This Finals Week, I am thankful for/passive aggressively resentful of the abundance of free food coming my way. Whereas throughout Leigh Finals Foodthe semester, USC will only offer you free food as sporadic promotion for various clubs/organizations, during Finals they will throw so much at you that you won’t know what to do with it/how to hide your food baby.

This all started on Sunday, when my sorority (and parent volunteers like my wonderful mother) was kind enough to organize a banquet which rivaled that of the Pilgrims’ upon arrival to America. Finals Feast featured a wide assortment of entrees, desserts, and even a candy bar — and so, food coma #1 ensued. Following that, Monday was “Study Nights” on McCarthy Quad, where I got to stuff my face with free Chick-Fil-A, Sprinkles, and more. On top of that, when I returned to my sorority house to study, our house mom had put out all the leftovers from Finals Feast in addition to literally overflowing baskets of snacks on snacks. Cue food coma #2.

Tonight, as I procrastinate writing my final paper for my International Relations course, I decided to remove myself from the coma-inducing environment of USC so that I could focus on my academics, which meant avoiding the onslaught of midnight breakfasts offered on campus and at Chabad (coma #3: crisis averted). Naturally, though, I ended up scrounging for dessert in nearby Koreatown, all the while claiming to myself that I needed an “energy boost”. Maybe leaving USC for the night wasn’t the most productive move, after all.

Wish me luck, world. Finals left to go: 2. Papers left to write: 2. Food comas: Still going strong.

Jennifer Dramatic ArtsSilly punning aside, I am pleased to announce the most recent addition to my path of study — the dramatic arts! After an entire semester’s worth of soul-searching and feeling like I spent more time thinking in circles than actually taking any decisive action, I finally decided to add a major in the USC School of Dramatic Arts.

I guess I should explain why it took me so long to finally add the major since I’ve loved theater virtually all my life. I came into college with the notion that I could pretty much double major in whatever I wanted, completely oblivious to the fact that, yes, some majors require more units than others to complete.

My dream was to double major in English and Theater with a minor in Screenwriting. I eventually learned that I would not be able to complete this particular double major and minor combo in a regular four-year schedule — around the same time I started getting asked questions such as: “Wow, English and Theater? That’s brave. What do you want to do with that?”

That’s when I started to panic. Perhaps I was making a mistake in pursuing the arts and humanities. I certainly didn’t want to wind up a “starving artist,” as some people warned me I could. So, I decided I would pursue something more “sensible” in addition to theater.

Until that didn’t add up either. I was so set on International Relations for a while that I nearly forfeited my original intention to include theater as a major… and then I realized something. The more I tried to separate theater from my studies, promising myself I’d always try to do shows on the side, the more it clung to me, calling to me with its siren song, and I knew my efforts would be futile. Already my deep passion for the dramatic arts had been reawakened by my Acting 101 class, and I knew that I couldn’t give up theater any easier than I could sever any other integral component of my identity.

Because I wouldn’t be able to pursue a dual degree in Theater and International Relations with a normal four year schedule either, I finally decided on Political Science and Theater. This way, I would be able to incorporate my love of politics and national affairs into my education as well, a passion which was sparked during my senior year after a semester of AP US Government and Politics. I really feel this is the perfect combination for me, since Political Science will allow me to put my love of critical analysis and words to use, and I am currently undecided between pursuing a government career and the life of a theater actress. No matter what I eventually choose, both majors foster the sort of examination of human experience which will enrich any career.

Overall, I feel I really learned an important lesson during this semester-long journey: there’s no use trying to suppress your passion. If you really love something, there is no escape, and it will only haunt you later that you didn’t pursue your dreams. You only get one undergraduate experience, so you might as well make the most of it. A Bachelor’s Degree is a Bachelor’s Degree, and college is the time to explore and develop a true thirst for learning. Worry about the specializing later when you’re applying for internships and grad school.

Above all, I’ve learned not to worry about what other people say. Sure, I doubt I’ll go on to become a doctor with my degree, but that’s simply because that’s not my calling. If I wanted to, I could certainly work a pre-med emphasis in there. I won’t let anyone’s perceptions of what is and what isn’t a proper degree hold me back from my dreams, and I couldn’t be happier to attend a school which truly fosters this mindset.

Fight on, and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Kenneth SIHi everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve made my last blog post, hasn’t it? Now that it’s winter break, I have time to tell you a bit about one of the most rewarding things I’ve done this past semester: being an SI leader.

For those of you who don’t know, Supplemental Instruction (or SI) is a program offered by the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences where students in introductory math and science courses can get extra help in the form of small group sessions led by an undergrad who’s taken the class before. I was hired as an SI leader for CHEM 105b, off-track introductory chemistry. As you might know, I want to pursue a career in teaching, so SI is a very appropriate job for me.

As an SI leader, I attend classes with the other students and write my own worksheets as supplemental material to the lectures. Four times a week I hold sessions where students can come do problems and ask me questions about the material. Before their exams, I write an extended worksheet and have a super long session on the Sunday before the exam.

I’ve quickly discovered that writing problems is as hard if not harder than actually doing problems! You have to make sure that everything works out and makes sense and is actually interesting… It’s like taking another class all together. Many a night I’ve stayed up until ungodly hours to finish a sheet or a review. This is generally my fault though, since I’m kind of lazy :D

But despite all the work, my job is actually really fun. I’ve developed a fun relationship with some of my students, especially because I shared a class with many of them. I like to tell jokes and share stories about football (sigh… let’s not talk about football).

It’s obvious I’m not a TA or anything like that; I’m just a fellow undergrad. One of my students once told me I reminded him of his good friend with my sarcastic sense of humor, to which I replied “Sarcastic? Me? Really?”

I’ve been offered free food and have given out cookies to my students (and was promptly accused of stealing from a bake sale). The day before a review, I ran into a bunch of my students at the USC/Oregon game, and I confided in them that I hadn’t started making the review sheet… Now that was a looooong night. I know when you read the job description you thought we were a bunch of nerds, but we’re really not, I promise!

… Now that I’ve reread this post, I really hope my boss, Judy Haw, doesn’t read this! But I’m sure she’d understand; she’s a really sweet boss, and she understands what the life of a college student is like. And I’m really not as bad as this post makes me seem, honest!

If any of you are aspiring biology or chemistry majors, maybe you’ll have the pleasure of attending my sessions when you come here to USC! I’ll be looking forward to meeting you :)

Until next time!


Michelle: I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to see a pre-screening of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. And let me just say, it was amazing. No lie, I was tearing up at the end. Aside from being enjoyable and heartfelt, the movie, which revolves around the making of Disney’s Mary Poppins, was especially interesting to me, as I finish a Thematic Option class that included an analysis of and a visit to Disneyland. Hearing two of the actors, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman (definitely had a small fan girl moment), and the Production Director of the movie answer questions after the screening only added to the awesomeness of the experience.

Nick: Because USC is in the entertainment capital of the world, we often get to see screenings of movies before they come out. Last night the new Disney film Saving Mr. Banks rolled through Norris Theater. While it was cool to see the movie weeks before its release, the really fun part was having stars B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman stop by for a Q&A session afterwards. They were hilarious and extremely laid back. I truly believe that USC is the only university in the country with awesome opportunities like this available EVERY WEEK!

Divya: This week I got to join a film symposium class for a very exciting screening of the movie Saving Mr. Banks! The movie focused on the story behind Mary Poppins, and how Walt Disney actually made the book series (Mary Poppins was a book series!) into a movie. I have found that other live-action Disney movies are entertaining but not lasting in the same way that Disney’s animated films like The Lion King have been. However, this movie was truly remarkable. Tom Hanks was perfect as Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson is just always perfect. I teared up, and I remembered why I love Mary Poppins and Disney so much. Oh, and the after-movie chat with B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman was pretty cool too.

Vijeta: Another Thursday night, another new movie! I’d been looking forward to Saving Mr. Banks ever since I saw the trailer, and I feel so lucky to have seen it before its release. Some parts of the movie were really funny, and the actors did a great job. Definitely made me want to watch Mary Poppins again!

Shannon: Just two weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to attend a free screening of the Disney film Frozen thanks to the generosity of another ambassador who is interning with Disney. This week, thanks to the same friend and the amazing connections USC has to the film industry, I got to see yet another free pre-screening, this time of the Disney film Saving Mr. Banks. It was a heartwarming, humorous, masterful portrayal of the challenging ordeal Walt Disney underwent when he tried to get the author of the novel “Mary Poppins”, P.L. Travers, to sign over the rights to her precious story. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson were a joy to watch, and the story was gripping and fun. Attending the screening was the perfect way to celebrate finishing classes (which I had done earlier in the day). In fact, by complete coincidence, in my last class, which was for my History of Film Music course (for my Popular Music minor), we talked about music in animation, focusing specifically on Disney films. Thus, as part of the class, I got to learn about the Sherman Brothers’ music for Mary Poppins, which deepened my appreciation for Saving Mr. Banks. Watching old Disney and Warner Bros. clips in my History of Film Music course and watching how one of my favorite movies as a kid, Mary Poppins, became the sensation it is today, brought back a lot of great memories. Spending the last day of my second to last semester of college reliving my childhood was a wonderful way to end an unforgettable semester.

Sam: Saving Mr.Banks was amazing! I found myself laughing and crying with the characters and loved the movie. The Q&A after was very insightful as well, and it was great to hear from the actors’ and production designer’s point of view of making the movie.

Caroline: I loved getting to see Saving Mr. Banks on campus! Going in I knew I was going to enjoy it….I mean Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, and Mary Poppins all in one movie? But it’s so much more than just a film with those big names attached – I learned a lot about the inspired true story. After the free pre-screening, in true USC fashion, the production designer Michael Corenblith, and actors BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman came for a Q&A. I enjoyed hearing some behind-the-scenes tidbits on bringing their characters and 1960s Los Angeles to life. The movie is really fun with a great balance of comedy and drama. I definitely recommend it!

Jared: Without giving too much away, I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of Saving Mr. Banks this past Thursday. The film provides an interesting and moving look behind the history of one of the most well-known Disney films, and Hanks and Thompson are fantastic as Walt Disney and P. L. Travers. It’s the perfect holiday film — both charming and enjoyable — that I look forward to seeing with my family soon.


Disney Frozen

SHANNON: One of the advantages of going to a school that is located so close to and has so many ties to Hollywood is there are always opportunities to attend free preview screenings of big Hollywood films. This past Thursday, thanks to a fellow ambassador’s internship at Disney, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film Frozen right here on campus. The film was easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. The story was funny, dramatic, exciting, and completely charming, and the animation was gorgeous. I could not have asked for a better study break!

VIJETA: I am so happy I got to watch a free preview screening of Frozen right here at USC. First of all, the film was ADORABLE and getting to watch it before it’s officially released made it even better. We watched the movie with a Film Symposium class on campus, meaning people are taking a class where they just get to watch movies (and hear guest speakers and write papers about the movies, but still —free movies!!). I am totally taking this class in the future. But for now, Frozen is SUCH a good movie. I’m definitely going to go watch it again with my friends. It combines all of the quintessential elements of a Disney movie, and I’m sure everyone who watches it will love it!

TING: Frozen represents a return to the nostalgic Disney magical legacy that raised my generation of twenty-something-year-olds. The stunning beauty of every scene is breathtaking. The music, per Disney tradition, remains sensational and makes you want to hop up and twirl around, belting at the top of your lungs. As I write this, I’m listening to Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” for the umpteenth time, and it loops on repeat. Every listen brings back flashes of the movie. Anyone watching the accompanying scene to the song will immediately recognize its uplifting power. This song reflects Frozen‘s most compelling message, which is also the exact feature that distinguishes it from its predecessors. Contrary to the belief instilled into our Disney-reared generation that the secret ingredient to a happily ever after is seeking “true love” with your Prince Charming, it’s now telling little princesses everywhere: “It’s time to see what you can do, to test the limits and break through.” (Yes, I’ve memorized the song lyrics.) Disney seems to finally liberate its young female audience from the traditional confines of happiness that can only result from being with a perfect man. By effectively widening the definition of “true love” to that very real and equally powerful love from family, Frozen proves that there’s more to happiness than that. Just as a man’s success is measured through his ability to perform in the workplace, his relationships with loved ones, and how he provides for his family, a woman’s success should be gauged with those same standards. A woman’s success is no longer dictated by her lifelong search for happiness through Prince Charming. While endearing and lovable, Disney princesses like Aurora, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, and Snow White may not reign as role models for little girls any longer if Disney continues on the path it began with Frozen. I didn’t think it possible, but if Disney keeps releasing movies like Frozen, I may become an even bigger fan than I was as a seven-year-old girl.

I love being a psychology major because when I go to class I learn about life. On any given day in a psych class, I’m learning things that I can apply to my own life, and this has never been Leah Psych Classmore true than this semester in my Science of Happiness class. If you come to USC, this class HAS to be on your bucket list. Just as an example, here’s what we learned today:

Why, in many cultures, is it acceptable for males to lose their virginity at an early age, while females are expected to remain virgins until marriage? Why do over 80% of cultures allow polygamy (one man having many wives) but almost none allow polyandry (the opposite)? Why do males exhibit so much more jealousy than females in a romantic or sexual relationship, and why are males so much more willing to take risks and have sex with a stranger than females are?

The answer to all these questions: science! Natural selection, to be exact. Check it out: while males can produce millions of tiny sperm each day, females only produce 270 [relatively] huge eggs in a lifetime. If a male contributes to conception, he can contribute again in a couple hours. On the other hand, a female can’t contribute again for about another year. If you look at it in terms of natural selection, it’s no wonder why females tend to be so choosy and males tend to be much less so. And because of the way we reproduce, females are always certain about who their children are, while males can never be sure. This is where that male jealousy comes from.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about this like it’s black and white. I’m not saying that all guys are jealous and all females are super choosy, or anything like that. What I am saying is that it’s pretty interesting that these trends exist across cultures, and that we can trace their roots back to hard, provable science.

And that’s why I love psychology. It’s an invigorating mix between science, culture, and real life application. We can ask tricky questions and approach them from so many different angles. There’s never one absolute right answer, but that’s why we learn to think critically not only when approaching science but also when approaching real life. My psychology studies have helped me to understand more about my life and will help me in the future to think about all aspects of life in a variety of ways — and that is invaluable.

Anne Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 1

I love USC. You know why? Because not only are there really cool things to do in this city, but there are so many amazing adventures you can go on in the states nearby! Being from New York, I’ve never really traveled around the west coast. In fact, the first time I’d been to California was when I came to visit USC. But this year, I’ve decided to explore as much as possible.

I am a member of Troy Camp, an awesome organization that provides after-school programming and tutoring to under-served youth in the surrounding Los Angeles Area. Troy Camp is great not only because of its mission but also because of the amazing people who are a part of this club. A few weeks ago, in the middle of October, a member of Troy Camp said she was flying home. This was no average trip though. She was going home to New Mexico for the Largest International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, and invited everyone to come with her!

Anne Hot Air Balloon FiestaAt first, I wasn’t sure if I should go because I had just returned from another road trip up to San Francisco for a two-day music festival! But how could I miss out on a hot air balloon fiesta?! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I got in the car for the second weekend in a row with some friends and made the 12 hour drive to New Mexico. It was so worth it. This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It felt so whimsical and magical to watch thousands of hot air balloons with different shapes, characters, and colors ascend into the sky. Sitting in a valley between huge mountain peaks with giant balloons over you is indescribable. And to be with people from USC who had the same adventurous spirit and willingness to have fun was unparalleled. We ended the weekend by watching fireworks over the mountains, and it couldn’t have been more fun.

But the adventure did not stop there. Merely a few weeks later, USC offered another opportunity for me to go adventuring with balloons. USC Adventure Lead, another great club on campus, subsidized trips for USC students to actually go on hot air balloon rides! My Troy Camp adventure group and a few friends from my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, jumped at this amazing opportunity. We signed up right away, and before I knew it, I was suspended over wine country in Temecula watching the sunrise!

Going to USC, I cannot believe my life. The opportunities are endless, the adventures are crazy, and my experience is unmatched by any. Believe me, when my friends check out my Facebook photos, they wish they went to USC. ☺Anne hot air ballooning 2

Anne hot air ballooning

I’m a bit of a film buff, so when I saw a tweet from LA Live announcing a film festival with some upcoming movies I was looking forward to seeing (most importantly, with tickets only costing $5), I signed up immediately and got some friends to come along. What I didn’t notice, however, was that the festival was called “Movies for Grownups,” and was sponsored by the AARP. As I sat in an audience largely populated by the over-50 crowd, I watched women sit in large groups laughing over the latest gossip from their book club and an older gentleman walk up the steps of the movie theater slowly, balancing a cane in one hand a very large soda in the other, yelling at his wife to choose seats because neither spouse could hear one another. I couldn’t help but think, “I really hope this doesn’t happen to me.” Never had old age become such a reality as at this AARP film fest, and never did joining the AARP look so good (According to their advertisements before the screening, they offer great discounts, job support for the professional over 50 years of age, and social functions much like this one!).

I saw some fantastic films – Philomena (do yourself a favor and see this movie) and 12 Years a Slave to name a few — but the best story comes from the last screening I went to.

I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the new Ben Stiller film based off the short story of the same name. It’s an enjoyable movie to watch, the inspiring kind that uses great music and inspirational moments to make you feel excited about life. And, after the film, Ben Stiller was on hand for a Q&A session. While most of the questioning was done by a critic for the Hollywood Reporter, a few lucky audience members were able to ask questions (Unfortunately, I wasn’t a part of this group). However, following the Q&A, Stiller was willing to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. So, I bolted to the front of the theater, nudged my way through the crowd (Luckily old age had made them less aggressive), and took a selife with Ben Stiller.

Jared with Ben Stiller

So where am I going with all of this? Obviously, Los Angeles is a great city for film, but there’s so much to do in the city, a lot of which most people have no idea about. A lot of the events I’ve gone to I’ve only found out about by stumbling upon them (following venues in L.A. like LA Live, Staples Center, The Hollywood Bowl, and others on Twitter is a good idea). So go out there, explore, find something really cool, and make your own exciting life experiences with excessively emotional background music (And then maybe you, too, can take a selfie with Ben Stiller).

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