The Daily Gamecock

College of Charleston students take refuge at USC

From George Street to Greene Street

As the campus empties of USC students, its residence halls opened for those seeking refuge from Hurricane Matthew.

Wednesday afternoon on Greene Street, buses arrived carrying about 50 students from the College of Charleston who left their campus following Gov. Nikki Haley’s order for the evacuation of coastal residents. She called for Charleston and Beaufort counties to begin evacuating residents and visitors before 3 p.m. Wednesday, but the College of Charleston students were told they had to be out of dorms by 9 a.m.

For most, the decision to leave was a quick one. They signed up Tuesday evening for a spot on the bus, which they thought was heading to Clemson.

“We didn't find out it was going to be here until this morning at, like, 10," College of Charleston student Bree Lewis said.

They waited hours in Charleston Wednesday morning before getting onto the bus around 11:30 a.m. The trip that normally takes two hours took them almost four.

As the guests arrived, they were greeted by cheering Student Government leaders. "Our home is your home," the university tweeted.

They came single-file off the bus, most with a duffel bag or two. Some carried bulging trash bags. They were led into the Russell House Ballroom as a staging ground and gathered around the edges of the room with small piles of possessions, awaiting direction.

Lewis, Laura Cergol, Ashley De Peri, Mary Watkins and Annika Liger stood in a circle. All seniors, they’ve been friends since freshman year. The past 24 hours had been a rush.

"Monday, all of our professors were like, 'Class might be canceled Friday," Watkins said. "And then Tuesday ... all hell broke loose.”

A university employee was herding students in groups of 15 to be taken to Patterson for room assignments. She asked three of them to join the first group.

“We’re trying to stay together,” De Peri said, resisting.

Someone came around with vouchers to get on-campus meals throughout their stay on USC's campus, at this point planned to last at least until Sunday.

They made tired small talk for a few minutes until the call came for the next group, and then they follow a Student Government representative back out of Russell and to University Housing at the Patterson residence hall.

Students waited patiently to check in surrounded by their suitcases, pillows and other items.

“I did bring one computer,” said Derek Talisman, a computer science student at the college. He left his others behind.

They knew nothing of what residence hall they would go to or with whom they’d be staying.

Housing employees passed clipboards around with paperwork to be filled out and signed — they all had to officially apply for USC housing. Another line awaited, and then they were told where they’d be sleeping.

Three of the senior friends were assigned to stay in Patterson. Then De Peri walked up — she’d gotten Sims. They had to split up.

The evacuees dispersed to their temporary rooms around 5:30 p.m. Some occupy vacant rooms, while others were paired with Resident Mentors who don’t have roommates. Liger said that she, Watkins and Lewis are each staying with RMs.

After depositing their bags into their assigned rooms, the College of Charleston students congregated at Russell House for dinner. Lewis sat with Watkins and Liger on a bench outside Russell, waiting for Cergol and De Peri to join them.

"We're going to stick together," Watkins said.

In the wake of troubling weather and uncertainty, the students calmly absorbed the change of scenery.

"It's better than sitting in a hurricane," Watkins said.