Students define their own Los Angeles

The USC campus is developing rapidly into its own small city.

USC Hospitality constantly updates restaurant services. The bath products unavailable at the USC Pharmacy can likely be found at the bookstore. The Fisher Museum hosts art exhibits of the highest caliber.

We even have our own version of the horse-and-buggy: the bicycle-powered Trojan Chariots.

If you were to never leave campus proper, you could survive, even thrive, as a healthy, involved and content USC student.

But there will come a time, sooner than most new students realize, when the cocoon-like world that is the USC campus no longer seems so convenient or thrilling.

When that happens, there is a bottomless well of culture waiting for you beyond the confines of Jefferson, Figueroa, Exposition and Vermont.

That well is called Los Angeles.

The city will seem massive and menacing and almost entirely inconvenient. That’s because it is.

But drive the distance to the Getty, ride the monorail and take in the panoramic views of Los Angeles — a scene that rivals some of the impressionist ones inside its Richard Meier-designed buildings — and you’ll realize why traversing the obstacle courses of this city are so entirely worth it.

There are numerous, mostly time-consuming, ways to get to the beach. But when you hit the endless stretch of blond sand and blonder beach bums, the efforts taken to get there will hardly seem like a big deal.

A Sunday morning at the Rose Bowl flea market or Hollywood farmers’ market requires an early wake-up call and parking or public transport difficulties. An arrival at either, though, is the best kind of sensory overload: Tent cities with passionate, quirky  vendors selling the hardest-to-find, most quality vegetables or vintage denim.

What Los Angeles has to offer, it offers spectacularly and wholeheartedly. It’d be a shame for you to ignore it.

To know Los Angeles is to eat and shop and drive. Or maybe it’s to surf and bar crawl and museum hop. Los Angeles, more so than most other cities, is defined in the way you’d most like to define it.

Exploring Los Angeles’ past and discovering its present is by no means easy.

The city’s history is rich but relatively recent. The public transportation system, so often a hallmark of great cities, will take 20 more years to develop into a worthy means of getting around.

Merely being here -— unlike, say, spending time in New York or Austin, Boston or Chicago — won’t give you insight into the place you now call home.

There’s plenty of literature on  the topic of Los Angeles. You can read about it all you want, and you should — it’s a positively strange, fascinating place. But don’t forget to explore for yourself because that’s when “Los Angeles” truly means something.

Start by driving around, catching a bus, hopping on the Expo Line. Los Angeles has many neighborhoods, each more different from the next, for you to discover.

Take in a concert at the Greek or the Hollywood Bowl, where the best musicians perform in equally impressive surroundings. Do something “touristy” like a studio tour; it will give you insight into an industry that largely built this city. Spend a late afternoon in Little Tokyo checking out the funky contemporary art at MOCA and follow it with a meal of cook-it-yourself shabu-shabu.

And when you emerge from that bottomless well back on to our newly tiled, fountain-filled campus, you will appreciate the city and your school that much more.

You’ve got two worlds here. Make the best of them both.