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10 Things I Learned in my First Semester at USC

By Esther Cha

Whether you’re here at USC as a freshman or Graduate student, your first year on campus is a time for exponential growth. In my first semester here, I learned a lot in my classes, but the real learning (about life and being on my own) came from outside the classroom. Here are some things I learned in my first semester that I know will help me survive college. Perhaps they can help you too!

  1. Don’t be afraid to say hi

Remember that everyone is in the same boat as you. College can be nerve wracking but a smile and a hello can go a long way. Who knows? The random stranger you say hi to in math class could potentially become your new best friend.

  1. Don’t buy your textbooks full price

Textbooks costs ADD UP. Be smart with textbooks and wait till the first week of classes to make sure you actually need to buy them. (Sometimes professors do not require them even though they are listed in the syllabus). Amazon and Chegg.com offer textbooks at significantly lower prices for rent and will save you a ton of money. Another option is to see if the libraries have the textbooks or required books you need and if they do you can borrow them for an entire semester at no cost!

  1. Be active and take advantage of your gym membership

Don’t forget to take care of your physical health by staying active! Not only will the endorphins make you feel better you will feel healthier and cleaner. Your tuition pays for a gym membership so take advantage of the great gyms we have on campus. The new village gym has great equipment and classes that you don’t wanna miss out on!

  1. Go to more events on campus

Join all of the facebook groups like your class page, USG, USC Events page to keep up to date with all of the exciting and cool events on campus! There are always so many cool speakers and guests on campus that you can meet if you take the initiative. Last semester I got to hear Danny Trejo speak and even see Brittany Snow (from Pitch Perfect) at Bovard for an Acapella concert.

  1. Be aware of the Freshman 15

Two Words: Unlimited Swipes. As a freshman with an unlimited meal plan, it can be very tempting to eat ice cream for dessert after every meal and indulge in the famous EVK chicken tenders. Make sure to keep a balance and eat vegetables and fuel your body with nutritious foods. You are what you eat after all.

  1. Google Calendar is your new best friend

College can get very hectic with so many events, classes, and appointments. Google Calendar helps to keep you organized and sane. Having a planner or calendar in college helps keep you organized and on top of your assignments and meetings. Don’t let that midterm or paper creep up on you; use Google Calendar to plan ahead!

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Adjusting to Campus Life

By Alexis Peters

As a transfer student and a spring admit, I understand what it’s like to feel out of place at USC. You can feel a bit like a fish out of water, unsure about SC life and the opportunities available to you. Many  students are from the LA area, or elsewhere in California, but some of us have homes that are thousands of miles away. I’m originally from Chicago, so I may not understand homesickness on an international scale, but I still miss home a lot. So here’s what you can do to combat homesickness and adjust to campus.

  1. Stay busy.

Besides just studying all the time and going to classes, you have to make time to do something fun that doesn’t involve sitting in your room watching HBO. Go to fun events and see what’s happening on campus. There’s almost always something to do, no matter what day it is. So keep an eye out and go ahead and have fun. You may even make a new friend! I went to Spoiler Alert’s comedy show at Tommy’s Place. Spoiler Alert is one of USC’s improv comedy groups and they perform a hilarious set!

2. Join clubs!

When I first got to USC, I knew exactly what kinds of clubs I wanted to join. Going in with a couple of student organizations that interest you in mind will be helpful so you don’t get too overwhelmed at the Involvement Fair. I usually pick 3: one that is an activity that I know I like and have done before; one that I have always wanted to try, but never got around to starting it; and one that never even crossed my mind, but hey, it might be fun! For me, this was theater, Science Outreach, and boxing!

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But First, Take a Breath

By Yoko Fukumura

It’s finals season. Or it’s application season. Maybe it’s your first semester at college. Maybe it’s your last semester of school before you head off to the world.

No matter where you are in life, most of the time you probably have something big on your mind. And it’s not a bad thing – it means that you’re working hard and pushing yourself! But as important as it is to succeed and reach towards your goals, it is equally, if not more, important to be in tune with your mind and body.

As young adults sometimes we feel invincible. We think that we can eat cereal and instant noodles for weeks and pull all-nighters because self care can wait, but the test tomorrow will not wait. I’m also guilty of this and I can attest that this is false – I’ve done better when I prioritized eating and sleeping over studying on the last day. Even if our overworked immune system makes up for all the unhealthy choices momentarily, our physical and mental health might be taking a toll that ultimately affects your studies and future.

Doing well in school is not irrelevant, but your health will decide whether you do well, in school and after. These are a couple small things that I have found helpful along the way that don’t take up too much time.

First, you need to get to know yourself. If you don’t know your limits, it’s hard to plan ahead or know when to stop. We commend hard work, but we can’t keep working hard if we don’t know our limits. Writing a daily journal entry is one simple way to get to know yourself better, and it makes you tune in to your self at least briefly every day. If a blank paper isn’t enough structure for you, you could also get “Q&A a Day” at a bookstore or on Amazon.

Another big one for me was picking up an activity to do fairly consistently. In school, we have multiple deadlines and exams that have hard set dates and limited flexibility, but your hobbies and exercise are flexible. I try to exercise every day – nothing big, anything from ten minutes to thirty minutes on weekdays so that I don’t intimidate myself out of it. When I’m busy I can skip it without feeling guilty – it’s almost like tricking your mind and body so that when you have less time, you have surplus energy. One of the great resources of USC is the Recreational Sports program. There are many affordable fitness programs, from yoga and mindfulness to kickboxing. If you find group classes intimidating, there are 1-on-1 personal training and private session pilates/yoga as well. You can find more about the options here: https://sait.usc.edu/recsports/

Lastly, the easiest to do but also the easiest to forget, is to take deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing involves using the muscle between your lungs and abdominal area to breathe deeply (this youtube link explains and helps visualize the diaphragm), and one of our automatic reactions to stress is to take shallow breaths. Deep breathing has many lasting physiological effects, including inhibiting your body’s stress response. Stress affects not just your mind but your whole body, and too much of it can cause long term effects such as memory issues, high blood pressure, and migraines, among others. Breathing can be done anywhere – during class, on a bus, in your bed. It only takes a second, but you could feel better for the entire day, which affects your next day, week, and semester.

Your test tomorrow is important. But first, take a breath.

Yoko is a 1st year graduate student in USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. She is originally from Boston, Massachusetts where she studied piano performance at New England Conservatory of Music. Born to Japanese immigrant parents, Yoko is very familiar with both the challenges and beauties of cultural diversity. She is also an expert collaborator and teacher from her experience teaching piano and performing in ensembles.