When Danelle Go weighed her options for grad school, the allure of the Trojan Family and its opportunities for making friends drew her to USC.
Then the pandemic happened and shifted USC to remote learning. “In a virtual environment, it’s really easy to feel disconnected and isolated from the community,” says Go, who is studying for her master’s degree in postsecondary administration and student affairs at the USC Rossier School of Education.
She found a way around that, though: virtual events. Wallet making, trivia, bingo, even chess matches — they were all held online. Whether offered by USC’s Campus Activities office, Graduate Student Government or other groups, they gave her the community she craved.
For that, Go can credit fellow students like Delani Wolf, an events worker for USC Campus Activities. As she studies for her degree in writing for screen and television at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the senior also organizes virtual events and uploads short arts-and-crafts tutorials to the office’s Instagram page.
“I’ve met such a variety of people and have made new friends through these events,” Wolf says. “We’re all about helping students find their place at USC.”
From cookie decorating to jewelry making, here are six ways online fun kept the Trojan Family vibe alive during COVID-19.
1. Paint Nights: Colorful and Creative Stress Relief
Whitney Tang loves to paint and often attended art tutorials with friends before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person gatherings. When she learned she could sign up to receive a free kit of supplies and then gather with her peers in a Zoom room to paint a scene together, she jumped at the chance.
“Painting is very fun, and it’s a good stress reliever,” she says. “That’s why I try to register whenever they have a paint night.”
The master’s student in education at USC Rossier also learned how to design a macramé wall hanging and make boba tea from scratch.
“Having someone instruct you made it easier, too,” Tang says. “They are there with you online so we can ask questions.”
2. Home Goods: DIY Soap and Candle Making
Go has always been a fan of arts and crafts. That made it easy for the do-it-yourself devotee to gravitate to hands-on activities like knitting a blanket and making her own candles and soap.
“I’ve never actually done that before,” she says. “It really exposed me to things I might not have done on my own. It’s a de-stresser, too. I am able to sit down with fellow students and do a craft together and meet random people.”
She sees that as one advantage of virtual events at USC — bringing together students from different programs and backgrounds who otherwise wouldn’t cross paths. “There is that community-building aspect intertwined with being able to de-stress and help with our mental health.”
3. Trivia Time: Pop Culture Know-How
Given her background in film and television, it’s no surprise Wolf is a big fan of trivia. She put her knowledge of popular culture to good use writing quiz questions to stump her fellow Trojans.
“We play it on Kahoot [a game-based learning platform], so it’s really interactive,” she says. “I love it as a way to get to know new people. We have themes like music, movies and television. Because I’m a cinema major, I have a ton of weird facts.”
Karaoke nights offered another opportunity for USC students to cut loose by belting out their favorite tune.
4. Tie-Dye is Back: A Hands-On, Splashy Trend
Tie-dye made a major comeback in 2020. What better way to join the retro resurgence than with your own one-of-a-kind DIY socks?
There is something incredible about getting highly educated students to learn something that we may have lost touch with as we grew into our higher education careers.Samantha Nunez
Samantha Nunez, who helps organize online events for USC Campus Activities as a student worker, says the tie-dye parties always bring her joy. “There is something incredible about getting highly educated students to learn something that we may have lost touch with as we grew into our higher education careers,” she adds.
The senior public relations major is pursuing a progressive master’s degree in communication management at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. As a virtual event host at USC, she strives to create a safe space for students to unwind and have fun.
“You have to be ready to become a moderator and be just as excited to connect to the students as they are to be in the activity with you.”
5. Planting Herbs: Learning How to Get Growing
Tang freely admits she often fails to keep “green things” alive. But when Graduate Student Government offered an online herb-growing tutorial, she figured she’d give it another shot.
A kit arrived with a biodegradable pot, a packet of herb seeds and a disc of dried soil that plumped up with a sprinkling of water. She assembled the tiny garden and crossed her fingers.
“I was hoping I’d be good this time, but they haven’t grown at all!” she says. “I felt so bad. But I was inspired by it and got some potted herbs at the grocery store. I have a mint plant that is doing pretty well. Maybe I’m just not good at the initial growing process — who knows!”
6. Board Games and Book Clubs: Getting Conversations Started
When students grew weary of slogging through their organic chemistry textbook or an impenetrable essay by Foucault, they could find refuge in a book club with one rule: low-stress reads only.
“We send out e-books that students can read on their own and then discuss,” Wolf says. “We recently did Twilight [the young-adult vampire bestseller by Stephanie Meyer]. That was really fun — and funny.”
Aspiring grandmasters could sign up for chess showdowns, while Trojans feeling less competitive flocked to popular bingo nights. And for students looking to mingle without distractions, gatherings called Coffee and Conversation recreated a low-key café vibe.
“They can just show up and chat,” Wolf says. “It’s fun to meet people that way, too. With game nights, crafts nights and yoga, there really is something for every student.”
Students can find upcoming virtual events on the Experience USC website (requires a student ID to log in).