To the class of 2028, here’s my advice

This new chapter at USC won’t be easy, but you can influence your experience.

K Cox / Daily Trojan

This summer might feel different from the previous years. As freshly graduated high school seniors preparing to enter college, you may be clouded by the concern that the institutions you have looked up to for the longest time are not what you imagined. When the glamorous facades are disrupted, you are left reevaluating your options. 

With the ongoing campus protests around the nation, and the challenges and disputes that have come with them, you may feel a sense of distrust and uncertainty. I am here to tell you that even though it may be intimidating to enter a space that is surrounded by academic and civil turmoil, you have plentiful support and mentorship on this journey.

Although the joy of being admitted to USC gave me great satisfaction, when I first arrived during orientation week as an international student, I was incredibly concerned that I made the wrong decision. I quickly concluded that I could never see myself fitting in simply because I had too much “catching up” to do in terms of understanding Southern Californian culture and social norms. 

Nonetheless, 10 months later, I am enjoying a summer filled with stable friendships and opportunities I never thought to explore before. 

The truth is, just as transitioning from the pandemic to an in-person setting was uneasy for the upperclassmen, pretending like the world is back to normal after two months of strict regulations and widespread anxiety will be difficult — particularly for first-years getting accustomed to the flow of the college lifestyle. However, despite what you have learned, please give USC a chance and get to know this place through your own eyes.

You may be familiar with the optimistic review of USC being the epitome of a “work hard, play hard” attitude. Or, you may be immersed in the contrasting criticisms about the recent events on campus with a heavy emotional backdrop. The most important principle you should take away from this information is to hone your critical thinking abilities: Instead of letting these polarized reviews dictate your initial impression, you need to generate an independent judgment about your upcoming freshman experience. 

USC is not a monolithic space with a predominant, mainstream opinion. In fact, I was somewhat offended when I discovered that The New York Times referred to the activities occurring at our school as a symptom of “unexpected activism,” casually assuming that we are incapable of taking ourselves as seriously as students at UC Berkeley or other historically politically active institutions. This popular rhetoric is outdated, as I have always found myself surrounded by intense yet practical conversations about our place in the world and the future we may construct. 

Unlike what the press has been propagating, this type of social inquiry does not only exist in extreme scenarios such as rallies and public speeches. It survives well in dining hall chats, picnics on the great lawns and the backyards of house parties. However, you don’t have to feel discouraged or afraid just because we as a student body have deviated from the initial lighthearted expectations we were given by adults who live far from USC. After enduring a series of scandals and leadership changes, we have proved that we can reclaim the power to manage our lives with confidence and autonomy. 

Extending from that, take advantage of the duality you perceive. When I engage with the different clusters of social circles at USC, I am constantly consumed by the overwhelming happiness of being able to juggle between peers with different personalities and interests. 

I would stay up until 3 a.m. having deep contemplations about the conceptual systems introduced in my Thematic Option classes, but I would also grab midnight meals in Koreatown with members of my clubs after a long event. The freedom to devote yourself is liberating, but you also have to understand that there is no threshold for how much or how little you should commit to many compelling communities. 

Lastly, if I may offer some simple advice, invest in a hammock so you can bathe in the sun when the weather is nice, try to go off-campus as often as possible and don’t get into a relationship your first semester. Remember, take ownership of your unique experiences. You are the future, and the rest of us will be here watching as you discover your new self when August comes around.

© University of Southern California/Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.