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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).

The Lone Trojan

Being born and raised on the south side of Chicago, I have been around overenthusiastic, proud, fighting Irish fans my entire life. I had heard of the USC-ND rivalry as a child, but I neverMelissa B ND Blog Pic knew how serious it was. Upon coming to USC, I soon realized the history and deep emotion involved with this rivalry and longed to go to the game in South Bend. In August, my friend from Notre Dame told me she had bought me a student section ticket for this coveted game and urged me to come. I was ecstatic and immediately bought my ticket. As the time passed from August to October, I counted down the days and fantasized about beating the Irish. I knew I would be the lone Trojan in the ND student section, but nothing could deter me from going to that game.

On October 18th, I flew back to Chicago before driving to South Bend with another friend the next day. When I arrived to Notre Dame, I have never seen so much green and gold spirit around. It was at that moment I knew I was one of a kind (especially since both of my friends were Fighting Irish fans). Game day at Notre Dame was very similar to game day at USC: alumni barbecues and tailgates all throughout campus, an exorbitant amount of school spirit, and tons of people. The three of us visited several friends and at each one, my cardinal and gold attire was questioned and shamed. In the end, however, I was welcomed and allowed to share in on the fun. There were, however, a few SC tailgates that welcomed me, giving me a much-needed slice of home.

Upon entering their stadium, I soon realized how small it was, which has its pros and cons. For example, there is a lot more camaraderie between students in the stands. On the other hand, there was no space to move. Or breath. At all. Despite these constraints, I still had an absolute blast! I cheered on the Trojan marching band and our Trojans much to the dismay of everyone else around me. No dirty looks or snide comments could prevent me from cheering on my team in the tundra of South Bend. Even though we lost, I can say I survived as the lone Trojan and could not have asked for a better weekend.

Andrew Hollywood SignDuring the past couple months I have had a terrific time participating in Thematic Option sponsored trips. Thematic Option is an alternative liberal-arts program for General Education here at USC, run through the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Students will tell you this program is not for everyone, but all of my classmates and I love it!

Several weeks ago, we went to Griffith Observatory and hiked to the Hollywood sign. The hike in itself was fun; we had the chance not only to get some fresh air but also to get to know one another outside of class and USC life. The view of Los Angeles from above was shocking and beautiful. We could see skyscrapers downtown, mountains surrounding the San Fernando valley, the Pacific Ocean, and home sweet home: USC. It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

Not long after, we spent the weekend at Catalina Island. About twenty of us went by boat to USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies to hike, snorkel, kayak, and, most importantly, explore.  We were lucky enough to see (and in some cases touch!) leopard sharks, sea slugs, sea lions, and hundreds of species of fish. One of the great things about USC is that events like this one are often sponsored, and for students, don’t cost a thing!

Andrew Catalina Wetsuit

Just last week, some classmates and I went with Thematic Option to the Getty Villa for College Night. This event welcomed hundreds of college students from all over the Los Angeles area to

Andrew College Night

foster excitement and interest regarding the classical history and treasure housed at this historic museum. The Getty Villa is, for those of you who don’t know, a beautiful and highly accurate model of an ancient Roman Villa, located in Malibu and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It displays an enormous collection of priceless artifacts and artwork from Classical times. Personally, I jump at every chance I get to go to this place. One of the coolest things about the night was that we got to go behind the scenes to learn about conservation and restoration techniques. A few friends and I watched as one of the five conservationists on sight worked on a vase that has been preserved for more than 2,000 years since its creation in ancient Greece. I don’t think I’ll have another chance to see history in the same way again, so up close and personal.

These are just the opportunities I’ve taken advantage of in my first semester of TO. These kinds of events are all over USC and happen all the time. I encourage everyone to participate in them as much as possible. It would be such a shame to miss out!

Andrew Catalina Hike

I do not even know where to start — it has been an incredible experience. INCREDIBLE. In all ways: The University of Southern California is fantabulous, Los Angeles is wonderful, and the people here are just great! I’m going to try really hard to convey how I’m feeling right now through my experiences just at USC.


  • I met with renowned physicist Dr. Clifford Johnson. Dr. Johnson came in to discuss quantum physics for our Intro to Physics class, and you can imagine my surprise and excitement Akash - Clifford Johnsonwhen he walked in to the room that afternoon — I had spent my entire high school life watching his rather famous videos on string theory, the origins of the universe, and the more abstract physics that I don’t even pretend to understand (or spell). Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised that he had the time to personally reply to my e-mail let alone want to meet me in person for a couple of hours! We met in between classes on Thursday at a cafe on campus and spent a long time discussing ideas over freshly squeezed orange juice (“Simply Orange”– try it!). It was an absolutely incredible meeting considering that I was meeting one of the people I had grown up trying to emulate. If there is only one memory I am allowed to keep from college, it would undoubtedly be the meeting with Dr. Johnson — and it’s just been the second month of my life at USC (Maybe I’ll keep the memory of keeping the memory so all the memories will be cached… ).
  • I discussed welfare states with my sociology professor, Dr. Dan Lainer-Vos. I have had a more than passing interest in political science and the political structures of communities. It was without question that I was going to enjoy my general education class — we studied not only politics but also the conflict of science and technology with such institutions. I spent numerous hours with my professor both inside and out of class discussing the implications of socialism, communism, and capitalism and how each ties in with the progress of society. What strikes me most about this is just how accessible the professors are — I can openly discuss my view points and enjoy defending them both in and outside of class during office hours, and the professors are incredibly happy to have me there.
  • Resonating with my happiness about the professors being super accessible and nice, I want to mention my meeting with physics research assistant Dr. Lorenzo Campos Venuti. I saw a professor’s request for an undergraduate research student on the university’s SOAR page (an online website that brings together those interested in research and those that have open positions) and e-mailed. He was on sabbatical and referred me to Dr. Venuti, whom I eventually went to meet.  Dr. Venuti was very open to explaining the kinks in quantum physics and how we can manipulate these to make advanced computers that can do incredible calculations (reduce shore’s algorithm from exponential time to polynomial time — if, like me, you looked towards the heavens in utter disbelief because that made zero sense but were awed at the same time, be sure to visit Dr. Venuti!). Although research in theoretical physics as a freshman is so incredibly difficult because of the little material covered in high school, Dr. Venuti gave me the necessary knowledge on how to prepare myself in the next year or so in order to join him or another faculty member in carrying out similar projects. That was absolutely wonderful!

I’m going to make a similar list of my wonderful adventures in the city of Los Angeles, which include trying to find the tallest building near USC, a late night exploration of Hollywood, and a rather eventful evening in downtown. Stay tuned!

Hi all,Pradeep Intro Photo

I’m Pradeep, a sophomore at USC. It was quite a trek to attend here from my hometown, having been born and raised in Irvine, California (45 minutes from campus). I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Economics, with a goal to become an interventional cardiologist involved in medical administration.

I’m a student coordinator for Peer Health Exchange, an organization that teaches health to high school students in LA; I love to play (and win) intramural sports with my friends; and I was a Freshman Science Honors student last year.

USC Dornsife as already begun shaping my life goals and aspirations. I came into USC as a die-hard pre-med student, who was quickly diverted to add an Econ major. Though I am still pre-med, Dornsife has allowed me to explore my interests and find a subject that I am passionate about and would like to corporate in my future career.

My favorite thing that I have done at USC is the Problems without Passports program I participated in last summer. I took a class in tropical medicine in Oxford University! I met some amazing USC students while being taught applied biology by some of the most renowned tropical medicine researchers in the world. PWP provided me with an invaluable learning experience as well as life-long friends and memories.

I can’t wait to see what else USC and LA have in store for me over the course of the next couple years.

Out of the Bubble!

James Toh Intro PhotoHey-o! My name is James Toh. I’m a first year at USC — it feels good to say that — and my major is Health and Humanity. This major is “intended for students interested in fields that inform the health professions and in related questions about health and human experience” (Dornsife USC website). <— Look at that! It’s only been about a month and a half, and I can already integrate quotes into my sentences. Anyway, I’m on the pre-med track and am participating in Freshman Honors Science, but I’m still taking cool classes right now like PHIL 262, which is about the mind and the self.

The reason why I titled this post “Out of the Bubble” is because I literally did come from a bubble. Okay, not literally, but I am from Irvine, California, one of the safest cities in the nation. I  had a much better environment than most did to grow up in, which did not let me experience life as everyone else sees it. Now at USC, my eyes have been opened; my bubble has been popped; my mind has been blown; my life got flipped-turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute and let you see: I’ll tell you what I do as a freshman in SC. Bow bowbow bow bow bowbow bow bow bow. Anyway, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” parodies aside, I am still looking for new things to experience. I am currently in the USC American Sign Language Club, the club Ultimate Frisbee Team, and Dornsife Ambassadors. I go to one of the school’s great cafes at least 5 times a day, work out at Lyon Center daily, and try to bike around LA and the campus often. There’s still so much I haven’t done, and I’m anxious to see what other things USC will surprise me with.

Tohster out!

Hello world!Leona Intro Photo

I’m so excited to be a Dornsife Ambassador! This blog will keep you updated on my adventures on campus and in LA!

A little about me:

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, less than half an hour from USC! It’s nice being so close to home. While I stay on campus during the weekends, my parents will try to meet me for lunch or just to walk around campus once every few weeks. (And they usually bring food! I never realized how much I could miss my mom’s cooking).

I came into USC undeclared and dabbled in creative writing and sociology before choosing my current major of Cognitive Science. I’m taking computer science, developmental psychology, linguistics, and math this semester, plus my language requirement. I’m hoping to use Cognitive Science to get a well-rounded understanding of people and the world around me, and apply that towards connecting companies to their desired consumers. It’s a really exciting major because there are so many different departments to choose from. At first, I had trouble choosing a major because of my widespread interests, so this is the perfect major for me! I can take a combination of computer science, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and psychology classes.

On campus, I’m involved in two volunteer organizations. The first is Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE), where we mentor a group of 8th grade girls about healthy relationships, build self-confidence, and just hang-out and get to know them. I also do Joint Education Project (JEP), tutoring a second-grade girl to help her get to the proper reading-level. I also tutor through the USC Language Center, helping a USC teaching assistant from a foreign country practice presentation styles and learn English idioms and pronunciation.

In my free time, you can find me binge-watching romantic comedies on Netflix, reading an adventure novel (currently making my way through Dan Brown’s Inferno), or checking out one of L.A’s awesome new restaurants or food trucks!

Until next time,


Melissa Hike

As an ex three-sport varsity athlete, hearing the phrase ‘Hollywood Hike’ certainly did not scare me. If anything, it sounded like a leisurely walk for tourists. When e-board for African-Americans in Health decided to do a social hike with NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), I figured it would be more relaxing than anything; how wrong I was.

Driving up to the trail was difficult enough because of the hills and sharp incline. As someone from the Great Plains, the hills out here still shock me. As the twenty of us began to walk the trail, the bright sun beat on us, and there was no breeze to provide comfort. The walk seemed endless and continued to wind on and on forever. As the hike progressed, I increasingly realized how out of shape I was and how I couldn’t wait until it was over. Then up ahead, like a beacon of light, I saw it: the Hollywood sign. I briskly walked towards the sign and the top of the hill to soak in the beauty of the surroundings.

The view from the top of the hill was breath taking. The hilly trail that I previously saw as an obstacle and a curse was now a beauty and its completion, a major accomplishment. I could see all the way to downtown Los Angeles and everywhere in between from the top of that hill. All of the work from doing the Hollywood Hike paid off as I sat and absorbed the beautiful landscape around me. We felt very accomplished as a group, everyone survived the long hard walk and even got a great workout from it. Hopefully, social hikes can be organized on a monthly basis as more people can join. In my opinion, the ‘social’ hike was an immense success!

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