There are four things even the most jingoistic USC alum must appreciate about Bruin Westwood.

First and most obvious, a glowing yellow-red-and-white sign that suggests burgers of extraordinary quality may be found just a stone’s throw from campus. Before an evening out, in between classes or yes, for breakfast, you can go In to this establishment and then Out quite quickly while still enjoying its fine fresh meats and the semi-notorious offerings of its hidden menu known only to those who have ordered from it before.

The location of this restaurant, which to be fair is perfect, draws unkind comparisons with the paucity of like restaurants around other SoCal universities, particularly those located in the downtown area. I know that Bruins and Westwooders appreciate their burger joint, but until you’ve eaten a soggy patty out of a mobile eatery truck pulled up onto the grass of other campuses like it’s a maintenance van checking the sprinkler valves, you don’t know how good you’ve got it.

Second, and only slightly less obvious, is dessert. What are great hamburgers and fries without the climax of an incredibly delicious and cheap ice cream sandwich? When the Westwood gods giveth, they keep on giving. It’s one thing to have a local franchise of an established, cultish regional burger chain near your school, it’s quite another to have the singular Diddy Riese (926 Broxton Ave.; named after the proprietors’ beloved grandmother apparently) just a few blocks away proudly squeezing ice cream between two soft cookies of your choice since 1983. And nobody, but nobody, can beat $1.50 per sandwich.

Third is the Fox/Mann Village Theater (961 Broxton Ave.). It’s easily one of the most beautiful movie theaters in Los Angeles, and its location for students cannot be beat, but its preponderance of premieres sets it apart. The red carpet rolls down Broxton and Weyburn with alarming regularity, treating even ho-hum Angelenos to displays of impressive starpower. Not to mention the hush-hush previews (I was the next inside for Anchorman six months before its release when the studio goons shut the doors crassly in my face) that routinely commandeer the Fox and the smattering of other wonderful single-screen theaters in Westwood.

Name me one other university in the country – let’s go wild, in the world – that offers a top-five cinema school and such a stellar theater vital to the working industry in its neighborhood. As a habitual and disinclined visitor to the USC University Village three-plex across town, complete with its soda (or blood?) splattered screens and metal security gates that come down around midnight to discourage “gang” activity, I can say there is no comparison in this town or, doubtless, any other.

Fourth and finally, the quiet. It’s a rare commodity in Los Angeles, and when I say the campus gets quiet at night, I don’t mean it as an insult to or a besmirchment of the Bruin party scene. As someone who spent four collegiate years with barely a single silent moment across town, I value those few nights I spent in the center of this campus, near the fountains, almost able to smell the ocean, when the brawling snarl of the city disappeared.

UCLA is enormous and its campus beautiful to be sure, but there is something otherworldly about it too. Beyond the parking lots and athletic fields and frat houses and dorms, it somehow grasps every so often at a measure of tranquility. Perhaps the Bruin kingdom is such a fine academic establishment because its students are actually afforded some peace of mind in this mindless city.

Now, I can’t name you a single building on the UCLA campus (well, Pauley Pavilion, but that doesn’t really count). I’ve been hopelessly lost on my own and with friends, on campus and off campus. One night in particular, after driving out to Westwood to sample the aforementioned splendors – burgers and ice cream – I turned back to the maze of apartment buildings and Greek houses that make up the squirrelly hills next to campus with absolutely no idea where I’d parked.

To find the car took the better part of an hour, and as I breathed an exhausted sigh of relief putting my key into the lock, I realized what a pleasant walk it had been. Cool air, white adobe walls, rolling hills, a bit of breeze from the coast, the lights of the Fox cutting through the night.

A school and its neighborhood can’t be fully judged on foot, but I’ll say this: With its many, many gifts, UCLA and Westwood is a damn fine place to get lost.