Interior Residential Suite at USC.
Photo by: Photo/Gus Ruelas

Dear Class of 2024: Creating virtual connections

To the Annenberg Class of 2024, 

Happy July! I hope you celebrated the Fourth in a socially distanced but enjoyable fashion. Can you believe that we have just over a month before we return to school? Or at least, until we get back on Zoom — it’s hard to say at this point. I know the thought of that may make your stomach churn, but all I can say is… baby steps. We will see the other side of this pandemic.

I came into this week planning to talk to you all about a defining part of your freshman year. About the one relationship that in many ways is out of your control, yet undoubtedly affects your day-to-day experience and transition to USC. This is the person who will probably make for some good stories at dinner parties 10 years down the line. This, my friends, is (or was) none other than your freshman-year roommate.

Whether they are a longtime friend or a complete stranger who you meet on move-in day, your roommate has a huge effect on your freshman year. 

But here’s the catch: As I’m sure you know by now, last week, the Provost at USC sent a student housing and courses update, confirming that all rooms will be single-occupancy this year, with the majority of undergraduate classes being online. In other words — no roommates!

Let’s start by looking at the bright side: No coordinating alarm clocks, no negotiating homework hours, and, most importantly, nobody’s dirty laundry to worry about besides your own. Now that is a game-changer, trust me. 

But having a roommate has undeniable perks. Not only do you learn about your own pet peeves and living habits, but you have someone to report back to at the end of each day — whether they end up being your best friend or just an acquaintance.

Even though you won’t have that in Fall 2020, you should still find your people to check in with at the end of a long day, even if it is over FaceTime.

While it may seem frustrating or strange, making virtual connections and friendships should become a part of your daily routine. Don’t let the increase in screen time discourage you. USC will be offering many opportunities to get to know your peers. Sure, it may not be on the McCarthy Quad, but I can assure you that the administration will do everything they can to create a positive environment and experience for you all. 

Given the lack of in-person connection, I also recommend taking full advantage of your Zoom classes. Speak up when your professor asks a question (even if you are experiencing imposter syndrome) and listen to what your peers are saying. Maybe even message them to engage in a dialogue about their comments.

While we are in weird territory right now, I would also like to advise you to consider joining clubs and organizations on campus to help you create as much sense of community as possible. Trust me, I know what comes after looking at a screen for hours on end. But keep reaching out, because you are actually helping yourself — the last thing you want is to feel alone. 

On another note, while this semester will look very different from my freshman semester, there is a universal truth that remains intact: In college, you actually get to pick and choose who you want to spend time with.

In high school, whether you were in a graduating class of 3,000, 300 or 30, you had a limited number of peers to choose from. In college, your social world has become much bigger — and trust me, that’s a good thing. But far too often, people cling to their roommate, or to their first friend, or their hallmate. Don’t fall into that trap — try to make your circle as big and diverse as possible. More on this to come in the following weeks.

But, like I said in my first newsletter, everyone, and I mean everyone, is figuring it out. And that means more than what you want to do in life and where you want to live. At a more basic level, it means learning who fills your cup, and more importantly, who doesn’t. If I could leave you with three tips when it comes to making friends this year, it’s this: Keep an open mind.

Believe it or not, there are some pretty fascinating people at this school. And you are now one of them! 

Stay healthy, and Fight On!

—Ella

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