Southern Hospitality – My Exchange to University of South Carolina

Patrick H., Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama)
University of South Carolina (Columbia campus), USA (Semester 1, 2017)

I completed an exchange semester to The University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus from January to May 2017. USC’s campus certainly dwarfed QUT’s campuses with some majestic classical buildings and hints of the city’s Civil War history literally spelt out on signs around town.  My African American Literature professor could also be counted on to fill in some more, less flattering history of the area, including the fact that the IHOP carpark was previously the largest ‘slave pen’ in the entire South.

One of the South Columbia historic site signs.

The campus itself was very scenic, green and spacious, with the common area of the Horseshoe being a quiet, sylvan spot to relax as the weather turned warmer. “Turned warmer” being the operative phrase as the January start to the semester meant sub-zero temperatures on arrival and even returning from a Spring Break in New Orleans saw my Cliff Apartment’s ‘home’ on campus in the midst of a snap snowstorm. So my first piece of advice would be to pack for both freezing cold and significant heat – clothes that can be layered are an absolute must.

The Horseshoe, USC Columbia campus.

The Observatory and one of the more spectacular residences on USC Columbia campus.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while the campus is an easy walk into ‘town’ (with such attractions as the Nickelodeon cinema, the Columbia Museum of Art, and bars and restaurants such as Bourbon (upmarket and authentic Southern food) and The Whig (more affordable pub fare)) and Five Points (an equivalent of somewhere like Fortitude Valley/West End), getting to The Vista or to an affordable supermarket like Walmart is impossible without a car (though USC was kind enough to lay on a shuttle bus to Walmart on a weekly basis) so, if you’re relying on your own feet, you may be limited to those areas in walking distance.

Jazz recital under Columbia Museum of Art’s amazing modern chandelier.

 

When attending classes on such a big campus (particularly if you’re taking some of the music or literature classes that are in remote buildings), make sure to allow enough time to get there. There are plenty of venues for music, theatre and even film (free films are screened during semester) on the campus itself and my accommodation at Cliff Apartments included regular free food nights to ensure residents got to meet their fellow students. There are also many food options on campus and Dominos is not far away (Wednesday night pizzas are $5). The organisers of sports on campus also make sure students can get free or discounted tickets to basketball, baseball and other sports events on campus and nearby and outings to (e.g.) Columbia’s zoo, Folly Beach, Charleston and other cities within driving distance are offered to visiting international students at a modest charge.

The view from my Cliff Apartments’ window.

Cliff Apartments certainly wasn’t the most glamorous accommodation on campus but the apartments were the largest in terms of space and included separate kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom in an open plan space. The only necessity to buy yourself were things like pots, pans, crockery and cutlery. The early-mentioned Walmart trips were a good opportunity to get your hands on the things you need for the apartment early on.

Cooper Library, which you’ll get to know very well.

Overall, USC’s Columbia campus was people by friendly fellow students, very knowledgeable and approachable professors and support staff who were always ready with vital advice and a tasty scone (not like ours at all!) and flat white (I taught them, don’t worry) to raise your spirits. My best advice would be just to be open to anything that’s on offer – I did and saw a Gospel Festival, a speech by Francis Ford Coppola (!!) with screening of his work in progress, some fantastic theatre department productions, a baseball game, a night of role-playing boardgames and a really fun Oscars night at Nickelodeon as a result!

The Ghost Light ceremony with USC’s Theatre Department in attendance.