QUIZ: Where Should You Travel Next?

QUIZ: Where Should You Travel Next?

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Time to renew your passport, pack your bags and take a trip. Whether you're a student planning on studying abroad, a family looking for a fun summer vacation, or a brand new college grad looking for one last adventure before going into the real world, this quiz will be fun and helpful!

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The Plight Of Five Points Business District

Columbia's iconic business district is in decline. Can it come back?

Fifty years ago, the Five Points business district was a thriving center of commerce. Columbians could take in a nine-cent movie, go to Columbia’s first supermarket, or buy a soda from the Gibson’s Drug Store. Five Points was the engine of the city, proof that one need not go to Charleston for a wholesome family outing.

Any current or recent student would be forgiven for chuckling and this image. These days, Five Points is synonymous with bars, sorority girls, and a loose interpretation of the phrase “twenty-one and older.” The district is now just across a set of train tracks from the nearest residential buildings on the University of South Carolina’s campus. Many investors and restaurateurs over the years have seen dollar signs at the thought of stressed college students newly freed from their parents living ten minutes away from a source of alcohol.

At around the same time, the texture of Five Points’ food scene began to change. Alongside iconic Columbia eateries like Groucho’s Deli and Yesterday’s café sprouted more common spots, first a Starbucks and then Waffle House, Cookout, and Salsarita’s. The change was felt in other sectors, too: the strip mall behind Chick-fil-A is dominated by household names such as Food Lion and Petsmart.

Earlier this year, the powerful Five Points Association took a stand. When the restaurant Harper’s closed in 2017, two brothers from Florence swooped in and offered to buy the building and start a Zaxby’s franchise out of it. Columbia’s zoning authority had approved the move, but the F.P.A. moved to let its opposition be known. It lobbied relentlessly for the investors to pull out of the deal, which they eventually did.

The affair highlights the dilemma faced by Five Points businesspeople and proprietors. Many feel the district's culture is being directly undermined by the invasion of corporate restaurants and bars with little concern for drinking laws. But it seems like there is a never-ending line of both looking to cash in on USC’s 35,000 students. With Zaxby’s no longer an option, the owner of the building left vacant by Harper’s might turn to a bar catered to college students.

Still, another problem Five Points has yet to reckon with is crime, or rather, the perception of crime. Five Points is one of the safest areas of Columbia, safer than the Vista and even than U.S.C.’s campus itself. But many students and parents do not feel safe, primarily because there are a number of homeless people living in the area. It is easy to tell someone scared of homeless people to get over it, but the fact stands that people need somewhere to sleep comfortably. A recent incident in which two bystanders were shot in the face and the spine has not eased fears.

Five Points still has a lot of character. Drip Coffee offers an authentic alternative to nearby Starbucks, and even has its own reward program of sorts (ask for the stamp card; ten visits and the eleventh item is free). Pawley’s Front Porch is a great place for students to take advantage of the parents being in town. For greasier fare, Eddie’s Calzones offer a great late-night snack, with enough food for lunch the next day. But the F.P.A.’s unwillingness to allow outsiders to enter the district, coupled with its reluctance to invest in potential business owners, is a recipe for stagnant growth, fewer visitors, and a further deterioration into poverty and irrelevance. The City of Columbia and the Five Points Association can and should do more to address these issues.

Cover Image Credit: geraldbrazell / Flickr

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What It's Like To Be A Pharmacy Technician In High School

A dolla make you holla!

I'm sorry fellow readers, but you are going to have to hear me rant on this one. One word describes my job in high school... "horrific". Most kids do not work, or if they do, they apply for jobs at malls or movie theaters. No ma'am, my parents wanted me to get something out of working, so I ended up going through extensive training and I mean extensive to become a Pharmacy Technician when I was 17. I thought my parents were kidding, but boy was I wrong. I would leave school early, put on my scrubs and go. On Tuesdays, I was in school until just 9:30 AM to go to the hospital to perform my clinical rounds there, and shoot over to Walgreens to make my shift on time. The only thing beneficial coming from this was that I looked pretty good in my scrubs.

I remember completing my 100 hours of on-the-job training and getting into the pharmacy and just being depressed constantly. For those who are unaware, we are constantly ridiculed by clients screaming at us for issues we cannot control. Insurance issues are a big one, and we get the heat because we're that person at that time in their face. I've been called "incompetent," "too young for my job," and the best one, "can I get someone who knows what they're doing?" I was really proud of myself that I didn’t jump over the counter on some days. Lunch breaks, by the way, were a mere 30 minutes that I wouldn’t even get sometimes because the lines were so long.

There was one thing that kept me going, and that was my coworkers Bertide and Michandra. These women are very independent who take nothing from anyone. They always had my back when the customers got to be too much. They not only were working 8 hours every day, but were also supporting their kids; each of them having a daughter. Not to mention, they were hilarious. I was like their little kid and I knew my squad always protected me.

This job was very difficult in other ways as well. We work in a small cutoff area from the rest of the store and we constantly bumped into one another. Medication would tumble, workers would slip, it was basically a nightmare for any of us. I made my mom massage my feet after every shift and boy was it hard to keep up with homework. Coming home late at night, all I wanted to do was sleep. But I knew my college dreams were demanding more from me. I had to choose one dream to follow and you can tell it wasn’t my sleeping ones that won that battle.

Through the yelling customers and taxing knowledge we had to keep up with to help each person, I did learn a lot. I learned what it’s like to have to take care of others' needs before my own and how to take hold of stressful situations. It taught me that not only are people cruel in how they speak to you, but some of them really need the medication we offer to keep them alive, and that’s why they would get so emotional. What I have to say to others is respect your Pharmacy Technicians and when we’re handing you over that Xanax bottle, think of how hard it is for us to let that go- kidding!

Cover Image Credit: Inverse

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