Planning Between USC and the Community

Our Planning Theory class ended on Tuesday, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on phenomenology activity (Thanks Professor Drake). For this class, our assignment was to take a stroll around USC and the neighborhood and share what we discovered. A group of students and I headed towards the south side of campus towards Exposition Park. As we got closer, we discovered, there was no crosswalk between the surrounding community and the park. I was shocked that USC hadn’t invested in a walkway between the community and the school. It was such a contrast to the beautifully paved crosswalks just a block away. It created a very unwelcoming and unsafe environment for pedestrians from both the school and the community.

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Given we couldn’t walk to the park since there were no crosswalks, we decided to explore the surrounding homes and buildings near the freeway. As we passed by homes, I saw a block of beautiful gated homes housing multiple families. Upon approaching the end of the block, we saw a large homeless community near the freeway entrance. People from the community were outside talking to each other.

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On the way back, we passed more homes with beautiful gardens. Afterwards, we walked underneath the freeway to get back to campus. I noticed the Metro Station entrance, and several USC Community Ambassadors at key pathways to the campus. It was an interesting experience, and one I rarely have the opportunity to glimpse.

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Five Steps to Keep You on Track in Grad School

Leonardo da vinciThe summer has ended and I have entered my second year of graduate school. I’m happy to report that things are going well (even with midterms and finals on the horizon). I created a list of 10 lessons I learned in graduate school earlier this summer, and I wanted to check-in and update them for this year.

  1. Exercise – I’ve been trying to go to the gym three times a week since I started school. This is a huge stress reliever for me, especially while I’ve been going through some challenges with friends and family over the last couple of months. It helps me to remain calm, collected, and energized.
  2. Create a Handy Calendar System – I’ve started using google calendar to manage my life since August, and its been quite successful. The difficult part about this is always keeping up with the calendar. Now that I’ve taken on multiple side projects – starting Association for India’s Development, being Communications Chair for PELA and organizing events, working as a Student Correspondent for METRANS Transportation Center, and going home every alternative weekend to visit my parents, this calendar is a life saver. I find myself constantly referencing it anytime I am asked to schedule something.
  3. Create Art – This semester, I’ve found myself less stressed than previously, even though I have more to do because I have a notebook handy to sketch and doodle, and I’m constantly taking pictures on my cell phone. The process of creating art is very therapeutic for me, personally. It helps me to cope with tough situations and be more thoughtful when I’m on my daily walk.
  4. Meditate – Meditating is extremely helpful in times of extreme stress like midterms or finals. It may feel challenging to sit for a few minutes each day with your eyes closed, letting your mind wander, but it has tremendous calming effect. I’ve had numerous times this semester where this tool allowed me to process with challenges I was facing in school and life.
  5. Check in with yourself – It’s easy to ignore your feelings during times of stress, and keep telling yourself you will push through. This isn’t a good idea. I’ve been checking in with myself daily this semester to see if I am happy with what I am doing, and if I am bothered by something, how I could make it better. These little check-ins are helping me to cope with a lot of big and small life changes.