By Louis Lucero II
As you’ve doubtlessly heard from any parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, legal guardian, piraguero (shaved ice vendor), locksmith or counselor who’s done the undergrad thing, “College is what you make it.” It’s as if every diploma issued comes with the solemn obligation to dispense these words at every turn, to every incoming freshman or any person who looks remotely college-bound. In a break from the convention of conventional wisdom, however, these words appear to be true. Most unusual, no? College ‘is what you make it’ insofar as you can decide your own level of involvement; choose to pursue as many or as few interests as you like; spread yourself thin (imagine a bagel with a fine coating of schmear) or centralize your energies (visualize, if you will, a heaping dollop of sour cream atop nachos).
Reaching back into the many memories from my own first-year experience—all the way back to the 2008-2009 academic year—I believe there’s something to be said for spreading yourself a little thin…at least at first. The transition to la vie universitaire isn’t one anyone should have to make alone, but there’s no reason anyone should have to. For those first few weeks (if not months, perhaps), everyone’s a new kid. Feel free to explore things you wouldn’t have previously. A lot of students who weren’t at all involved in their high school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) find that LGBT life at USC is too good to pass up.
The University of Southern California is…a university – that’s some real talk. As with any university, there is always going to be an intramural team you can join, a student-run publication to which you can contribute or an improv group for which you can audition. However, USC’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Assembly (GLBTA) and its subsidiary student organizations truly constitute some of the most remarkable and, frankly, bad-ass attributes of the University.
FAB, the Freshman Advocacy Board, caters specifically to the needs of LGBT first-years. More often than not, those needs are straightforward: meeting people and finding stuff to do. Admittedly, FAB isn’t the most activist of the campus’ LGBT student orgs, but civil rights and equality will always need advocating and campaigning for: socializing is a pressing need too, especially for first-years. FAB is a great jumping-off point for anyone new to ‘SC—freshman and transfer alike. Show up to a meeting and see how you like it. Show up to a few more meetings and have your say in how the titanic sums of money USC reserves for all things gay gets shoveled around. It’s a “budget,” but in name alone.
Meetings of the umbrella-organization GLBTA are good for getting to know the heads of the GLBTA many “member orgs.” At GLBTA meetings, the Executive Board members of all the subsidiary groups report on what their particular organization has been up to and is planning for the future. Groups represented include the Ally Alliance; Genesis 9:13, an LGBT bible-study group; JAGS, the Jewish Alliance of Gays and Straights; the confidential discussion group uRap; EMRI, an organization campaigning for marriage equality; and more.
General advice: Pipe up if ever you have something interesting to say. Get as many G.E.s out of the way as you can early on, unless you were celestially predestined to be a psych major or whatever. If you see someone you know around campus with someone you don’t know, go say “hi!” Mutual friends are the easiest to make. Don’t overdo it with Campus Cruiser, just because you’re a Trojan doesn’t mean you’re no longer ambulatory. Explore Los Angeles!…and while you’re at it, Go Metro®. Be free with your meals and frugal with your Dining Dollars—the latter are as fleeting as the imagined buzz from self-fermented grape juice. If you want to, do it. If you might want to, do it. If you don’t want to, don’t do it.
At USC, LGBT students enjoy access to a wealth of resources: resources for making friends, making connections and making the grade. I’m happy to report that these benefits kick in ‘day one’ of your first year. So whenever you’re walking across our gorgeous University Park Campus thinking it’s a good day to be Trojan…remember it’s a better day to be a gay one.