches in La Jolla, Coronado, Oceanside, or Moonlight Beach, and in addition to the multitudes of beaches, you may have also heard of San Diego’s many feature attractions such as Sea World, the Safari Park, or Legoland. What you may not have heard of, however, are many of the other features of my beautiful hometown.
If you are a nature enthusiast, there are several opportunities throughout various parts of San Diego. For hiking, there are several locations around San Diego of varying length and difficulty, all with beautiful greenery. Some of these locations include the Torrey Pines trail in Torrey Pines (known as a relatively easy hike with two trails approximately a mile each) and the multitude of hiking trails in Poway, a subcommunity of San Diego, specifically the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve (known for its native plants and wildlife, and is also a relatively easy hike).
Alternatively, if you are more into the bar or club scene, the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown is a good place to go. With at least 16 clubs and restaurants there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere of the city. On a side note to this interest though, if you are interested in a day-time version of this activity, San Diego is also well known for its vineyards, are there are plenty of opportunities to visit and attend wine tastings (I personally recommend the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo or any of the vineyards in the nearby area of Temecula).
There is also the opportunity to see many parts of San Diego’s history in downtown in Little Italy or in many of the available historical sites such as the USS Midway, Balboa Park. I highly recommend Balboa Park. As the host to various exhibits throughout the year in its in-house museums (including San Diego’s Natural History Museum), and also some of the best gardens, Balboa Park is a wonderful place to spend a day exploring and enjoying the sunny warm weather typical for San Diego.
All in all, San Diego is a very diverse city, with much to offer anyone who is interested and I am proud to call it home. Happy traveling!