‘Fight on’ and other stateside stories….

Before I say anything, please listen to this. This is the USC fight song, and I heard it just about non-stop for the first week of being here. Band practice happening near your room is a great thing.

So, today I write to you from the living room of our little apartment on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in LA, where I’ll be until Christmas.
I just found out the results of the Scotland referendum (okay so evidently I wrote this a few days before posting…the BBC does not take THAT long to stream information over here), and man alive am I happy that we are still a United Kingdom. I may or may not be listening to Land of Hope and Glory.
But back to the land of the free… (because we in the rest of the world are obviously terribly oppressed, it would seem)

I’m here representing my beautiful Queens’ College in the Queens’/USC exchange programme, and am having a pretty incredible time. Although I keep forgetting, the official reason for being here is to take classes (more about the less official and more fun reasons in a sec). The university very generously said I could take whichever classes I wanted (part of me wanted to see their reaction if I tried to take nuclear physics- do you think my physics GCSE would be up to that?), and given the incredible film school here I opted for 2 film classes, along with a history and an international relations class focusing on my beloved Eastern Europe. What I had forgotten prior to the first class was that one of the film classes is a grad class, and lots of people in it are in the process of completing their PhDs in film. Utterly terrifying, when the only films you can really talk about are Soviet musicals (thank you, Russian degree). Strangely, that particular genre hasn’t come up yet. It turns out that international relations essays are ever so slightly different from wacky Cambridge literature essays, so I’ll let you know exactly how bad a grade I get at a slightly later date.

One really cool thing has been the class called ‘Theatrical Film Symposium’. In this class they show pre-release films, complete with anti-piracy security guys with night-vision goggles, and then do a Q&A with some people who worked on the film, usually the director and producer or editor. We just saw ‘This is where I leave you’. I had to resist the urge to tell the director to please tell Tina Fey that I love her/want to be her.

I should really say also that the people running the exchange here have been wonderful, and have truly looked after me. Going far away can be a tad scary, so I am very very grateful for this.

In other vaguely school-related antics….
We had new student convocation- I say ‘we’, but really I just kind of snuck in with the freshmen and transfer students- who doesn’t love wearing gowns though? *Cambridge flashback*
Before the semester started I took part in international orientation, where I got to work in a team to create skits based on the traits of a USC student (YEYYYY ORGANISED FUN I LOVE YOU) and was told valuable information in a talk: ‘You WILL feel uncomfortable sometimes in a new culture. This is normal. You are perfectly normal.’ Good to know.
Okay so that accounts for what should be taking up most of my time ahem…. not so much.
Going on adventures in this insane city has been about a million times better because of the people you will see in the pictures in this post. I have been so ridiculously blessed on every stint abroad with amazing people who are willing to hang out with me. Here it has been really fun to meet quite a range of people, from freshmen to ‘proper grownups’. I love them.

The LA county fair was a ‘must-see’ and great mainly because of the huge range of fried foods on offer. Things were fried that probably shouldn’t have been, and it was immense. Antonio and I sampled fried avocado and oreos. Both avocado lovers, we wanted to hate this abomination of a beautiful food….. but it was great. I also had a nice chat with a man selling beer, who saved me from his colleagues who were suspicious of my UK driving licence (okay, provisional licence….) : ‘I went to England in 1956, we took the boat, it was a very long trip… then I went in 1964….’ 20 minutes later I got the beer and it was totally worth it. Other than the food the highlight was definitely the farm animals, and for me it was getting to ride there on an uncomfortable but iconic yellow school bus!

The lovely lady who organises the exchange on the USC side promised me that, despite any lack of interest in sport, ‘football’ (if you can call it that, America) is something that I’d want to see. So I went to my first ever game, had absolutely no idea what was going on, but loved it. The whole campus goes crazy on game days, with ‘tailgate’ parties going on for hours before. A one-hour game suddenly becomes a whole-day event. The most incredible thing, though, was the amount of college pride and ceremony to everything. Marching bands, cheerleaders, yell teams….

Although this is before the stadium really filled up, hopefully you can get an idea of the scale of this thing. You may notice that people seem to be waving their hands in a trance-like way…. yes, it does look like a cult. This is the USC gesture which is the same as the V sign. Often this is accompanied by a shout of ‘Fight on!’, but at the game the chants got a little more complicated, including some very fast spelling of Southern California. Not easy post-beer, I can tell you.

A few of us have strategically made schedules which include no classes on a Friday afternoon, which has meant the onset of FRIDAY ADVENTURE TIME. This is the best time. Here are some photos of recent Friday fun:

Manhattan Beach
Santa Monica
Jumping in the waves is the best.thing.ever.

Big fan of these kids (and of bibimbap, of course)

First ever Jamba Juice- a momentous occasion.
In other fun, there was a Hollywood hike with the wonderful Young Life (these guys are the best, check them out)….

…. we ate rooftop birthday cake….

….explored the oldest part of LA, Olvera Street….

…. saw ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery …

(Bronte was excited about the apples/peppers or whatever is in that bag)

….I stood amazed at the Welcome Week pool party…..

…. and we learned some valuable lessons regarding British culture. Aha. These kids had to learn about marmite, tea and digestives.

One of the biggest joys has come from being reunited with the beautiful Kaitlyn, who I met on the first half of my year abroad in Paris. She took me to the LA institution (well so I’m told) that is Roskoe’s Chicken and Waffles. My mother’s reaction kind of sums it up: ‘Waffles and chicken? But not together, surely?’

Yes, together. And gloriously so. Too good.

Then and now:

Love love love.
It was also great to hang out with a lovely friend from Cambridge who was here for a few days 🙂
People have been asking me post-graduation how it feels to be a ‘grown up.’
My roommate Kat and I laugh in the face of such a suggestion.
I’ll leave you with the view from our living room window, which speaks joy and awe into my heart as I look at it.

Oh, and FIRST SNOWCOOOOONE. Equally beautiful.


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