If this is your first year at USC, welcome. You might be starting school, but it most likely doesn't feel much like the school you're familiar with. Luckily, college provides so many new experiences beyond the classroom.
Being in a new place often means there are a lot of new things to take in. You will hear a lot about football games and other sporting events — all great experiences — but here in Arts & Culture, we have some other suggestions picked out for you. And even if you're not a freshman this year, sometimes it is good to act like a freshmen again, trying to soak in every experience in a new environment. Try out our recommendations for this fall semester. You might be happily surprised with what you find.
Darby Hallman: Don't be afraid to try school groups or organizations.
One of the biggest regrets I have from my freshman year is that I didn’t try out any groups on campus. Being the shy person that I am, I was hesitant to go to any school groups with a bunch of students who already knew each other out of fear of the whole experience being awkward.
It took me until around halfway through my sophomore year to finally expand past my circle of friends and try out university organizations like The Daily Gamecock. What I learned was that most other people had the exact same insecurities I had and that when like-minded people gather together, it isn’t hard to find something to talk about.
While I did have a few awkward experiences, I learned that it really isn’t a big deal. If you go to a group meeting and it’s a complete catastrophe, or you decide it isn’t for you, then just try a different group. USC has about 20,000 undergraduate students, and if you have a bad experience, then you don’t have to see those people again. It isn’t like high school, where you see many of the same people in all your classes.
So if you like writing, join a writing group. If you like tennis, join a tennis group. Whatever it is that you like to do, there are opportunities for you here if you have the courage to take them.
Grace Batton: Spend a Saturday at Soda City market.
Instead of spending Saturday sleeping in, take the time to adventure at Soda City, Columbia’s local farmers market. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., walk down Main Street and explore the homemade goods Cola has to offer. Local food vendors include delicious stands such as the Belgian Waffle truck, the BBQ Bus, the Wurst Wagen, Boiled P’nuts and Spotted Salamander — not to mention the many fresh bakeries and international-themed food tents.
Acoustic musicians often sing and play their instruments on the street for shoppers to enjoy while strolling and perusing the vendors’ tents. Just some of the offerings at Soda City include a box full of fresh produce for $10, handmade collars and leashes for any size animal, natural candles and soaps, potted succulent arrangements and local honey. For a memorable Saturday, nowhere is better fit to accommodate than Columbia’s very own Soda City. Keep up with new offerings and vendors by following the Soda City Facebook page.
Sarah Nichols: Watch free movies with Carolina Productions.
Watching a movie in theaters is the perfect thing to do when you're only feeling slightly sociable — you can bring friends, or a significant other, and talk to them when you want, but you can also be quiet and enjoy the movie once it starts. However, movies can be expensive, and a lot of freshmen on campus don't have cars. Instead, every Thursday through Sunday night, Carolina Productions screens movies in the second floor of the Russell House.
Carolina Productions has a pretty big budget, and they use part of this budget to screen many popular and recent films. Last spring, they screened a majority of the current Academy Award-nominated movies, as well as popular movies such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and throwbacks such as "Kill Bill." Not only is Russell House a short walk from essentially any residence hall on campus, but these movies are also completely free to all students. It is the perfect way to have a night of entertainment without spending a dime.
Hailey Covell: Take time to explore the unique sides of your new city.
Freshman year for you at USC is guaranteed to be a good one. The shift in how much free time you are used to versus at USC will grow with hours between and after classes to do whatever you want. With a campus full of opportunities, there is always something to do at USC or in Columbia.
I’m sure most people have heard stories of USC football games or “nights out in Five Points,” but there is so much more to Columbia than these typical student activities. If you’re new to town or just looking to discover cool new places, Columbia is filled with unique restaurants, parks and other types of entertainment.
In the heart of the vista is Kaminsky’s, a dessert cafe that’s sure to make for a delicious piece of cake and a fun night out with friends or a date. There are other unique restaurants as well, such as Menkoi Noodle House, a traditional ramen cafe, or TakoSushi, a fusion between Asian and Mexican cuisine. If you’re looking to explore the outdoors, Columbia has some beautiful riverside parks, such as Granby Park, the Columbia Riverfront Park or Cayce Riverwalk, which offer great places to go on a run or hang out with friends.
Maybe you’re more into music and discovering new bands. Music Farm in Columbia has a new show every few weeks, and you’ll no doubt have a great time even if you’ve never heard of the bands.
So don’t get all wrapped up in the typical “USC student” things to do, because there is so much more. Get out and explore Columbia. You’ll always discover something fun and new.
Sarah Morse: Stay healthy.
As a rising senior, I would give anything to have the ability to go back in time and start my career as a Gamecock all over again. While freshman year seems like it was decades ago, I do remember how lost I initially felt. My advice to the incoming freshmen at USC is to eat as healthily as possible. The dining services at USC offer students myriad dining options, and while it might seem fun to indulge on pizza and fountain soda every night, I urge incoming freshmen to examine some of the healthier options on campus.
Plan-It Healthy, located on the bottom floor of Russell House, presents students with countless vegetarian, vegan and even gluten-free dining options. With meals prepared fresh daily, Plan-It Healthy is one of the tastiest food stops on campus. Another restaurant freshmen should check out is Garden Toss. Also located in the Russell House, Garden Toss is a dining station that allows students to create their own salads. Equipped with amazing croutons and a diverse collection of toppings, Garden Toss offers students quick, cheap and healthy meals that will help them keep their energy up all day long.
Between long nights in Five Points and demanding class schedules, keeping yourself healthy, especially as a freshman, is a vital skill that one must learn.