Layla MohyEldin, ’21, is a freshman at the University of Southern California and is majoring in international relations.
Q: What college are you going to and why did you choose it?
A: I am currently attending the University of Southern California. USC was the first college I toured online, though, as I got caught up in the whole college process, it kind of fell by the wayside. Then I got my acceptance letter and I couldn’t quite understand how I stopped paying attention to USC because it had everything I wanted in a school. I wanted the plethora of opportunities, clubs and organizations that going to a larger school brings and I was also happy that it was in California. But the biggest thing that drew me to USC was something called Trojan spirit and the idea of community togetherness.
Q: What was your first semester like?
A: Well, I was a spring admit so I could only come in the spring when there were more spots available because of people studying abroad or graduating a semester early. So, during the fall semester, I decided to take community college classes and knocked out a ton of my general education classes like English and some humanities. At first I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it was the best thing I did because I was able to take certain classes and it set me up to graduate a year in advance which I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t been a spring admit. So I’m actually really happy for that opportunity.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected your freshman year?
A: I arrived and stayed for four days but then they extended their in-person start date and I went home for two weeks before flying back. There’s also an app called Trojan Check which will give you a barcode for the day if you have scheduled and taken your weekly required COVID-19 test and filled out the symptoms questionnaire. You also have to have your COVID-19 vaccine, your flu shot and your updated medical records. Then you can show the barcode to security so you can get onto campus and go inside the buildings. Though, as of March 7, masks are completely optional inside.
Q: What do you do when not in school?
A: I’m still trying to get into the whole extracurricular activity thing. I’ve joined the Muslim Student Union. Something that’s interesting is called the moderator. Their whole premise is that they create an environment and deliberately pick controversial topics to debate, and they discuss them because they’re trying to create civil discourse, which I thought was cool. I’ve also really enjoyed exploring the campus and checking out the old buildings. But, I’m not gonna pretend it was easy socially because everybody did sort of already have their groups by the time I came.
Q: What’s your major and minor?
A: I’m majoring in international relations, which is really interesting, and I’m minoring in Middle East studies. For that, I have to learn the basic history of the Middle East and how it functions on a global stage. With my international relations major and a part of the world I’m interested in focusing on, I thought that it would make sense.
Q:What classes are you taking?
A: I’m taking something called a GESM, which is a general education seminar, and those are specific to freshmen. You’re required to take one your freshman year, and mine has 17 students so it’s my smallest class. It’s basically like a high school English class, which I’m not mad about. I kind of like it. Then, I’m taking three major classes; IR 210, IR 211 and IR 212. IR 210 is Introduction to International Relations, IR 211 is International Relations: Approaches to Research and IR 212 is Historical Approaches to International Relations. So those are interesting, which is good because if they weren’t that would be concerning because they are core major classes. Those have been fun.
Q: Who is your favorite professor and why?
A: My favorite professor teaches my introduction to international relations class. He’s funny, but he’s also a good lecturer because he can be really philosophical and abstract and I like his approach to the class. I enjoy how philosophical and ethical he gets in international relations and how he likes to go off on tangents because it’s always entertaining. I feel like with an hour and 30 minute long lecture, you could doze off, but he always keeps me interested.
Q: Do you have a favorite or least favorite class?
A: I don’t have a favorite, but I have to say that my International Relations: Approaches to Research class is really boring. The professor is nice, but it is a boring class. I was talking to my advisor and even she said that almost everyone thinks that class isn’t very interesting. It’s just something I’ll have to get through for my major.
Q: How’s the social aspect of school?
A: I think that it’s a little more challenging than being at Country Day because if you don’t talk to anybody, nobody will talk to you. If you don’t get involved in the clubs or anything, then you’ll have nobody to talk to. You genuinely have to make an effort and reach out and that’s hard for me, but every time I did reach out, I ended up making friends. Definitely something that is different is that everybody has their own group, and there are so many people here that you can just go through your entire four years and never know anybody if that’s what you want.
Q: Did you make any freshman mistakes?
A: I locked myself out on my first night here. On my first night here, my parents had left and my roommate wasn’t here yet. So I went to the restroom in my bright pink Crocs because I was getting ready for bed. But, I left my keycard in the room, and I closed the door, and I couldn’t get it.
So I’m back downstairs, and I’m waddling in my Crocs looking for somebody to help me. It’s 7:10 p.m. I missed the Customer Service Center by 10 minutes. So I asked the security guard for help, and he called the RA and he came and we tried to find the master key—couldn’t find it. So we had to start calling all the other RAs, who are minding their own business because they’re not on call. So two more RAs come join us, and we finally track down a fourth RA who has the key card in her room.
Then I had to sit there with these three RAs completely traumatized and so embarrassed waiting for this girl to come with the master card and then they all walked me to my room and helped me open the door.
Q: How are the professors at USC different from teachers at Country Day?
A: Teachers at Country Day care, and it’s not that professors don’t care, it’s just that they don’t care about you on a personal level. I don’t take it personally but going from teachers who would go out of their way to make time for you, come in for a break before school and actually try to make sure you understood things was an adjustment. It’s also a lot less interactive.
Q:Do you think Country Day prepared you well for college?
A: Yeah, I do. Country Day really helped with managing workloads, teaching us how to manage our time, manage our stress, prioritize work and figure out how to work with a lot of deadlines.
Q:Do you have any advice for the class of 2022?A: For 2022, my advice would be to go into college with an open mind. Put yourself out there. I feel like if you don’t put yourself out there, you’re not going to get anywhere. Put yourself out there socially with extracurricular activities, make friends, build relationships with your professors and learn how to get help. Just put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I feel like you can’t go wrong that way.