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4 years later: Graduating senior Nadia Filanovsky expanded her horizons — and got her driver’s license

COMMENCEMENT 2022: The native New Yorker may be heading back home after commencement, but L.A. and USC have a special place in her heart.

Nadia Finalovsky in Cuenca, Spain
Nadia Finalovsky visits the casas colgadas (hanging houses) at the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cuenca, Spain, during her semester in that country. (Photo/Courtesy of Nadia Filanovsky)

In 2018, native New Yorker and Trustee Scholar Nadia Filanovsky was excited to expand her horizons at USC as an incoming freshman. The economics major hoped that by graduation, she would “be comfortable in my field of study, a bit more traveled, and ready to take on the world,” as well improve both her Spanish and driving skills. We checked in to see where she is now.

What have been the highlights and high points of your USC experience?

I have had some experiences while at USC that I would never in my life have expected. Some of them were not as great as others, like the pandemic, but mostly, I have been so positively surprised by the opportunities I have been granted by USC. Even with the pandemic, a huge highlight for me was the fall semester of my last year, where I actually got to go back to campus and have an almost normal semester back on campus with a robust response to the pandemic from the university, where I always felt safe.

To forget the pandemic for a second, though, I had some incredible opportunities before COVID started. My freshman year, I participated in a PWP [Problems without Passports] program in which I got to spend two weeks in Amsterdam. My sophomore year I got to start a scuba diving class and got to go to Catalina Island. This year, I am spending my last semester in Madrid. All of these opportunities were made possible to me from further generous scholarships from the university, and they were all things I never would have imagined myself doing when I first started at the university.

Nadia Filanovsky in Amsterdam

Nadia Filanovsky visits De Cuevel, a sustainable attraction in Amsterdam, as part of a Problems without Passports trip. (Photo/Courtesy of Nadia Filanovsky)

I also want to mention specifically the Thematic Option classes and trips I have been on as highlights of my time at USC. I am a huge fan not just of the T.O. classes and staff, but they provide so many opportunities for their students to do really incredible things throughout L.A. and I wish more people took advantage of all the opportunities the program has to offer. (Go T.O.!)

I could go on forever about opportunities made possible to me in my time at USC and subsequent highlights, and I will always be massively grateful for all of the support the university has given me.

Anything you learned about yourself?

I learned how stubborn I can be about my own opinions. Coming into USC, I was a very loyal New Yorker and resisted any positive opinions about L.A. for about a year and a half until I eventually fell in love with the city. I wish I could stay. I think I learned I want to live in a place without winter, but here I am, moving back to NYC anyway.

Is there one object or moment you’ll take away from USC that means the most to you?

A: Picking one object that means the most is a lot of pressure — I’ll go with an object that I think holds some kind of sentimental value. My freshman spring, I took the special effects makeup class in the film school — it’s the only class I managed to take in the film school during my time at USC. I woke up at 9 a.m. every morning to go to this class, which for me, means I really wanted to take the class — I am absolutely not a morning person. I was absolutely blown away by everything I learned and how quickly I learned it. I thought the class was such a cool example of the realm of opportunities and talent that exist at USC. I will most certainly never be a special effects makeup professional, but some of the people in that class could’ve certainly become one with their talent and dedication. I still have the makeup I bought for the class and even brought it back to NYC when I packed my room up in December, even though I haven’t used it since the class.

How would you compare your freshman self to yourself today?

This is a really funny question, because I was just reading over my responses from freshman year. I think as a person I am mostly the same, but I think my freshman self would just be proud of me for where I am now. I’m not only completing my BA, but I will have my MS as well by December. I not only continued to learn German, but I finally got to immerse myself in my Spanish and get it into shape like I had hoped. And I finally got my driver’s license in December — that might actually be my proudest accomplishment of the last four years; no one thought I was ever going to get my license.

How do you think you’ve changed in the last four years?

A: I think my time at USC has changed me in that it has helped me to feel more empowered and confident, which has let me believe in myself in a way I didn’t before. I feel more confident to try to do things I wouldn’t have before. Whether that’s a crazy trip or applying to a job, I feel capable of doing a whole lot more.

What’s next for you?

A: I am hoping to enjoy the rest of my time before I start my job in July, and hope to use the opportunity between the end of the semester and the beginning of May to go visit Hamburg and travel. Afterwards, I will be moving back home to NYC to start my new job. I am an incoming sales, trading and structuring analyst at Deutsche Bank. I’m looking forward to it and have already started studying for my regulatory exams.

What piece of advice do you have for freshmen coming into USC?

I have a couple pieces of advice based on my own experience, but they are obviously not one size fits all. The first is to stay open to opportunities but to also use your resources in making decisions. The path I took in my undergrad wasn’t exactly how I imagined, but I am so happy to have ended up where I am. USC makes a lot of things possible if you talk to people and figure out all of the resources available to you. Don’t hesitate to make meetings with advisers, the career center, reach out to people doing things you want to do.

The other thing I would tell people is to push themselves out of their comfort zones. This is what is called the “growth zone,” and I am a big, big fan of the growth zone. In December, I went bungee jumping off of the Bridge to Nowhere (which I would totally recommend). And before I literally catapulted myself off this bridge, the instructor just said, “if you can learn to control your fear, you can do anything,” and I think as cheesy as it is, that’s the best advice I could give to a freshman. If you push yourself to do things that seem scary, there is so much support here to help you take the leaps you need to be the person you want to be — and you will be so shocked by the person you are at the end of your four years.

And try to get off campus a bit. USC is in one of the most incredible cities in the world. Spend some time seeing it, you won’t regret it. And regardless of what people say, it’s possible to see L.A. without a car. I’m a frequent rider of the bus to LAX, even though people don’t believe me when I tell them there is a bus to LAX. The important thing to remember, to me, is that the city of L.A. has so much to offer you. I had the incredible opportunity to work at a couple movie premieres during my time in L.A., but I know people who were in movies or were in the Super Bowl, even if they were studying things totally different at USC. My freshman year I even lived next door to 24kGoldn in McCarthy [Honors College] and saw how determined he was to take advantage of his time in L.A.  — look how far that and his talent took him. L.A. is a city that makes dreams come true, so don’t forget to explore it outside the USC bubble every now and then.

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4 years later: Graduating senior Nadia Filanovsky expanded her horizons — and got her driver’s license

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