I grew up in a town filled with Clemson fans. People either went to Clemson, had a friend or family member who did or just were die-hard Clemson football fans. You knew it was game day when the entire town was covered in bright orange and purple and you could see Tiger paw flags flying in the wind on cars driving by.
My oldest sister and nearly all of her close friends went to Clemson, and soon after our family fell into the Tiger madness. The first football game I ever attended was at Clemson, and we had Clemson Christmas decorations and flags with Tiger paws waving in the yard. From that point on, I just assumed I would end up at Clemson like everyone else. It wasn't until I actually toured the school and looked into the non-sports side that I realized that maybe I wasn't destined to be a Tiger.
South Carolina was the first college that I got accepted into, and it really piqued my interest. Sadly, my first tour did not go as planned. The day we planned to come had freezing rain in the forecast and was a miserably cold temperature. After getting lost for longer than I care to admit, we finally made it to the visitor center. Luckily, I couldn't ignore how much I loved USC's campus or all of the activities and events for students that caught my eye. And who can ignore that Darius Rucker is an alumnus?
After deciding to come to USC, I started to notice just how bad the spread of Clemson was in my town. Sections of stores dedicated to sports fans had rows upon rows of orange, and then measly little sections for every other team.
When I wore Gamecock colors or a USC shirt, I would get comments from people I never talked to about how I was "wearing the wrong colors" or "choosing the wrong team." Sure, it was fun to joke around with friends and family about the rivalry, but eventually it got on my last nerve.
However, the South Carolina fans started coming out of the woodwork. I had neighbors, friends and random people talking to me about how they loved their experience at USC and as a South Carolina fan. My best friend was coming to USC with me, and we got to attend Admitted Student Day and orientation together. The more time I spent planning for my freshman year, the more I felt confident that I picked the right school.
Now that I am a student, I appreciate being the Gamecock fan in a town filled with Tigers. My college experience is different than everyone else from home, and I love it. Sometimes I think about how life would be different if I went to Clemson. I don't think I would have met so many new people or tried so many new things. I also don't think any university president could beat President Pastides.
The most important thing I've learned through this is that maybe the orange rash isn't as far spread as I thought.