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Hollywood Sign Hike

Leah Hollywood Sign HikeI love spring semester. I come back from my freezing cold home (yes, Texas can get really cold!) to the sunshine and warmth of LA, and it feels like the days just get sunnier and sunnier. Especially Fridays. My other favorite part of spring semester is that there are so many three-day weekends, and since it’s not football season, it’s so easy to take advantage of them! After the roller coaster that was last semester, I’m so excited to explore LA and check the last items off of my LA bucket list before I graduate.

Last weekend I met up with a cousin who lives in LA to hike to the Hollywood sign. We started the day with brunch in what used to be the Jewish quarter of LA — the restaurant we went to had some really cool murals on the outside, and it had amazing sandwiches! Mine had chicken fingers in it…mmm… and the cook even asked me whether I thought it should make it onto the menu!

Next we headed over to the sign. It was a beautiful sunny day (of course), so there were tons of people there. My cousin (who goes to UCLA…) and I counted the number of people repping USC vs UCLA and we ended up tying. (It’s worth pointing out that I was wearing a USC shirt and she doesn’t even own any UCLA shirts!) But more importantly, we had a great time people watching and enjoying views of all parts of LA, along with Culver City and Burbank. We also saw some planes flying in circles above us, and I pretended they were Top Guns. It was great.

There are a few different trails, one of which took us to a point where we could see the Hollywood sign from the front. After seeing that view, we backtracked and went up a much steeper hill to get closer. After about half an hour, my cousin saw the sign and tried to point it out to me through a gate. As much as I squinted and ducked, I couldn’t see it.

“Is it because I’m short?”
“No, it’s right there!”
“I”m looking! I don’t see it!”
“No. RIGHT there!”

Leah Hollywood Sign

I couldn’t see it because a giant H was blocking my view. Yes, H as in Hollywood. We were so close to the sign we couldn’t even see the whole thing! We ended up above and behind the sign, which is actually much bigger than you’d expect. We ran into quite a few people who said they were checking this off their bucket list, which was pretty cool.

At the end of two hours we headed back to the car after a successful day of sun, breathtaking views, and reveling once more in the incredible city we live in. One bucket list item down, and so many more to go!


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Today I was working on a group assignment with two fellow classmates for my film editing class.

“So, what did you two do last night?” one partner asked.

My other partner launched into a description of a fantastic, authentic taco place she visited with her boyfriend. Sounded delicious.

“What about you?” she asked me.

“Oh, I played in the opener of the Ducks-Kings game in Dodger Stadium.”

Their jaws dropped.

A little bit of backstory: I’m not sure why, but for some reason, somebody decided it would be really cool if professional hockey teams could start playing their games outside. So, with a huge to-do, LA’s iconic Dodger Stadium was transformed to include an ice rink. This was to be NHL’s first outdoor game, a history maker, and the game was to be played between the LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks, who share one of hockey’s more serious rivalries.

The whole thing was a huge production — they brought in KISS, Jordin Sparks, and, of course, none other than the USC Trojan Marching Band to play the teams in. In conversation with a friend, I wondered what it must be like for other marching bands who have to do gigs like this in places that aren’t warm and sunny 90% of the time; she reminded me that things like this don’t happen everywhere. They happen here. It’s funny how often I still have to pinch myself because I’m living in LA.

As we warmed up in sectionals before the game, fans gathered to watch. Without direction, we broke out into impromptu performances of hits such as “Tusk” and “Brooklyn”, which was so much fun. Since we were only at this gig to play one song (“I Love LA”, made famous by the LA Lakers), I had felt like I was missing out on all our other hits, so it was nice to have some time and an audience for them.

After KISS opened for us (yep.), we marched into the jam-packed stadium playing “I Love LA” and leading in players from both teams. We got to stay on the field for the anthem, and then headed out. Before we had even made it out of the parking lot, the Ducks scored twice! (Go Ducks!)

It was a historic game, and it only made sense that the Trojan Marching Band — Hollywood’s band — was a part of it. These types of experiences seem so commonplace while we’re experiencing them, but I know this is one of the things I’m going to miss most about USC when I graduate. Putting on that uniform means assuming an identity, a tradition, and a sense of community. The uniform is a symbol for fans everywhere. And while I’ll always be a fan, it won’t be quite the same.

But for now, I’m going to take advantage of as many gigs as I can, and I’m going to brag about it like crazy, because being arrogant is part of being in The Greatest Marching Band in the History of the Universe… Ever.

Fight On!

Leah Larry_KingI’m a Dornsife student, but I’m also super into movies and television, which is why I picked up a Cinematic Arts minor from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Which, by the way, is the #1 film school in America. #justsayin. This semester I got the opportunity to put some of my entertainment industry knowledge to good use as an editorial intern at Larry King Now.

Let me just take a second to mention that I got this internship through a fellow Helene who I knew at USC and who now works on the show. Connections are a real thing! So is going to college in the place where you want a job. And so is going to a school with a huge alumni network — at my interview I found out that most of the producers on the show are also fellow Trojans. This not only shows the awesomeness that is USC but also leads to a sense of community even when you’re just starting out in a new workplace.

Anyway, a few days ago was my first day on the job. Now, I can be professional, but there’s no denying that I get insanely starstruck. Which might be a problem, since a big part of my job is to receive celebrities arriving for their interviews. On my first day I was given door duty — I had to watch for the celebs in case any of them showed up early. As I awkwardly stood around, I checked out some of the pictures on the wall — Larry King with all sorts of celebs, including some of my all-time favorite people, like Julie Andrews. How freaking cool.

After a few minutes, a nice black car unexpectedly pulled up…and out of it came Larry King. Now, it’s not like I’m a diehard fan, but I can appreciate a guy who’s done as much as he has, at least enough to make me speechless as he walked toward me. Luckily, I was able to grab a passing makeup artist and stammer out that I didn’t know what to do when the King came in. She kindly introduced me and I got a “Welcome aboard” from the man himself as he headed inside.

After greeting a celebrity guest and some of his crew, I was allowed into the control room to watch the interview happening. Watching a TV show or a movie’s creation is truly magic to me, and I was fascinated by all the processes that go into creating a relatively simple show. I got to help out by keeping track of moments that would need future editing.

The next day, I got to sit in on that episode’s editing session! Editing is the area of film that I’m most interested in, so this was really exciting for me. I love the idea that a story or its presentation can be completely different even with pieces of the same material. This was definitely the highlight of my week… and I got to have my name put on the episode’s credits!

I can tell this internship is going to be somewhat scary but tons of fun. I’ll keep y’all posted… until next time!

P.S. Here’s an episode that has my name in the credits!

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.

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