Marianne J., Master of Business
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2017)
Going to Columbia and University of South Carolina (USC) gave me so much: the ultimate American college experience, friends for a lifetime and experiences I will never forget.
Preparation and Arrival
Once I got my official “Letter of Acceptance” from the partner institution I could start the visa application. As compared to applying for an Australian visa this process takes more time and effort. First, you need to apply online, pay fees, get approved, set up an interview date and then go to the actual embassy. Be aware that, upon your interview they will need to keep your passport for a maximum of two weeks in order to insert the visa, so be sure to have enough time before departing.
When I arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, a friendly, old couple picked me up as a part of the airport reception provided by the university. I highly recommend everyone to attend orientation week, not only are some events compulsory, but this is where you`ll have the chance to meet with your fellow students and professors and a lot of useful information will be given. This is where I met most of the people that I become close to and hung out with the most the rest of the semester. Including that, there are loads of events that offer free food, and as a poor student you don`t want to miss that! I arrived just in time for the solar eclipse, where Columbia was in the zone of totality. I also arrived in time for hurricane Irma, and quickly got an insight into the natural disasters that can occur on this side of the world.
As for housing, postgrads usually cannot live on campus, but there were plenty of other off-campus student communities. Unfortunately, all the short-term leases fill up rather quickly. I went onto the USC website and found students who were subleasing, and ended up staying in a four-people apartment at a place called Riverside – a ten minute drive from campus. Most of the off-campus communities have a shuttle running to and from campus every 30 min on week days, all with a common stop on campus. This made it easy even for international students to get around. Riverside apartments came fully furnished and are very conveniently located next to a Bi-Lo (grocery store), bowling alley, and restaurants. In the USA you pay rent monthly, and living in a student accommodation is usually very cheap. I paid approximately $610 AUD a month, excluding utilities.
Columbia is a major college town and the whole city is proudly supporting and representing USC and the Gamecock (school mascot). I was there in the fall semester and got to experience football season, which entailed a weekly game where 80 000 people came to cheer for the Black & Garnet. The team and school spirit that you will experience here is like nowhere else. USC is also lucky enough to have the biggest college gym in southeast America; Strom Thurmond; a three-level playground for athletics and free of charge for all students. I can honestly say that this is the best and nicest gym I have ever been to.
Further, USC offers heaps of clubs to get involved with, no matter what interests you, they have it. I played indoor soccer and used the student gym and its amenities frequently, and personally thought it was fun to see what all the fuss about sororities and fraternities were all about.
I had to have my study plan ready before going overseas but couldn’t officially enroll until I got to Columbia. To pass the requirements from QUT I had to enroll into four units at USC, where 48 Australian credit points were equivalent to 12 U.S. credit points (3 per unit). You are being told from the beginning to save your electives and I would really recommend doing so. Some of the classes I wanted to enroll in were either full or not available to exchange students, so having mostly electives left when going abroad made the process of choosing new ones, and having them approved, much easier. Bear in mind that attendance is compulsory in the States and can, along with participation, be a part of your end grade. The postgrad classes were relatively small, ranging from 15-30 students. Some classes could be challenging, but they were all achievable.
Columbia and the U.S.
Columbia has a climate that is a little similar to Brisbane. The summers are hot and humid, and long-lasting, while the winters can get chilly and sometimes below 0, but only for a few months. Throughout the semester you had plenty of time to explore. Columbia has a river that runs straight through the city, where tubing is a very common activity, especially on those hot summer days. Five Points and the Vista are the famous areas for restaurants and night life. This is where students usually come together to socialize.
Although, Columbia, or ‘Cola’ as the Americans call it, isn’t the biggest and most exciting city there are many places worth seeing only a few hours away. We went to Atlanta and saw the World of Coke, to Savannah – the 7th most haunted city in the U.S., Charleston –home of all Nicholas Sparks movies. Including bigger trips to NYC, DC and I even had time to go see my host family in Utah over Thanksgiving. It is also an experience in itself to celebrate the different public holidays like Labor Day, Halloween, and Christmas.
I really enjoyed my time at USC and am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go abroad and become a Gamecock! I can`t say it enough, but if you have the chance – take it. Going abroad and all it implies is so worth it!
– Forever to Thee –