Time on Exchange in South Carolina

James H., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2018)

I picked the University of South Carolina as my exchange destination, mostly based on reports from previous exchange students and because it was a place I had never dreamed of going to in America. It ended up being a life changing experience that I will never forget.

When I first got to USC next to none of the domestic students had arrived on campus, so we took a few days to explore and get to know where we would be living for the next semester. The campus itself is incredibly picturesque, especially the ‘Horseshoe’ with its huge oak trees, lush green grass and all the classic American college buildings surrounding it. The facilities on campus were incredible with two huge fitness centres (pools, gyms, basketball and squash courts, a sauna, a rock climbing wall all inside) that are accessible for all students. Notably, the football stadium (Williams-Brice Stadium) can fit over 80,000 attendees and every game that I went to attempted to fill all of the seats with an atmosphere that was next to none – especially with the school song ‘Darude – Sandstorm’ playing at every point scored accompanied by fireworks.

On Campus Gardens

I lived in Cliff Apartments which was apartment style living shared between 4 students. We were all exchange students and I shared a room with a student from the Netherlands with whom I quickly became lifelong friends. Although we had a kitchen with a stove, oven and fridge I utilised the college meal plan, mostly because of the ease of just heading to the diner for any meal of the day, although you do end up missing a home cooked meal! The campus does have countless restaurants to eat at, although we were regulars at ‘Bates Diner’ as it was a 5-minute walk from our accommodation.

I think one of the biggest highlights from my college experience was definitely the football games. The atmosphere at the games has no rival and I particularly loved the passion that all the Americans have for the game and their team. It was always amazing to see the lengths that the school goes to show their support including the mascot (Cocky), the band and cheer-squad. It was particularly beneficial for students as we got free tickets based on a points system – the more school support you showed the better seats you got – that meant attending all the other sporting events like soccer and volleyball and really getting into the school spirit. The tailgating of the games was another highlight as it was such a great opportunity to explore the social side of campus and meet lots of students outside of college life.

Unreal Atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium

America was great to travel to as there are so many further travel opportunities to explore while you are there. I highly recommend budgeting some extra money to explore some places nearby, for example I traveled to Connecticut, Colorado, New York, Texas and did a bus tour through all of the Southwest States at the end of my trip. There are so many opportunities you wouldn’t want to miss while you are over there, and I definitely recommend saying yes to them all!

Overall, exchange was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience and I could not recommend it enough. I met so many lifelong friends and really got out of my comfort zone which seems daunting at first but ends up being incredibly rewarding. I can’t wait to go back and visit the friends I made. Go Cocks!!!

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.

 

True American Experience

Marshall, R. Bachelor of Business

University of South Carolina (Semester 2, 2016)

In the beginning, leaving the comforts of home in Brisbane for a new life in America was extremely daunting. When I applied to University of South Carolina, I didn’t know anyone from the school or anyone going on exchange with me. However, that changed very quickly upon arrival. Since the minute I unpacked my belongings, I began to meet lifelong friends.

I lived in Woodrow College with about 40 other international students as well as domestic freshman students. Woodrow had apartment style rooms which includes a kitchen, so I didn’t get a meal plan whilst undertaking my exchange. This turned out to be a very cost effective way to do my semester abroad as many weekends I was away travelling.

The first few days were filled with exploring the campus and all the facilities that it had on offer. This included over 30 restaurants, two gyms with pools, a rock climbing wall and five squash and basketball courts that are all available to students. After getting my bearings on campus, I began to explore the city of Columbia, where USC is located. Although Columbia is the capital city of South Carolina, it is quite a small city by American standards. This made it geographically manageable since it was walking distance to the restaurant district, the Vista.

In the first two weeks, the school organised many social events to get to know both my domestic and international peers. These events really helped make the transition into college life easier. I wanted to get more involved, so I joined an intramural American football team which was made up of other international students. It was quite a steep learning curve to understand the rules, but we made the grand finals of our pool and it was ultimately a great way to meet people.

Classes were substantially different from those at QUT which forced me to immediately adjust my learning style. The classes met twice a week for 75 minutes in classes of about 40 students and unlike QUT, attendance was mandatory for most classes. Final grades were graded on many smaller assignments along with participation and attendance, so it engaged students a lot more and increased participation.

College football is one of the most important past times to many Americans. Luckily for me, football season occurs in the fall semester, so I was able to experience a completely different environment than the sports we have back home in Australia. Tailgates are lined up for miles while everyone eats in and drinks before cheering on the Gamecocks at Williams Brice Stadium.

There were a lot of opportunities for traveling while I was here which allowed me to explore new cultures of a lot of amazing American cities on weekends and holidays. Throughout the semester I was able to visit Chicago, Athens, Charlotte and Charleston. With Thanksgiving break in November I was invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia which was on the highlights of my trip.

Overall, exchange was an unforgettable and life changing experience. While it may seem uncomfortable and scary at first, I urge students to challenge themselves and expand their horizons. The memories, friends, and experiences that exchange gave me are way more valuable than any reservation I had before coming to America. I would highly recommend exchange to every student, especially University of South Carolina. Go cocks.

Life at University of South Carolina

Aleksa M, Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries

South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

An exchange semester in America had been a goal of mine ever since I started university. When I received my confirmation letter from the University of South Carolina I was ecstatic as I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime. And I wasn’t let down. USC’s beautiful campus gave off the perfect first impression, a lush green campus filled with beautiful gardens and all the amenities one could hope for. Included in these is a world class gym, complete with squash courts and a rock climbing wall. My assigned dorm room was small but relatively modern with a nice kitchen, living area and, of course, great room and floor mates. My first and only real shock came during the first week of classes when it was explained that class attendance is mandatory at all classes. Depending on subjects you get 3-5 absences which are marked and further absences may result in a penalty to your final grades. The subjects at USC were similarly taught to those at QUT however the American units appear to be more exam heavy.

The cost of living in America is fairly similar compared to Australia as far as cost of food and entertainment is concerned. The cost of accommodation was really the only downside of this trip, as it is compulsory for exchange students to stay in American dorms there is no option to seek alternatives. However, the upside to staying in the dorms is meeting other local and international students. In any case the money spent on accommodation and food can be easily re-couped through the money saved on alcohol. America (particularly the south) has some of the cheapest alcohol you will ever see and an incredible variety of craft beer. In Columbia, the first place you will learn about is 5-points. 5-points is a small block of multiple bars many of which serve drinks for $1, beers, spirits you name it. Prices vary but the most you will pay for a drink on any given night will be $3. The true college experience.During my time in America I got to experience a beaming new culture. In particular, a major highlight for me was the football season. In the south, football is a religion. For me, the Saturdays and Sundays spent tailgating were the best part of the trip. I am a huge football fan and the culture of American football fans is unlike no other. The stadium atmosphere is intense and definitely something to experience. The USC stadium was sold out almost every game however all students are more or less guaranteed a ticket through the student lottery system. I also enjoyed the ease of travelling through America through cheap flights and rent-a-cars. Spur of the moment decisions like a weekend road trip to New Orleans or booking a last minute budget flight to San-Francisco are always on the cards. Quite possibly the most beautiful part of America is the distinctive culture and experience each city gives off. It’s almost as though you are entering a new country. My exchange semester in America was the experience of a lifetime. However, the best and integral part of the experience was the amazing people I met, many of whom I’m still in close contact with and will remain friends for life.  In short, I couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend my semester abroad. GO COCKS!!