It’s good to be here: New and returning students share how it feels to be on campus

It’s good to be here: New and returning students share how it feels to be on campus

As first- and second-year students finally begin their in-person Trojan experience, a series of fun events — and support groups — are designed to help them settle in.

August 19, 2021 Andrea Bennett

The campuses are officially open, and USC students — new and returning — are feeling the thrill of being back together and seeing one another face to face. This year, both first- and second-year students are exploring campus for the first time, and coming out from under 1.5 years of COVID-19 “safer at home” mandates has intensified the usual new student excitement.

Charles Zukoski and WInston Crisp visit with students during welcome dinner
Provost Charles Zukoski, left, and Winston Crisp, vice president for student affairs, visit with students during the welcome dinner on Thursday. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

To keep everyone safe, this fall’s move-in was staggered over five days. Numerous safety measures, from USC’s vaccination policy and daily Trojan Checks to mandatory masking and reduced capacity events, have been implemented for all students, faculty and staff.

The thorough health and safety precautions, however, do little to temper students’ enthusiasm to be at USC in person.

“I am so incredibly excited to be back on campus,” said Zaria Kelley, junior and co-director for the Black Student Assembly. “I left partway through my freshman year, so I’m excited to experience more places in L.A. Of course, I can’t wait to revisit the Coliseum and experience football season. The energy of tailgates and the game are unmatched. Being back on campus has made me realize how much I’ve missed school.”

Those sentiments were echoed by third-year health and human sciences major Jeremy Du: “I didn’t know how much I’d miss seeing familiar faces, being on campus and feeling a sense of community with the people around me,” said Du, a resident assistant for the first-year Asian Pacific Islander Desi American floor in Birnkrant Residential College. “It’s almost like I forgot until I came back recently.”

New and returning USC students are ready to meet and mingle

Most first-year USC students — from across the U.S. and around the world — spent their senior year of high school online to varying degrees and saw rites of passage like senior week, prom and homecoming canceled.

Roommates A.J. Mannan and Alessandro Tasso
Masked roommates A.J. Mannan and Alessandro Tasso take a break amid move-ins at New North Residential College. (USC Photo/Andrea Bennett)

A.J. Mannan, a pre-engineering major from Mahwah, N.J., who moved into New North Residential College this week, tried to look on the bright side of missing those milestones.

“My entire year was hybrid, which was a bit depressing compared to being in-person, but it also gave us way more time to explore interests,” Mannan said. “I had a lot of time for reading, playing sports, chess, that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”

And he couldn’t be happier to be in sunny California and starting at USC. Mannan also observed a benefit to being cooped up for so long: “I noticed everyone is extra amicable and so ready to socialize now because we were all online for the past year and a half.”

A bevy of events will welcome students to USC

USC has a full docket of activities to help new students do just that. Following convocation, students have an array of events — from dinners to dance parties — to welcome them to USC.

Marwa Alami
Marwa Alami moves into Marks Tower. (USC Photo/Andrea Bennett)

Earlier this week, Marwa Alami, a first-year business major from Long Island, N.Y., was rolling her suitcase towards Marks Tower. She said she was excited but felt what a lot of students are feeling right now: “It’s a little intimidating to be in social situations now after the last year.”

USC administrators recognized that, along with their excitement, many students may also feel anxiety and grief stemming from the last 17 months. Student support groups are offered all semester for those experiencing a sense of loss from COVID-19 — be it loved ones, time or opportunities.

Despite her jitters, Alami said that as soon as she unpacks her bags, she was going to jump right in: “The first thing I want to do is meet people. After being with the same people all through high school, I get to come here and meet people from all over the world with different perspectives. It’s very exciting.”

This report was updated Friday, Aug. 20, with additional images.