Anna – University of South Carolina, USA: Semester 2, 2015
I chose to study abroad at the University of South Carolina (USC) in the United States. I did this for three reasons mainly. Firstly, I’ve always wanted to travel America, and study abroad and I figured this was a small window where I could experience the “college experience” and really immerse myself in US culture. Secondly, I’ll admit I was slightly worried about being accepted, finding friends and finding somewhere to spend the holidays, so I was banking on the southern hospitality stereotype being true. Lastly, I study Fashion and Advertising, both of which industries are booming in the US, so I thought studying there would provide invaluable, cutting edge knowledge and perspective (and look great on my resume).
I am so happy to say, for me, all of these hopes were realised, as well as so much more I had not anticipated. Of course there were down times, and I have to attribute many of my positive experiences to me saying yes to every opportunity, and going out of my way make the most of it. But, looking over my time, my exchange was just like something out of an American movie.
USC is based in Columbia, the capitol city of South Carolina. Before I left, I was slightly put off reading about how big the campus was, with students saying that it’s so big and the public transport is so bad that you would have to buy a bike or maybe even pitch in for a car. But, rest assured, I walked everywhere. Columbia itself has very quaint and picturesque parts in it. Although it’s the capital city, it is fairly small and has a very ‘college town’ feel to it. The campus itself is vast, but quite contained, and as exchange students are required to live in dorms on campus, you can definitely walk to and from all your classes. Outside of the campus there is Five Points and the Vista (which is in what you would call the CBD) they both have a great variety of bars, restaurants and a small number of clothes shops (I did most of my shopping online). They are in opposite directions to each other but again, both are very walkable from campus (approx 15 mins). If you walk to them at night, make sure you go with friends. Although the city is somewhat isolated, there are plenty of great places you can travel to nearby throughout semester if you make friends with an American student with a car, or take public transport like Greyhound buses (again, it’s not advisable to go alone at night). Charleston is an absolute must for me. It’s an amazingly beautiful, historic small city by the ocean with a plethora of great shops, restaurants, bars and clubs and it’s only about 90mins away.
Built in 1801 USC’s campus is beautiful. I was placed in my first housing preference, Woodrow, which I absolutely loved (it is directly opposite the main dining hall). However, the majority of the dorms they place exchange students in are also lovely and historic, particularly the ones on the Horseshoe. USC has a lot of different housing options e.g. single sex to co-ed buildings, sharing a room with one other student, to sharing an apartment with one other student, to sharing an apartment with three other students. If I had to make recommendations based solely on my observations, I would say try to aim for housing in the centre of campus (around the Horseshoe) as it is the most central, so easier to walk around, very safe and scenic If you want to make friends with other exchange students and people from all over the world, the international house Maxy is a great option, but you do have to share a bedroom. Otherwise, if you want the best chances of being placed with American students, something like South Quad is great and very social.
Over all, I absolutely loved the teaching structure at USC. The courses are very hands on, with a lot of student teacher interactions, the same way our high schools are. What’s more, assessment is due much more frequently than ours (weekly), but at a less intense level, much like school homework. I found this method really beneficial for me as it was easier to stay on top of the work, adjust your grades and retain information learnt. I had no electives left when I went on exchange, so this made the subject matching process more difficult. However, I was very happy with the subjects I did choose: Fashion Forecasting, Fashion Product Analysis, Principles of Retailing and Consumer Behaviour. However, had I not have been, just as at home, I could have changed my subjects when I was there before a census date. I particularly enjoyed studying Fashion there as their courses are retail based (students major in either retail management or fashion merchandising), with very practical curriculum that you would need when stepping into a real job.