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Although USC is known for its top-tier academics, my reasons for choosing the university had little to do with the academic rigor. When I started college, I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to study or even the different fields available to me. My indecisiveness led me to favor programs that allowed and encouraged my exploration of different fields of study. I also was looking for a close-knit feel, something that would emulate my surroundings from growing up in a small community. 

Exploring All the Options

My tour guide for my first trip to the University of Southern California was a biomedical engineering major with a minor in the cinematic arts school. I remember doing a double take when he first presented himself because I didn’t know students could pursue such different passions at the same time. As someone who didn’t exactly know what they wanted to study coming into college, I found the options available at USC to provide a source of comfort. I didn’t have to know exactly what I wanted to do coming in, and my path could be nonlinear. I could try out a sailing class, a music class, or even a course taught through the cinematic arts school.

The flexibility and diversity of the USC education that initially piqued my interest is something I have taken full advantage of during my four years here. After my first semester in environmental engineering, I was certain I had found my passion; however, my second semester proved to stray outside of my initial interests. I found myself situated in several chemistry-heavy classes focused more heavily on the chemical process behind water treatment, and less on the actual design and construction of the plant. After sitting down with my advisor, she suggested I try some classes in one of the other engineering disciplines that better appealed to my interests. After trying civil engineering, I finally found my passion in mechanical engineering I wouldn’t have been able to discover had it not been for the flexibility that the USC education offers. I’ve also had the opportunity to try a few cinematic arts classes and still manage to graduate in four years without having to take beyond the recommended units per semester.

Becoming Part of the Trojan Family

When I visited campus for the first time, I was greeted by several “Fight Ons” from students passing by. Immediately, the dynamic was more familial than the other campuses I had visited. As someone coming from an extremely small town of approximately 200 people in Iowa, the move to a large four-year school was incredibly daunting. However, the kindness exuded by the students at USC helped me to feel right at home. 

In addition, the myriad of organizations available on campus have helped me to keep in touch with my Midwest roots.  One of my favorite things about Iowa is skiing in the winter, something I had never thought I could do at USC. However, on my first trip to the campus, I discovered the USC Ski and Snowboard team. After I saw the Ski and Snowboard team, I knew I would have to apply.  Skiing at USC has allowed me to stay close to my Iowa roots while still being integrated in campus life. USC’s diverse population has also allowed me to meet several other students from the Midwest and the East Coast. Through these connections, I have found travel buddies for the long plane rides home and even my roommates for the past three years. 


Grace Sampson

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2024 HOMETOWN: Blue Grass, Iowa PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @grace.sampson I am currently involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which is a student organization that focuses on social, profession, and community driven events to support women in STEM fields. I am also involved with the Formula Electric team as the Powertrain lead where I help with the design and manufacturing of the vehicle's battery. I also work as a TA for our mechanical engineering measurement and instrumentation class. Outside of engineering, I am involved in the Ski and Snowboard Team which has a permanent residence in Mammoth for the winter season.