Before my first year at Point Loma Nazarene University, when I was engaged in the grueling (but also exciting) process of completing college applications and exploring different campuses, I had never considered the neighboring University of San Diego as a potential option. In fact, I thought almost nothing of the school until I visited it recently; and, to clarify, no — this is by no means an indication that I am planning to transfer to USD.
Because I am a San Diego local, I had always known about the existence of USD as well as its location, but the university simply did not attract my attention. Now that I reflect on my mindset from high school, it seems that the sole reason for this was its apparent lack of spirituality; I was rather selective with my college options, applying only to the following four schools: PLNU, Westmont College, Biola University and Vanguard University.
Almost two years later, however, my perception of USD has certainly changed. If there is anything in particular that I can attribute to this transformation, it is that I have dedicated time toward exploring USD’s campus, which — I must say — is quite remarkable. Yet why would I, a loyal student at PLNU, desire to spend time at another university in the first place?
The first thought that comes to my mind is the close proximity between the two schools. If anything, USD is PLNU’s friendly nextdoor neighbor; all that it takes to get there is a quick drive inland (my apologies to the first-year students without cars). USD stands gloriously atop a grand hill that overlooks Mission Bay and much of San Diego. Simply because of its location, I find very few reasons not to visit occasionally. As I continue to explore the latter’s campus, I find that I can more genuinely reflect on my own college experience thus far, and I am intrigued by my discoveries.
Like PLNU, USD is a private liberal arts college that was founded upon Christian principles, though there are some notable differences in regard to practice. PLNU, for example, is affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, and it actively and deliberately seeks to integrate faith and education; USD, on the other hand, historically a Roman Catholic educational institution, now takes a rather secular approach to education.
Both universities offer several religious services for their students, but these differ to a great extent at their respective schools. Perhaps the most dramatic difference is that PLNU requires chapel attendance whereas USD does not. Furthermore, PLNU’s services take the form of weekday chapels, which occur on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning as well as Thursday night in Brown Chapel; USD provides more frequent services, including daily Mass at the Immaculata Church and student Masses in Founders Chapel.
Although the Immaculata Church sits almost at the center of USD’s campus, it is independent of the university, belonging to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. I have begun to attend Mass there every Friday morning as a pleasant way to start the day (and if I must be honest, I prefer Mass at USD to chapel at PLNU).
USD is considerably larger than PLNU both in terms of its campus size and enrollment, but, because it is a private institution, it is still significantly smaller than a typical state university. As you drive onto campus, you can immediately recognize an atmosphere that is not present at PLNU — one which seemingly resembles that of Balboa Park; the university’s enchanting landscaping and Spanish Renaissance architectural style remind you of a traditional college campus. However, PLNU’s atmosphere is arguably more unique due to the university’s special location on the majestic peninsula known as Point Loma. Sunset Cliffs especially enhances PLNU’s beauty, and I dare say that absolutely nothing at USD can compare.
Many of the buildings at both PLNU and USD are historical. Some of PLNU’s buildings existed long before the university moved from Pasadena to San Diego, meaning that part of its campus is older than USD’s campus as a whole; the first construction projects at USD did not begin until 1949. Concerning the overall architecture of both universities, PLNU’s is relatively modern whereas USD’s is much more traditional.
I can vividly recall my first visit to USD, which left me with a lingering sense of admiration for the university. Everything from its elaborate hallways and courtyards to the breathtaking Immaculata Church fosters within me feelings that I do not experience at PLNU. Yet, despite my profound appreciation for USD, I recognize PLNU as my beloved home. Whenever I pass Sunset Cliffs and glance out into the blue horizon, I rest assured that I have made a wise decision.
Written By: Luke Spencer