Sarah Ellis

International students discuss impressions of USC, Southern culture: Part 1

Along with the nearly 5,000 freshmen finding their ways around campus in the first days of the semester, more than 1,300 international students from over 100 countries are also acclimating themselves to a dramatically new environment.

The Daily Gamecock sat down recently with three exchange students to discuss, among other topics, their impressions of Southerners, excitement for tailgating and distaste for Columbia’s traffic signals.

Here are excerpts from the interview with Bronte Chapman, a third-year criminal justice student from Brisbane, Australia, studying at Queensland University of Technology; Alexander Hamilton, a second-year business management student from Stockholm, Sweden, studying at Scotland’s University of Dundee; and Sandra Winkle, a third-year journalism student from Stuttgart, Germany, studying at the University of Bamberg.

The Daily Gamecock: Why USC? How did you end up here?

Winkle: The weather. And I looked up the classes … and I liked it better than the other universities.

Hamilton: I had a long list of universities and I looked them all up, and I thought USC looked the best. I was looking primarily on the sort of business aspect, but also I looked up loads of campus stuff. I really thought the campus stood out. And also the sporting facilities are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I keep telling my friends back home, “They’ve got like three huge swimming pools, two huge gyms, and it’s crazy.” That’s one of the reasons I decided to come here. And also the weather.

Chapman: I just wanted something different. I was looking at stuff along the coast, like California and all that, and then I was like, ‘No, I’m just going to go for something different.’ And I just picked this one. It was actually completely random. I looked at it and it had good subjects, but it was nothing specific.

DG: What are your first impressions of USC?

Winkle: It looks like the movies.

Hamilton: It is the stereotype of the American university. It’s so weird because people kind of look the way I thought they would look. … We’re exposed to a lot of American media, so we’ve got kind of preconceived notions of how it’s supposed to be, and it’s a lot like that. But people are super friendly. That’s probably the strongest impression I’ve gotten so far, is that people are a lot more friendly than they are in Europe.

Winkle: And more helpful.

Chapman: It was just really big and I got really confused. But it’s really nice. It was just so massive. It’s probably like eight times the size of my (university), so I was just really shocked. But it’s really nice. And there’s lots of love for football.

DG: Did you know anything about South Carolina or the South before coming here?

Winkle: Not so much.

Hamilton: Well I’ve been to Georgia four or five times before, but I was in Atlanta, so that’s not really the South, I would say, the typical representative of the South. So I kind of had no idea what to expect here. Southern hospitality is super evident here.
Chapman: I was watching just movies, and that’s what I was expecting, was something like that. Like “Friday Night Lights.” That’s what I thought it would be like. That’s kind of what I pictured a football uni to be like.

DG: Do you know anything about football?

Winkle: I never watched it, but I’m really excited about it. Everybody’s telling me (about it). And they’re giving away free T-shirts. I heard about the tailgating.

Chapman: I’m looking forward to that as well.

Hamilton: Just walking into the bookstore and seeing all the merchandise, it kind of says something about how popular football is here. Just walking outside and actually seeing the stadium from wherever you are tells you something also about how big college football is, because I’ve never even seen a stadium that big, let alone only for football. Yeah, I’m super excited about the games. I know nothing about the rules, I know nothing about the players or the teams, but I really want to go anyway.

DG: Have you heard about Jadeveon Clowney?

Hamilton: Nope.

Winkle: Nope.

Chapman: About what? I thought you said, ‘Today being cloudy’?

DG: What do you like the most about USC and about Columbia so far?
Hamilton: I really like the Southerners. I like the people. It’s just so unlike Scotland and Sweden. It’s just so much fun, wherever you go. You can spark up a conversation with whoever and I’m not really used to that. For instance, we were at a house party the other night …

Winkle: We showed up with about 20 people …

Hamilton: Yeah, they were totally fine with all these people.

Chapman: I knew they would be fine because anybody who speaks to someone on the streets and invites them to a party must be pretty chill.

Hamilton: It was so cool that we could just do that. Because myself, I would be kind of skeptical just inviting 30 people I’d never met before into my home. But it was so fun. We had a blast. It was great.

Winkle: I would say the same, the friendly people. Yesterday we went home and we met one guy and we were talking with him about over an hour, I think. And he was telling us about his culture and he wanted to know a lot of our culture, so that was kind of nice.
Hamilton: Yeah, it’s weird because people are genuinely interested in where you’re from and what you think about the place.

Chapman: It’s so funny when you’re ordering something from like the shops and they hear your accent and start to smirk, like they want to say something — sometimes they don’t, sometimes they do. But they look so excited.

I also like Walmart. I do like Walmart. It’s like an experience.

DG: Is there anything you don’t like about USC or Columbia so far?

Chapman: The humidity.

Hamilton: And at times the air conditioning is a bit excessive. It’s like walking into a freezer.

Chapman: So true.

Winkle: And without a car you can’t really get around.

Hamilton: That’s also really true.

Winkle: Everything is closer in Germany. You can walk anywhere.

Chapman: Also, do you know what’s really confusing? The roads — sometimes it’ll say you can cross and then people will beep you as you’re trying to cross.

Hamilton: That’s a thing I do not like. I do not like American traffic lights. They do not ever switch. You can be standing there for like 10 minutes just hammering that button and (the light) never changes. … I don’t know what it’s like here, but in Sweden, pedestrians always have the right of way, so you have to stop your car.

DG: Is there anything that has surprised you about the campus, city or people here?

Winkle: The rain.

Hamilton: Yeah, that was kind of surprising. It rained for like five days straight. … But you’ve kind of had a bad summer haven’t you? Or so I’ve heard.

Chapman: The size of the campus. I don’t know whether we’re on campus or in the city.

Hamilton: It’s massive.

Chapman: I got lost and I thought I was on campus but I was, like, way out there. I was walking for 45 minutes from Five Points to here.

Hamilton: And to be honest, I was kind of surprised by the fact that I’m sharing a room, because that’s kind of not very usual back in the U.K. or in Sweden. So people were asking me back home, “So will you be sharing a room with someone like in the movies?’ And I was like, “No, I don’t think so. They would put me in a private room for sure.” But then I got here and it was like, “Nope.” But I totally enjoy it. So it’s working out pretty well. I got all nervous, I was like “I want my personal space.” But it turned out very well. I’m enjoying it.


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