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As a born and raised SoCal native, I always knew I would go to school in California. That meant I was accustomed to sunny weather, amazing school spirit, big sports teams, beautiful campuses, and large resources at a college. So while all those features are amazing, and one of the best parts of the USC experience, they were not what drove me to choose USC. What set USC apart was the Viterbi School of Engineering, and the passion it inspired in myself and fellow engineering students.

When I was applying to colleges, I struggled with my decision to apply as an engineer. The more campuses I toured, the more hesitant I became about my future major. Did I really want to be an engineer? No engineer I met on these tours seemed to love what they did. Would I have to sacrifice my creativity? My passion? My talents in fields other than engineering? Was engineering worth all of those losses? Most engineering students I met at other schools didn’t seem to think so. They complained about the long hours, difficult classes, insane curves, and competitive nature of the field. By the time I reached USC, I was dejected and reevaluating my chosen major.

Luckily, USC Viterbi completely changed my entire outlook. For starters, the students seemed not just happy, but overjoyed, to be there. I had never seen engineering students speak with such passion and adoration for their discipline. Attending the information session later that day, it was clear why.

Viterbi engineering’s interdisciplinary culture not only allows—but encourages—students to pursue interests outside of engineering. Engineering doesn’t exist in a bubble, and we as engineers are made better by having a diverse background and range of knowledge. It was inspiring to see engineers who minored in dance, double majored in creative writing, were startup founders, or played for the student symphony orchestra. At Viterbi, I could envision myself coalescing my passions in art, architecture, public policy, and sustainability with civil engineering to make a meaningful difference. I felt that at Viterbi, I wouldn’t lose myself in engineering, but rather mold my engineering degree to fit my personal identities and goals in life.

Furthermore, Viterbi teaches us how engineering can be applied to enact positive change in the world. A major component of my major/career/identity crisis was that I felt I needed to make a difference in my community, and had previously only thought a major like public policy was the avenue to do so. However, Viterbi has a large focus on using engineering to solve the grand challenges facing the world. I realized I could have a far greater impact as an engineer than I ever considered.

Finally, what solidified my decision were the people that I met at USC. They described USC as a place of support, fun, and opportunity. I could lean on my fellow classmates instead of competing with them, have time to enjoy my college experience, and get access to amazing opportunities thanks to the large resource pool.

Viterbi reignited my love for engineering, and I am so thankful, as I could never see myself doing anything else now.

Araxi Malazian