Living in Los Angeles

Welcome to the entertainment capital of the world.

Los Angeles, California is home to Hollywood and home to the University of Southern California. Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic and culturally diverse cities in the world, as well as one of the most scenic. In Los Angeles you won’t have trouble finding something to do, you’ll have trouble choosing what to do.

Climate and Geography

Los Angeles has over 10 million inhabitants in the greater area, and the city is spread out over 500,000 Sq. Miles. It is one of the largest cities in terms of population and geography in the world. It is also one of the few cities in the world where you can go hiking or skiing in the mountains, and 2 hours later, sun bathe at a local beach.

Los Angeles is famous for its beautiful temperate climate. Although many assume that it has the perfect climate, winter will bring more than an occasional cold and rainy day. The average year-round temperature is around 67 Fahrenheit and is typically in the mid to high 70’s. The sun is abundant here, but a cold costal draft will set in the evenings. Pack layers of clothing that will allow you to bundle up for the cool costal humidity, but enjoy nice and sunny temperature for a majority of the day.


USC is centrally located just south of Downtown Los Angeles. For decades Downtown Los Angeles was ignored. Unlike most other cities in the world, the downtown or “core” of Los Angeles was not a cultural center, however, in recent years, Downtown has rapidly grown into a hub of fun, food, and activity. USC itself is has also become a cultural and entertainment center of Los Angeles, with crowds of over 100,000 for Trojan football games, Gala events at the Shrine, and The Los Angeles Times Book Fair.


There are numerous things to do and places to go around the Downtown area, with more opening each year. LA Live and the Staples Center (where the Lakers, Clippers basketball and LA Kings hockey play), is only 2 km from campus. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Disney Hall (where the LA Philharmonic plays), RedCat, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and the LA Chamber Orchestra all are within 3 km of campus. Numerous restaurants, clubs and bars are also opening making the downtown LA scene one of the most vibrant in the city.

Not does Downtown have it’s share of activities, but you can enjoy a variety of options all throughout the LA basin. Check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Grauman’s Theatre in Hollywood, or go to Santa Monica for an excellent time at the beach or shopping. Los Angeles is known for its diversity of neighborhoods that each have something to offer. For more information on Los Angeles’ neighborhoods click here.

The area just south of USC is Exposition Park. Here you will find the LA Coliseum (home to USC Trojans Football, as well as major international soccer matches), the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, The California Science Center, the California African American Museum, EXPO Center, as well as the LA Rose Garden.

The immediate area around USC is rich and diversely populated, mainly by recent immigrants, who bring their rich and vibrant culture to the area. USC is close (within 5 km) of vibrant cultural areas including Korea Town, Chinatown, and Little Tokyo.

Campus Life

Arts, Entertainment, Culture

Not only are there exciting things for students to do in the greater Los Angeles area, but the USC campus holds a number of cultural and entertainment events thoughout the year. Performances in the arts which include music, theater, and topic lectures are often held in one of the many venues on USC’s campus.

USC also offers popular and traditional on-campus student activities including Welcome Week, Conquest! and Homecoming week activities which are sponsored by the Office of Campus Activities. The Office of Campus Activities also sponsors services, programs and events to educate, advocate, entertain and challenge students. In addition, there are over 600 recognized student organizations on the USC campus, ranging from sports clubs (such as scuba diving, skydiving, skiing, hockey, table tennis, badminton, rugby, cricket, baseball, etc.), to film clubs (Italian, French, “Bollywood”, etc), to cultural and political organizations, and many more. USC’s renowned greek community is home to a number of councils that host dozens of men’s fraternities and women’s sororities: organizations grounded in leadership, integrity, tradition, and social interaction. Within this community lie a number of valued-based organizations that will help you further your skills as a leader and help you flourish during your college career.


Athletics are very prevalent on the USC campus. The world-famous USC Trojans excel in over 20 sports including football, water polo, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, and track & field. Students on campus also enjoy a well-rounded athletic program offered through the USC Recreational Sports department. USC is home to several recreation and athletic facilities including the Lyon Center (Gymnasium),McDonalds Olympic Swim Stadium, Intramural Field, Cromwell Track and Field, McAlister Field, Figueroa Recreation center, and the Physical Education Building.

USC’s Intramural Program (IM) is available to all students and is one of the most popular student activities at USC with more than 9,600 participants. It is a program that allows general students to participate in sports at a competitive level, without the commitment and requirements of varsity level sports. We offer over 20 IM sports including soccer, golf, basketball, tennis, baseball, and many more. IM sports promote physical fitness and competition, social interaction, and student involvement. USC Rec Sports also gives students the opportunity to participate in one or more of 50 student-run club sports which vary from soccer and volleyball to cricket and rugby. Click here for a comprehensive list of USC’s club sports.

Other Opportunities

USC’s Office of Religious Life sponsors a variety of opportunities for exploring the spiritual dimensions of your life and learning. We can help you find a religious home base or form a new group, handle an ethical dilemma, or research a paper topic. The Office sponsors campus programs with a moral, religious, or spiritual focus. It co-sponsors events with other university units and partnerships of student religious groups. In addition, we are there for the entire USC community in times of celebration and loss, to offer benedictions at university convocations and to help organize memorial services as needed.

Students can also explore ways to become involved in the greater community through university programming. The Joint Educational Project, Founded in 1972, is one of the oldest and larges service-learning programs in the country, offering students at the University of Southern California the unique opportunity to combine academic coursework with experiences in the community surrounding the campus. The Volunteer Center is a primarily student-run department that offers exciting opportunities for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to get involved with the community. Each year, the Volunteer Center organizes numerous service projects, identifies volunteer opportunities and houses an extensive database of over 200 non-profits and other agencies that offer volunteer opportunities.

For more information on programs and services offered through USC Student Affairs, please click here.

Feel Free to donload the Exchange Student Los Angeles and USC Guides, created by the Exchange Student Hosts, to learn more about life in Los Angeles, and at USC.

USC Exchange Guide

Los Angeles Exchange Student Guide


Safety and security are of utmost importance to USC. To ensure the safety of our students, all USC Housing residents require a security key to enter their buildings. USC also offers a shuttle system to and from campus to resident housing in the area from 6 am till 10 pm. After hours, USC offers a driven escort system from sundown to sunrise that will take students (upon request) from any location on campus directly to the door of their building.

While the crime rates at USC are actually lower than those at UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, University of Chicago, Columbia University, and Harvard, as with most major cities in the world, safety is a concern and students must be aware of their surroundings at all times.


Major attractions such as Disneyland, the Hollywood studios, or the beach may be accessed by public transportation. The MTA, LADOT, and their partners transport 1 million riders per day throughout the Los Angeles region. The MTA offers a ride-planning system on its website that allows users to plan trips simply by entering their departing address as well as the address where they wish to go, the day of the week, and the time of their journey (

Los Angeles’s subway/rail system can be accessed near USC (less than 2 km from campus), and goes all over the city from Long beach, to the Los Angeles Airport (LAX), from Universal Studios to Pasadena. Additional lines are being completed, including a new line that runs a few steps from USC’s campus.

For longer trips (i.e. Las Vegas, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, etc.), students may choose to use the US Train Service (Amtrak) or Bus Service (Greyhound), or rent a car. Students who will be in the US less than a year will be unable to obtain a California Driver’s License. We strongly suggest that you obtain an International Driver’s License prior to your arrival in the US. You will NOT be able to obtain an International Driver’s License in the US.

Many USC students have cars. Befriend the local students, get to know them, join student organizations, and participate in their activities. They often have weekend trips and activities and are willing to arrange carpools to these events. The more friends you make, the fuller your experience will be.

Some students have also purchased cars during the time that they are here. Another option would be to look into a long-term rental agreement with one of the many car rental agencies.

Car Insurance

If you are going to purchase a car, you will need to get car insurance. Unfortunately, there is no “student discount” for car insurance, as the law requires that insurance rates be determined by your driving record. The longer your record is (and that is good), the lower your rates. This also means that students will actually pay more in insurance than say someone in their 30’s with a good driving record.

There are 2 types of insurance: Liability and Full.

  • Liability is the basic coverage you need to carry: it covers the costs of repairing the OTHER person’s car if you are responsible for an accident. It does NOT pay for damage to your vehicle or your injuries. It is the minimum as required by the law.
  • Full coverage covers all aspects and is more expensive.

There are a number of online services that help you find and compare insurance rates. In order to use these resources, you need to have a car (they will need the make and model of the vehicle to determine how much insurance coverage you will need: i.e., a BMW costs more to repair/replace than a Hyundai). These companies (,, can help you find the best rate.

Please note: Many insurance companies will NOT provide insurance to driver’s who do NOT have a California Driver’s License or a License from another US state. Information on how to obtain a California DL can be found here: California DL Instructions

Parking on Campus

For those of you who are thinking about purchasing a car, you will need to apply for a parking pass in order to park either on campus or in your USC Housing Assignment’s assigned parking lot. Without this pass, you will need to park on the street.

Apply For A Parking Permit

Grocery Stores

There are three main grocery stores nearby (within 1/2 KM) and two main department stores also within a short distance (2 km). There are also a few bars nearby that students frequent (only persons over the age of 21 are allowed to legally consume alcohol in the United States).

Arrival in the US / Transportation from LAX

Upon your arrival in the US, you will need to get from the airport to USC. If you arrive directly from overseas at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), you will clear customs at LAX. This process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 4 hours. Please note: it will take another 30-50 minutes for you to get from the airport to USC, depending on traffic. As such, you will arrive on campus approximately 3-5 hours after landing. Contact your Housing Assignment’s Customer Service Center to let them know if you will be arriving late.

For more information about transportation and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), please visit the LAX website:

Getting From the Airport to USC:

If you are arriving at LAX, your student hosts may be able to help you get from the airport to USC. If they are unable to get help, we suggest the following:

  • Shuttle Services and Taxis: You can arrange shuttle service through the airport employee standing at the shuttle service sign just outside the airport terminal. These shuttle vans are registered and reliable means of transportation. Two of the largest door-to-door shuttle services are listed below. The shuttle will take you from the airport directly to any location you wish and you can call for reservations in advance. The cost is approximately $20 one-way per person. You might also want to consider taking a taxi from the airport to USC. The cost will be more than double the cost of a shuttle van but all passengers ride for the same price (if there are two of you, a taxi may be the better option). PLEASE ONLY BOARD VAN SHUTTLES AND TAXIS IN OFFICIALLY DESIGNATED LANES.

Directions to the USC Campus

Most shuttle and taxi drivers know where the USC campus is located. Just in case, directions are as follows:

  • Take the 105 Freeway east to the Harbor Freeway (110), northbound.
  • Exit Exposition Boulevard and turn left.
  • Then turn right on Figueroa.
  • Your housing assignment will be in the area around USC, but please be sure to look up the exact address and location online at

For more information about transportation and to view a map of the USC campus (University Park Campus), please visit: