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What's the first semester in Spark like?

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Editor's note

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We get a lot of questions about what being in Spark is actually like, so we thought we'd have some of our members tell you themselves. Tiki and Menna were Sparklets in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020, respectively. Their time in Spark in-person may have been brief, but it has also been jam-packed with meaningful experiences across our initiatives and time spent hanging out.

Menna, Dan, Tiki, and Ivy (at the very bottom) painting the 1000 Pitches pitch booth as Sparklets
Menna, Dan, Tiki, and Ivy (at the very bottom) painting the 1000 Pitches pitch booth as Sparklets

Tiki, F19 Sparklet

Who are you?

My name is Tiki. I'm a Computer Science/Business Administration major with a Cognitive Science minor, but that could change – I'm still figuring it out!

My interests include literally everything, but my latest crazes have been neurotechnology, robots and 90s TV. But at my core, I'm interested in people. I will never stop being amazed and inspired by both the people around me and ones I’ve never met. I like to break things and build them back up, learning everything to do with them along the way. I dream of the upheaval of social norms and plan for my next invention after conferring with Phineas and Ferb. My imagination for what the world could be with my doing blurs the lines between reality and REM, keeping me up at night!

Aside from Spark, I'm also involved with Los Angeles Community Impact and Sigma Eta Pi Entrepreneurial Society. I also spend a lot of time hooping at Lyon with my homies.

What was your Sparklet semester like?

My Sparklet semester was FANTASTIC! After being welcomed into the family from every single person in the room, I knew that Spark was built on genuine community. Everyone wanted to get to know one another and learn all about them.

The experiences I had working on committees and our wild, tradition-filled retreat will surely be memories I look back on fondly in a couple of years. Scrolling through my Snapchat memories always leaves me smiling and reminiscing about some inside joke or funny moment that happened with Spark. From Steak 'n Fam (our semesterly dinner party) to Bay Trip and more, Spark played a defining role in my first semester of college.

What were you expecting from Spark when you joined? What surprised you?

Little did I know that the people I met in Spark would change my entire outlook on life. I can say with certainty that any conversation I have with another member will teach me something new. As a new member fresh out of highschool, I was imagining a somewhat structured club with a couple of meetings here and there dedicated to working on "entrepreneurial things." I could never have imagined the level of bond I would later achieve with fellow members, nor the real impact I could partake in having on campus.

What was Spark Labs?

SparkLabs was a training ground for Sparklets to gain experience with committee ideation and execution. My Sparklet semester, it took the form of a mini Spark initiative with the mentorship and guidance of older spark members. There were two teams with five members each.

What was the work like?

We had consistent group meetings and check-ins with Core Team after Board on Mondays. We started off with an ideation and brainstorming phase and we honed in on one idea that we planned over a couple of weeks. It took lots of logistical work to find a venue, but we ended up hosting our event at a house off-campus. We learned to work with different communication styles and navigate different personalities. We dealt with some stress along the way, but it was an enriching experience once we finished!

What was your experience with mentorship?

My experience with mentorship in Spark was life-changing. As an inexperienced freshman fresh off the second-semester-senior-year-high, hearing about college life from a second-semester senior was more than eye opening — 4 years on a dynamic college campus shapes and grows us. It's plenty of time to build wisdom, and having access to that was AWESOME. My mentor was so willing to help whenever I had questions. He consistently offered something meaningful every time we talked. He showed me around his favorite restaurant in the area, the ropes of campus, and so much more. We still check in after he graduated and for all of that and more, I'm grateful. Thanks Suvir :)

Menna S20 Sparklet

Who are you?

My name is Menna Elamroussy! I'm a Sophomore studying Industrial and Systems Engineering, and in my free time, I love to run, hike, bake, and hang out with my friends. Aside from Spark, I'm part of a co-ed engineering fraternity called Theta Tau at USC.

What was your Sparklet semester like?

My Sparklet semester was honestly my best semester in college thus far, before COVID cut it short. I met so many amazing people and learned so many new things – beyond information, I got to learn more about myself.

Being a Sparklet also broadened my perspectives on so many different parts of life. When I was accepted to Spark, I found myself suddenly surrounded by brilliant minds, from artists to scientists.

I truly found a community—no—a family on campus. It didn’t matter that I was a newbie; everyone welcomed me with open arms. Because I was new, older members were excited to meet me and went out of their way to make sure I was enjoying my Sparklet semester.

What were you expecting from Spark when you joined? What surprised you?

I definitely wasn’t expecting the extreme sense of community that I now feel. Although I knew that being in a club meant I would make friends, I never expected I'd make friendships as deep as these in such a short amount of time.

I was especially surprised that the seniors were extremely excited to meet me — a part of me expected that I wouldn't get to know any seniors well or that they wouldn't be interested in getting to know me, since I was a freshman, and the seniors were graduating the semester I was admitted. I was completely wrong. If anything, the seniors were the members I got closest to. They all made an effort to include me and the other sparklets in the swing of things. They invited us out and got to know us as individuals. Even though they graduated, I’m still in contact with many of them.

In terms of work, I assumed I wouldn’t be given a lot of responsibility because I was new. It was actually quite the opposite. At my first meeting, my Committee Lead treated me as an equal and gave me the same amount of responsibility as anyone else. But that wasn’t intimidating to me, because my leads made sure that I felt comfortable enough to reach out for help at any time. From the start, my committee put huge emphasis on not struggling alone. We were a team, and if I needed help, there was always someone to help me. And this goes for greater Spark as well.

When I joined Spark, I didn’t expect to have 40+ people who are willing to drop anything to come help me with whatever I needed, Spark-related or not. There will always be someone there for me, and I never really have to go through anything alone.

What was Spark Labs?

Spark Labs was a workshop for Sparklets that mimicked the workflow of a real initiative, but it's only for Sparklets.

Spark's Core Team would give us mini-tasks to do for it. With every task, different Sparklets would take the lead. This allowed for each Sparklet to get the experience of running a meeting, being a lead, and working with others. These tasks led me to make some of my closest friends in Spark and even led to me eventually co-lead an initiative with another Sparklet the following semester.

At the end of Spark labs, all the Sparklets led a board meeting together, which was a powerful experience because it reflected on our growth that semester, and gave us confidence that we could lead in the future.

What was the work like?

The work in Spark is fast-paced, but it's not overwhelming. I never felt like I couldn’t keep up with the work and if you ever need to take a lighter workload because you’re stressed or have midterms or something, people in your committee/ in Spark will understand and will never force you to do more than you can. If anything, during midterm season, workload tends to lighten up because after all everyone in Spark is also a student and understands how hard it can be. The work itself was very rewarding because I was doing things I had personally never done before, reaching out to big companies, getting sponsors, organizing large events etc… and seeing the results of whatever you helped with is a very satisfying feeling especially since the work you do is usually to help a community.

What was your experience with mentorship?

I absolutely adored my mentor. He was a senior so sadly I didn’t get to spend too much time with him but to this day, he still checks in on me and if I ever need anything I know that I can reach out to him. My mentor made me feel very welcomed in Spark and was there for me both professionally and personally. If I was just having a bad day, he would meet me to talk about it or if I needed career advice he would jump to help me. Overall, I’m really glad I was able to have and maintain that bond.

Enjoyed what you read? Have any questions? Let us know!