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To the Annenberg Class of 2024: Making the most of your academic experience

It is crazy to think that we are less than two short weeks away from the start of the highly anticipated semester. If you are feeling anything like I am, what is about to become our reality is both exciting and a little terrifying.

Over the past two months, I have delved into a few of the many important tips and tricks that I wish I knew as an incoming freshman.

We talked about how social media can become a pressure cooker and a toxic space — and how to prevent it from becoming one. We talked about study breaks, how necessary they are, and how to schedule them. We talked about the importance of being kind to yourself, especially during this chaotic time. We talked about friendships and how to expand your circle. And I hope you take some of that advice with you over your Trojan career and life beyond. 

But what we haven’t yet talked about is how to make the most of your actual class experience. Now, this isn’t just about chatting with your professor on Zoom, putting your phone on airplane mode during class or “raising your hand.” While these will all help you stay engaged in your virtual classrooms, making the most of your days as a Trojan comes down to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to make the most of the University’s diverse offerings — whether that be online or in person.

Let me first remind you that Annenberg really is my second home. There is something about the smell of the first-floor forum, taste of Illy coffee and the smiles of the students working, that even Marshall can’t compete with. 

But the first semester of my sophomore year, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by taking Introduction to Cinema. Saying I was nervous is an understatement — any course that didn’t start with “COMM” or “JOUR” turned my stomach into knots. 

As I sat down in the 500-person auditorium, my imposter syndrome went through the roof and I continued to question myself for the first three weeks of the lecture — why was I taking this again? What did I know about movies or composition? Who is Quentin Tarantino? Nevertheless, I made myself stick with it. And thank God I did. 

After a semester filled with All About Eve and aesthetics, I realized that I was starting to like this stuff. So much so that I picked up a minor in the business of the entertainment industry and could easily see myself exploring a career in the field. I never would have known that if I didn’t get comfortable taking a class that made me uncomfortable.

While Annenberg is great and there are a lot of great courses, it is important to take classes outside of your discipline in Annenberg and outside of our school, and I don’t just mean in your required GE’s. College is still a place to take classes that you never thought you would take and go places that you would never thought you would go. And the only way to really do that is to dive head-first into the lectures and rooms that you might feel you have no place in. Trust me, — they are waiting to hear your voice. And the only person doubting yourself is you.

So, whether you're living in L.A. or overseas, eating Postmates or your mom’s pot roast, the online learning environment will more or less be the same for all of us. And we can make the most of this unsettling experience by challenging ourselves academically.

If you are having a difficult time with your mental health, I would like to remind you that there are services to help you get through this challenging period of time and I highly recommend that you take advantage of them. If you look further up this e-newsletter, you can listen to Dr. Broderick Leaks, who describes some of these services for us.

While writing to you all over the past two months has been great, I will no longer be talking to you on a bi-weekly basis. I will, however, continue to be an active member of Annenberg Media and am open for a hug (or at least a virtual one). 

And if you only take away one thing from all of my advice this summer, just remember: You are at this school for a reason. We will get through this. 

Stay healthy, Fight On, and “see” you shortly!

—Ella

Questions? Concerns? Need a Hug? I’m here. 
Email: ellakatz@usc.edu
Instagram: @srirachamayoenthusiast
Twitter: @ellakatz20