The life of a college student is pretty hectic. If you have several hours to spare in between classes, finding a good place to study is essential to getting work done. Whether you like being outside under the sun or inside a building with plenty of lounge room, there’s always a spot to meet your preferences. Here are some of my favorite places on campus to study or simply relax.
Nazarian Pavilion Courtyard
Located behind Doheny Library, Nazarian Pavilion Courtyard is a great place to study while being conveniently located next to the coffee shop Literatea. This tucked away patio has a handful of seats enclosed by the library’s brick-red walls. Grab a drink or snack and settle down in this secluded courtyard for a couple of hours.
Located outside of the USC Thornton School of Music, Queen’s Courtyard is a grassy park that is frequently occupied by music school students. Shaded beneath a canopy of trees, this is the perfect spot to study, nap, or picnic whilst being surrounded by the faint sounds of instruments playing.
Hoose Library of Philosophy
Probably the quietest of USC’s libraries, the Philosophy Library is located on the top floor of the Mudd Hall of Philosophy and is a beautiful place to study completely undisturbed. Situated near the Metro Expo line, this library has an ancient ambiance aided by chandeliers and colorful stained-glass windows. There are seats tucked away between bookshelves, making for the ideal spot to study indoors without any distractions.
Verna & Peter Dauterive Hall
The relatively new Verna & Peter Dauterive Hall is a clean and spacious indoor space that is great for studying. There are plenty of chairs and sofas on the lowest level that offer a comfortable getaway from the bustle of campus center. A beautiful long glass piece hanging from the ceiling makes the interior somewhat reminiscent of a quiet shopping mall.
Located near the Viterbi School of Engineering, Archimedes Plaza is the ideal place for students to get some work done. Shaded by cardinal umbrellas, this spot offers fountain views and close access to the engineering library as well as the engineering school classrooms. It is particularly convenient for students studying in STEM classes who might wish to get a bit of fresh air between classes.
Depending on where you went to high school and how academically challenging it was, you will either be super prepared for the amount of homework the average college student has or you will be overwhelmed by the first week and spend the rest of the semester playing catch-up with your assignments. I was definitely the second type. My high school did not prepare me at all for the amount of work college would give me and I spent my entire first semester trying to adjust. Now that I’ve gone through two full semesters at USC, I’ve learned some helpful tips on how to stay on top of my work. If you are also struggling with balancing your workload, keep reading for some studying methods that might make your academic life a little easier.
The first tip I have is to get your sleep schedule back on track. It is common to stay up late one night to work on a paper and then end up falling asleep in class the next day. Unfortunately, this causes you to have even more work to do. This forces you to stay up late again and before you know it, your sleep schedule is backward. Establishing a regular sleep schedule will not only help you feel more like a human again but will also improve your productivity in the long run because you will have more energy and be able to absorb information better. It might seem impossible with all the work you have but trust me, it is possible and will make you feel a million times better.
The second tip I have is to split your free time into just working or just relaxing. For example, you have two hours in between classes. You can either work during those two hours or relax, but only choose one. If you choose to work, silence your phone and devote the entire time to just working. If you choose to relax, find a stress-free activity to do and let your mind relax. Instead of having your work open in front of you but not actually doing any of it, choosing either to work or relax allows you to devote your entire focus on one action and boost productivity. However, it is important to make sure that your choice to work and to relax is balanced, or that can result in other problems.
Over the past year, I’ve spent almost all of my time at home (as most people have), doing my part to flatten the curve and stop the spread of Covid-19 by doing absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, as I’ve filled the time with a number of TV shows and films I’d been meaning to watch but had previously not had time for. The pandemic certainly freed some time up for me to catch up on these shows. Watching a show or movie can be more than just mindless entertainment; it can be an informative or even educational experience, especially if you watch the right things. By watching American classics and international standouts, I believe my quarantine binge-watching habits have been more productive than one might expect.
With travel being impossible, I’ve scratched the itch to go abroad by watching shows and movies that take place in Mexico and Italy. I speak Spanish, but I know that in order to maintain fluency in a language, practice is essential. As such, I began watching Netflix’s Club de Cuervos, a show about a soccer team in a small town outside of Mexico City. It was not only highly entertaining (I enjoyed it so much I watched the spinoff series it produced), but it also helped me maintain my ear for the language. The show even improved my understanding of the Central Mexican dialect and a variety of accents which are quite prevalent in Los Angeles.
I’ve also been learning Italian at USC for the past couple of years, and by watching a number of classic Italian films on Kanopy, a streaming service for classic and indie films (which all USC students have access to), I’ve bettered my understanding of the language while watching some of the most artistic films ever made. Here’s a tip: if you’re watching a show in a foreign language you’re trying to learn, turn on the subtitles in the foreign language. For me, Spanish and Italian are much easier to understand when I have subtitles on and can read along. If you’re working on your English, try using English subtitles and the dialogue should be easier to understand.
Travel needn’t take place abroad as traveling through time may arguably be even more exciting. I was quite young when AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s The Wire first began airing, and having heard nothing but good things about the shows, I’ve always wanted to watch them. Quarantine provided the time for that. Mad Men is set in 1960s Manhattan. The title is derived from the show’s main focus, which is the advertising industry along Madison Avenue. It’s an excellent period piece, and I enjoyed all seven seasons. It helped pass the time in the early days of lockdown. It also provides fascinating insight into 1960s America and the professional and business world. The show includes important examinations of misogyny and sexism through the story arc of Peggy Olson, one of the main characters and a fan favorite, as well as the social and racial justice movements of the 1960s. It also provides revealing vignettes of American culture. It’s not only an excellent show, with great shots and suave styles, but an interesting look into American history.
The Wire, a Baltimore-based crime drama, is also quite insightful. I just wrapped up the first season and it very deftly handles controversial subjects such as the criminal justice system, drug trade, racial tensions, and corruption. It shows the perspectives of all parties involved, giving the audience the space to receive the information and interpret it on their own. It also has some of the best scene transitions I’ve ever seen, and I eagerly look forward to watching the remaining four seasons. While the show was made in the early and mid-2000s, the topics it covers are still wholly relevant today.
These shows are worth watching, especially if you are an international student that wants to gain a better understanding of American culture, language, and history, just as I learned by watching shows from Mexico and Italy. These shows also help pass the time, because even though schoolwork is a large load on all of our plates, there still isn’t much to do besides staying home, staying safe, and watching shows.
Connor is a junior majoring in History and Italian at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Born and raised in California, in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area, he has long been interested in experiencing diverse cultures and learning new languages. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Italian, drawn to both by his love of history and cuisine. He enjoys adventuring in both the urban and natural landscapes of California, as well as playing and listening to music, and is always happy to recommend the best taco spot to eat at, beach to walk along, or album to listen to. He is a huge sports fan and loves to chat about everything from the Lakers to soccer.
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction