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!

I’ve been going through a slew of midterms for the past few weeks (5 midterms in a span of 2 weeks, to be exact), so I really needed a solid study break. Therefore, I signed up with USC Adventure Lead to go on a Sea Kayaking trip in the Channel Islands, part of a larger National Park located off the coast of Ventura Harbor.

I had always heard of these outdoorsy excursions that the Office of Campus Activities planned but had never actually been on one, and I REALLY wanted to try out sea kayaking. I was really surprised at how smooth and efficient the whole process was. We had a pre-trip meeting so that we could meet everyone else who was going and (most importantly) meet the people we were carpooling with. Then we were set.

Vijeta FerryOn Sunday, September 29th, I awoke at 5:00 AM (!!!!) and met up with my carpool buddies because we were supposed to leave the USC Campus no later than 5:45 AM (!!!!). We drove to the Ventura Harbor, met up with the rest of the group, took an hour-long ferry ride to the Channel Islands (and saw SO MANY DOLPHINS on the ferry ride) and then began the real sea kayaking part!

I was afraid I would be really bad at paddling because I have a very limited amount of upper arm strength, but I was surprised to learn that there was a lot more involved in kayaking, and your legs really help out too. This was all explained to our group by our guide. Each guide led a few kayaks through the caves near the Santa Cruz Island, and we saw some really cool sea creatures in the process too.

My friend was a more experienced kayaker than I, so she sat in the back of our kayak while I was in the front. I have to say that just rowing through the open sea is one of the most blissful feelings I have ever experienced. The sea stretched out in front of me, I could feel the wetness of nature draped over me, and hear every muscle in my body stretching to put forth more power and row faster. The point of the excursion was more exploratory and not about racing or anything like that, but I’m a little competitive by nature so of course I tried to go as fast as I could. :)

We spent a good three hours rowing, after which I was WIPED OUT. We had some more time to explore the island and go hiking, etc. but I was pretty tired, so I took a nice nap in the sunshine and just dried off. Eventually we took the ferry back to Ventura Harbor and my fellow carpoolers and I finished off the day with some Jamba Juice on the way back to school!

Even as I write this blog, it feels surreal that I actually spent a whole day in the ocean in such a calm and serene environment. I was still so close to the hustle and bustle of downtown LA (and the currently very loud Zedd concert outside my window…) but the whole day felt like I was miles away in some sort of exotic location. I’m really glad that I decided to go on the trip, and I cannot wait to go on my next one. This was truly one of the best experiences I have had at USC.

Vijeta Kayaking

Roaming in Rome

As I looked at the beautiful paintings that covered the ceiling, I could not help but stop and stare. St. Peter’s Basilica was the most beautiful building I saw not only on my European excursionMelissa Basilica but also in my life. For ten days in July, my mother, uncle, aunt-in-law, and myself went on a ten-day vacation in Italy and France. I had been to Paris before, but Rome was a new mystery waiting to be debunked. I knew I loved eating pasta and appreciated history, but I still did not know what to expect in the boot-shaped country.

The first five days of the trip were spent in Rome, Italy, which I soon discovered was a city unlike any other. Rome was rich with history and full of people. I was stunned to find my hotel was a mere four blocks from the Coliseum, which was located in the heart of the bustling city. During my stay, I visited all of the traditional places, including the Coliseum, the ancient Forum, Pantheon, and the Trevi fountain. My favorite part, however, was seeing St. Peter’s Basilica. Construction of this cathedral began in 1506 and was not finished until 120 years later. Upon seeing the beautiful, detailed murals lining the walls and ceiling, the ornate sculptures, and overall grandeur of the cathedral, I realized why it took over one hundred years to build. It is incredible and almost impossible to imagine how people could conceive and actually erect such a large building.

Outside of seeing the incredible St. Peter’s Basilica in the quaint Vatican City, I had my fondest memories in between tours when my family and I explored the city independently. Unlike most large American cities, Rome does not have drive-thrus, Targets, Wal-Marts etc. In fact, I only saw two McDonald’s in the entire city! (They even had fresh sandwiches on the menu, how cute!) Instead, there were a huge number of restaurants, usually two to three per block. Life in Rome is not as hasty and fast-paced as life in LA, which was very refreshing; leisure and relaxing seem to be greatly valued. The food was actually to die for — I think I must have had pasta at least twice a day. All in all, Rome was the best and most unique city I had seen in my entire life. Visiting the Italian countryside for a day was beautiful and seeing Paris was exciting; however, neither topped my love of Rome.

Vivian Intro PhotoFirst of all, in case you were wondering, yes the title of this blog post is a reference to the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”, and yes, I’m going to be pretty bummed out when the show ends this season.

My apologies for the sidenote; let’s get to the good stuff.  Hi! My name is Vivian Rotenstein, and I’m a sophomore from Oak Park, CA, which is about an hour north of USC. Having grown up in California, I try not to take the pretty much perfect weather for granted :). Having said that, I do actually love mildly cold weather and the rain (so anti-Californian, I know), so on the rare occasion that it’s cold or rainy, I’m thrilled :).

I’m a Psychology major double minoring in Psychology and Law, and Musical Studies (concentrating in Piano). Though this plan may change, I hope to go to graduate school to get a dual law JD and psychology PhD degree. Ultimately, I would like to work in mental health law, specifically on policies surrounding treatment of people with mental illnesses. And piano has always been one of my passions, so I’m glad I can continue to cultivate that skill through my minor.

What I love about USC is its strong emphasis on helping students gain exposure  to the particular field or career they’re interested in. Starting my second semester of freshman year, I was able to obtain two really rewarding research positions working with Professor Margolin in the Family Studies Project and Professor Immordino-Yang at the Brain and Creativity Institute. I won’t bore you here with the details of my research projects, but I’m just really grateful for these two opportunities, and I think it’s a testament to how valued undergraduate research is at USC!

Though I have spent many late nights in Leavey studying, I am involved in many things outside of academics/research! I’m a Wellness Advocate at the Office for Health and Wellness in the Engemann Student Health Center, and I work as a Campus Engagement Intern at USC’s Hillel, reaching out to uninvolved Jewish students on campus. I’m a University Fellow for a human rights organization called the Jewish World Watch, and I also volunteer with USC’s Joint Educational Project (JEP), serving as a Teacher’s Assistant for a class of third graders (I could talk endlessly about how ridiculously adorable these third graders are).

To close, here are some random facts about me. Until I arrived at USC I disliked squirrels but have since learned to accept and embrace them (not literally). I’m a caffeine addict (Skinny Vanilla Lattes are seriously my lifeline). I love running and Zumba dancin. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem is the only rap song I like. I’m a hardcore classical music nerd. My celebrity crush is Jake Gyllenhaal. My favorite food is seafood. And I love doing Sudoku puzzles!

That’s all for now, but until next blog!

Fight on,


PS: If you have any comments or questions, or just want to see what fun adventures I’m up to, check out my Twitter @v_rotensteinSC!


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