During Move-in Day in fall 2018, then-freshman Anthony Llamas shared his journey to USC while his family helped him settle in. The son of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student, Llamas attended a prep school in San Jose on a full-tuition scholarship and maintained a 4.1 GPA while working 40 hours a week at a local movie theater, before being accepted to USC. Now, preparing to graduate from USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Llamas reflected on his last four years.
What have been the highlights and high points of your USC experience?
One of the major highlights of my USC experience was being able to excel in my academic career and doing so being a first-generation, low-income student of color. As difficult as it was, I made sure to always tell myself that I belonged here just as much as anyone else did. Another high point of my USC experience was making a select number of friends, and doing so because I always felt it was better to have a small group of people that care for you and want you to succeed.
Anything you learned about yourself?
You must embark on failure in order to cherish the greatness of success. Instead of looking at failures as unfulfillment, I try to look at failures as opportunities to learn from and grow academically and personally in my experiences outside of my academic career.
Is there one moment you’ll take away from USC that means the most to you?
It’s not one particular moment — but since sophomore year, my best friend and I would set aside time late at night to make an occasional Raising Cane’s [fried-chicken restaurant] trip while we had deep conversations about school and our personal lives.
How would you compare your freshman self to yourself today?
The growth after four years has made me learn about the importance of accepting what is in front of me. Too often I would find myself frustrated if things didn’t go the way I wanted. However, now I am a lot more open to new opportunities that are presented and understand that there isn’t only one road that will lead me to where I want to be.
How do you think you’ve changed in the last four years?
I’ve grown a lot as a person, as a brother, a son and a friend in many aspects. I’ve kept more in touch with the people I love most, which has been a driving force of my success at USC. I’ve changed my approach in perceiving new opportunities by being open-minded and always hoping for the best.
What’s next for you?
My plan is to spend some time traveling back to Mexico for a few months and live a life away from technology and a large city by going to my dad’s hometown. Afterwards, I plan on returning to spend some time working while getting ready to apply for graduate school for the following year.
What piece of advice do you have for freshmen coming into USC?
Life is full of twists and turns. You will experience ups, and you will experience downs where you may feel extremely unfulfilled. The downs will only exist in your mind if you allow them to exist and can only be conquered by you. Have a great set of friends, even if it’s just one or two, and share amazing moments with one another because one day you’ll look back after you’ve graduated, and life will be different from that moment onward.
A special piece of advice for my first-generation, low-income freshman coming into USC: If someone hasn’t told you this yet, I am extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished thus far. You are doing amazing things that many people are aware of and are going to do amazing things in your time at USC. Always prioritize your mental health and seek help if you need it. You’ll never be alone in this journey, and regardless of what career you choose to pursue, understand that your loved ones are proud of you and know that you will be great. Always be yourself.