The Daily Gamecock

Graduating Gamecocks: Where they've been, what they've seen

Although USC offers a variety of amazing sights, such as the Horseshoe, sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what the soul needs. The class of 2020 has explored countless countries in the past four years, all while earning class credits and life lessons along the way. 

Fourth-year student Rachel Zeigler spends semester in Ireland during St. Patrick's Day

Rachel Zeigler spent a spring semester in Limerick, Ireland. She completed chemistry, history and arts classes for her biochemistry and molecular biology degree and Carolina Core requirements, and she got to explore Europe at the same time. 

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan, Brexit and the Irish referendum to overturn the country’s anti-abortion laws were all happening while Zeigler was abroad. 

"The rise of modernism and the millennial generation’s values to the forefront of policy was particularly interesting to view on a college campus," Zeigler said in an email interview. "It was interesting to see [the Irish referendum] as it showed the changing times in countries where gradualism is typically the way of the government."

Zeigler said her favorite event was watching Ireland win the Six Nations Championship, which is an international men’s rugby union competition. It happened on St. Patrick's day. 

Despite major weather and academic changes, Zeigler said her trip abroad taught her many skills, such as "self-reliance, perseverance, and problem-solving."

"Soaking up the local culture and gaining new appreciation for another way of life gave me a new perspective and allowed me to grow in acceptance and understanding for those different than myself," Zeigler said. 

According to Zeigler,  USC's study abroad office offers "quality programs"and communication and ensures credit transfer and academic progress. She recommends studying abroad "to anyone at USC."

Fourth-year student McKenzie Jackson studies in Austria, travels around Europe 

McKenzie Jackson is an international business and accounting student who studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, her junior year. She traveled there with five other international business students through the Darla Moore School of Business. 

While in Austria, she took five business classes needed for her degree.

“I took 30 credits there, but it transferred back to a normal 15-hour credit semester here, so thankfully I got credit for all five classes that I took there, and they all transferred back,” Jackson said.

Because school days and schedules are different in Austria, Jackson got to travel around Europe and visit countries such as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. She said instead of meeting multiple times a week for an hour or so, classes would meet once a week for three or four hours. 

“At first, I was really nervous that that was gonna seem really long and that I was gonna lose focus in class, but it actually didn't seem bad," Jackson said. "They gave you a lot of breaks.”

Jackson said with this class schedule, she had more free time to do schoolwork and explore the country.

Jackson took multiple solo trips, which she said boosted her self-confidence and taught her how to be "more aware of [her] surroundings."

Besides the different credit and schedule system, Jackson said Americans and Europeans "have more big similarities than differences," and there wasn't much culture shock.

A highlight of Jackson's trip was getting to visit Salzburg, Austria, where "The Sound of Music" was filmed. Jackson said students planning to study abroad in Europe should be sure to visit all of the touristy attractions, but they should also see the lesser-known sites because they will show a different side of Europe. 

“The world has so much to offer, and it's kind of a shame for people who don't get to go and learn more about it,” Jackson said. 

Fourth-year student Rebecca Early visits three continents in one semester 

Rebecca Early is a public health student who studied abroad in Vietnam, South Africa and Argentina during the spring 2019 semester. She attended the School for International Training, which hosted the IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care program. There were about 30 other students from all over the United States who participated in this program.

“Being able to travel to three different countries on three different continents over the course of one semester was just an incredible opportunity that I felt like I couldn't pass up,” Early said. 

Early said she knew she wanted to study abroad and have a medical focus, so she took four courses that related directly to public health while abroad. She also studied the healthcare systems in each country she was in, which will help her pursue her masters in public health and at medical school.

In each of these countries, Early stayed with different host families. She said she was nervous at first about having a host family, but she said it became "one of [her] favorite parts of the program."

“My host aunt from Vietnam is really active on Facebook, so I probably see her posts every day,” Early said. 

The language barrier was difficult for Early at first, as some of her host families didn't speak English well.

“There were lots of like, thumbs-up and smiles and head-nods,” Early said. 

While staying in Argentina, Early's host mom spoke mainly Spanish, which allowed her to improve her Spanish language skills.

Early said she maintains relationships with other students from the trip and visited some this past fall. She still has contact with her host mom from South Africa, who regularly sends her messages through Facebook. These are relationships, she said, that she will carry for the rest of her life.

During Early’s stay in Vietnam, the U.S. Summit meeting took place in the city of Hanoi. Both President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were present for this two-day meeting. 

“I actually had a day where I had to go to the doctor, and on my way to the doctor, I got blocked in traffic by Kim Jong Un’s motorcade,” Early said. 

Early said it was "crazy" to be there as it happened while her family was watching it happen at home. She thought getting to see translated Vietnamese articles about what was happening was "interesting" because she got to see their perspective on the world event.

She said her study abroad experience has helped her gain confidence and people skills by having to navigate different cultures and languages, and the perspective she got while travelling will help her moving forward in her career.

From Ireland to Austria to Argentina, the class of 2020 has been all around the globe and back, just in time for graduation.