Rebekah - University of South Carolina

B Communications/Arts
Semester 1, 2019
The University of South Carolina gave me the best few months of my entire life, and blessed me with friends all over the globe.

Academic experience

The majority of classes I took while overseas counted as my electives, with only one class actually counting towards one of my majors. This gave me a lot of flexibility when choosing what I wanted to study, and meant I could take some really interesting classes that I’d never be able to study in Australia – Intro to African American Studies, the US Civil Rights Movement, and Super Bowl Commercials (yes, really!) to name a few. A couple of the classes I wanted were already full by the time I time I could sign up for them, but I just contacted professors explaining I was an exchange student and was interested in taking their class, and they were all super accommodating and happy to open another spot in the class.

I found the workload to be a lot, but the assessment wasn’t nearly as heavily weighted as it is here, and even the big assessment pieces weren’t super complex. As long as you stay relatively on top of quizzes and homework, you should be able to keep your grade up pretty easily, but most professors do offer a lot of extra credit opportunities if you find that you need them. Honestly the hardest part for me was going to class every day – it felt a lot like I was back in high school, and for most of my classes I only had one or two absences available before I’d have points taken off my grade.

Personal experience

When I first started thinking about where I wanted to study abroad, South Carolina was not a place I initially considered at all, but it ended up being the single greatest decision of my life. Everybody in the South is so genuinely nice; they are so welcoming, and I felt at home so quickly. Between the international community and the student groups I was involved with, I made friends with so many incredible people, not only from the US but from all over the world.

If you’re looking for a genuine US college experience, you’ll definitely find it at USC. I was there for the Spring semester, which meant I missed football season – a little disappointing, but it just gives me an excuse to go back and visit! I seriously cannot speak highly enough of USC, I absolutely loved it! Outside of Columbia, I did do a little bit of travelling throughout the semester, but waited until after the semester ended to do the bulk of it. I spent about eight weeks at the end travelling solo around the country, which was so much fun, and such an incredible experience.


I lived on campus in Thornwell, which is an apartment style dormitory right next to Maxcy. It was a little more of an expensive option, but definitely worth it. It was super convenient, right on the Horseshoe, and still a part of the Maxcy International College, which meant I got to know a lot of other international students and really get involved with that community. 

My main reason for choosing an apartment style dorm over the more traditional suite style dorms you’d find in Maxcy was that I really wanted access to a kitchen – I did not want to live off a meal plan and the idea of a communal building kitchen scared me a little. It also meant I had my own private room, which for me was so important because I’m the kind of person who needs to be alone to recharge. I did have two other girls living in my apartment sharing the kitchen and bathroom, but I hardly ever saw them.


Unfortunately, the US exchange rate was pretty low for the duration of my time abroad (65-70c to the dollar), which seemed to make my funds vanish into thin air. As it was, I took more than the recommended amount with me, and it wasn’t enough. My only advice would be to start saving as much as you can as early as you can – more than you think you’ll need, because costs add up ridiculously quickly. 

Buy things in bulk where you can because it will be cheaper in the long run, but be practical about it – it’s only four months, so make sure you’re going to use it. Public transport in Columbia is scarce; you’re pretty much limited to where you can walk, or Uber/Lyft/carpooling. 

If you plan to travel, take buses where you can, and book them as early as possible. Don’t shy away from the long trips – they’re tolerable especially if you get them overnight. Megabus is good for the price, but luggage restrictions are a lot harsher than say Greyhound, which is usually a little pricier, but has better allowances. If you are looking to fly, Southwest lets you check two bags for free.


The first couple of weeks overseas were definitely difficult; it was a huge adjustment, and trying to settle in while putting myself out there trying to meet people was taxing at times. It was also freezing – temperatures were below zero, which was a huge shock after coming from the middle of a Brisbane summer. I got through the early days just by taking it one day at a time, and eventually settled in and was perfectly fine.

Professional Development

Living overseas and travelling alone increased my confidence and independence in really tangible ways. It also gave me really valuable experience interacting with and building relationships with people from different backgrounds and cultures, opening my mind and developing skills I will carry with me for the rest of my life, both in my personal life and in the workplace.


I spontaneously decided to join a student organisation’s Spring Break service trip to Ecuador, which is probably the most bizarre and impulsive thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was literally just a matter of saying yes when the opportunity came up – some of my friends in the group were like ‘hey, you should come to Ecuador with us!’ I said yes, and next thing I knew I was in Quito, which was definitely the last thing I expected to happen while I was on exchange. We ran an optometry and health clinic in a poor coastal fishing village, which was definitely a challenge but seriously the coolest and most rewarding thing ever.

Top tips

1.    Get involved as much as you can, as early as you can. Super obvious, but seriously, do it.
2.    Waive your insurance, but do your research very thoroughly, as USC won’t accept any plans that don’t meet every single item of criteria.
3.    Say yes to everything. Coffee dates, weekends away, parties, day trips, movie nights, literally anything you can. 
4.    Make friends with other international students! It’s so interesting to hear your friends talk about their home countries, and it’s pretty nice to know you have couches to crash on all over the world!
5.    Get involved in a club/student organisation that interests you, whether that be a sport, hobby, a religious group, it doesn’t matter. Surrounding yourself with likeminded people is so important, and you’ll make some really good friends.