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Where Should I Sit At Lunch?

In high school, I sat at the same table with the same people for almost all four years. It’s crazy to think about it now, but my bubble back then was just so small and compressed—I was comfortable and content with sticking to a close circle of friends and never really bothered to branch out until it was almost too late.

Thankfully, this kind of sealed atmosphere does not exist in college, especially at USC where it seems like friend groups cross over in every direction. Because there are so many opportunities to meet people—whether it’s through classes, dorms, clubs, Greek life, sports, or other activities—you don’t feel the pressure to “fit in.” Of course there will be groups and organizations that people identify more closely with, but there are no real cliques that everyone collectively acknowledges. For me, personally, I have been able to find my niche in a wide spectrum of clubs, from academic ones to recreational ones. The best part is even though the types of people in each one of my organizations are completely different, I feel comfortable enough calling every one of them my “family.”

tcd  apo  Tang, Alina - GLP Summer Internship - Grand Palace, Bangkok - July 2013

      My TCD family!                             My APO family!                   My GLP Shanghai Family!

In a different light, something else I’ve noticed about college is in general, people are more at ease with being independent. Whereas in high school I would always be self-conscious about doing anything alone, I’m perfectly fine (in fact, I love quiet moments like these) sitting all by myself in the middle of Cafe 84 or being surrounded by nothing but textbooks in Leavey library. There are just so many students everywhere you go, and as a result, people don’t pay attention to you anymore. You’re basically a small fish in a big pond–which is daunting at times, but it means that you can do whatever the heck you want. And in the end, that’s what college is all about. It’s a time when you get to explore. It’s a time when you get to put yourself out there. And it’s a time when you get to make your own decisions for once without having to care as much about what other people–your family, friends, classmates, random strangers–think. Because really, you only have a few of these “selfish” years, so why waste it worrying about fitting in or pleasing other people?

picture002 picture001 picture003 picture004

See? Totally comfortable being weird and alone and self-obsessed when I’m studying solo in the library~~ #noshame

I love USC because it has given me the opportunity to truly step outside of my comfort zone in so many different situations, whether it’s joining a new club, applying for an abroad internship, or delivering an impromptu speech. Had I stayed in the comforts of my hometown back in Washington, I probably wouldn’t be as outgoing, daring, and confident as I am today. In fact, last week, I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen since Explore USC (back in senior of high school). When I walked up to her and re-introduced myself, the first thing she said was: “Wow, Alina I almost didn’t recognize you. You look so much more mature and confident compared to two years ago, you’re literally glowing.” Now, even though I’m sure the SoCal sunshine has something to do this, I really do think it’s all thanks to the time I’ve spent trying new things at USC. Let’s hope that the next two years here will continue to help me grow. Fight on!

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Posted on April 26, 2014 by Alina

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