On the morning of October 5th I and about 49 other students from the College of Charleston were ushered onto a set of buses sent to the University of South Carolina to evacuate the coastline in preparation for Hurricane Matthew. We were originally preparing to leave for Clemson University, but the massive influx of students from around the state directed there prompted President Harris Pastides of USC to accept the CofC and MUSC students to their campus instead. After almost five hours on the bus, thanks to the reversal of I-26 (making us appreciate travelling the shorter distance to USC over Clemson), we emerged onto the USC campus to the cheers of an extremely warm and welcoming student body.
From the outset the staff at the University were extremely kind and helpful, making sure to keep the drowsy evacuee students accommodated, comfortable and relaxed. What began as an extremely stressful situation turned into a pleasant chance to experience the city of Columbia and the USC campus. We were all placed in student housing, given meal vouchers to act as student meal swipes at the on campus dining halls and offered access to a variety of the school’s student facilities such as the library and recreational rooms. This allowed us ample time to get to know the school and its community while also tending to any work that we may have brought along for the evacuation.
The USC students, both in the dormitories and out in the city of Columbia, were almost all exceedingly friendly. Any questions that I had were often answered promptly and clearly, and whenever a student learned that my companions and I were students from College of Charleston we found ourselves faced with open curiosity and well-wishing. I often ended up conversation where I would usually be marching off to class or ignoring any crowds around me. Several others students from CofC agreed, all of us noticing the same feeling of openness and the effort put into making us feel at home.
On top of fulfilling our basic necessities and giving us generous room and board, the University of South Carolina went above and beyond to give us distractions from the hectic evacuation and concern over Hurricane Matthew. A small group of us received free tickets to the school’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was executed with a passionate flair and a gothic flourish that made the entire play extremely enjoyable from start to finish. The day before we left the entire group of evacuated students was given tickets to the football game against the Georgia Bulldogs, which, for many of us, was our first taste of college football (CofC doesn't have a football team). It was an exciting and uproarious event and something for which I cannot begin to show enough gratitude.
During a time of crisis and hectic evacuation the University of South Carolina showed welcoming generosity to a group of confused and concerned students from College of Charleston and worked hard to make sure we felt right at home. While many people suffered damages and anxiety over the storm we were fortunate enough to be given a chance to breathe -- safe from the storm’s landfall. I am grateful to the students and staff at USC for their hard work and friendliness, and am now convinced that our schools are strengthened by relationships such as these.