I began writing this week’s column while sitting in Montreal, Canada in 10-degree Fahrenheit weather. Outside my window, I saw the pavement frozen over and people bundled up in their hoods with their breath lingering in the air. If you had told me two years ago that I would travel to Montreal and represent USC’s Model United Nations team, I probably would have laughed. And yet, just weeks ago, I sat in a hotel room with some of the people who have become a defining part of my college experience, with a community that means more to me than I ever thought possible.
Model United Nations is a bizarre concept — high school and college students pretending that they are historical figures and countries, working out solutions to problems such as human trafficking, planning the 2020 FIFA World Cup in Qatar or even simulating a magical committee from Harry Potter. I stumbled upon MUN at the Involvement Fair, and I joined with decent conversational skills but no experience in either MUN or debate, and absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The first few months were difficult, especially as most of my new member class had participated in MUN before. I often felt like I had no idea what was going on, with terms like moderated “caucus,” “rules and procedure” and “dividing the question” being thrown around. But like many other defining experiences of college — classes, social scenes and living environments — being thrust into an entirely new situation is often what teaches you the most about yourself.
Reflecting on the last year and a half, I realize how fortunate I was to find a home so early on in my college career. The stable and supportive community MUN provided during my first semester was one of the reasons that I felt at home at USC so quickly.
But one thing I also realized after talking to my friends at other schools is that this sense of community is something rare and somewhat unique to USC. Student organizations rarely have the presence and impact on campuses that USC student organizations do — and those that do are far smaller in number.
Every year as I walk down Trousdale Parkway during the Involvement Fair, I am always impressed by how many people I see passionate about their causes and willing to give their all to ensure their objectives are achieved. I know some of my editors at the Daily Trojan, work in the newsroom until 2 a.m. to make sure that a professional-grade newspaper is produced every single day, all while balancing an admirable workload of school work — because they love journalism. I see my classmates who are student-athletes spend at least 4-6 hours a day practicing to getting better — because they love it. I see my friends leading service organizations with over 100 members, dedicated to making the community around them a better place — because they care. I am constantly inspired by the level of dedication that everyone on this campus seems to have for experiences inside and outside of the classroom, and it’s one of the first things I mention when people ask me why and what I love about USC.
If you’re reading this and feel like you haven’t found your place on campus, I assure you there is something here for you. You heard it from every tour guide on every campus tour you visited, but you chose USC and you are here for a reason. As intimidating as clubs, organizations and other groups may seem, it is worth exploring and pushing yourself out of your immediate circle to find this type of home. The likelihood that some organization will change you in some way is high, just as you will likely change the organization.
I often think about the legacy that I want to leave at USC. Coming from a small high school, leaving my mark on USC once seemed intimidating and sometimes impossible. But we have the opportunity, through these organizations, to determine what someone else’s future USC experience could look like. I certainly know that the time, effort and passion that my predecessors at MUN put in have had more of an impact on my life than they ever could have imagined.
Nayanika Kapoor is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political economy. Her column, “In-Transit,” runs every other Friday.