The Daily Gamecock

The first-year experience: Freshmen navigate campus, get involved during first month at USC

The Daily Gamecock spoke with 114 incoming freshmen this summer about their hopes and worries when coming to USC. Over a month into the fall semester, The Daily Gamecock caught up with seven of these freshmen to see how their first few weeks at USC went. 

Since arriving on campus, the class of 2026 has spent time exploring campus and getting lost finding their classes. 

One freshman, public health student Kendall McKnight, walked up the wrong set of stairs in Russell.

“I walked upstairs, and it was an emergency exit sign, and everybody's looking at me. And I just had to walk back down the stairs,” McKnight said. “I was like 'that is super embarrassing.'”

Others admitted to using a GPS when trying to get to their classes. 

“I still have to pull up my Google Maps and type in where I’m going, and I’m trying to hide it,” first-year retail management student Maddie Lucius said. “Sometimes I walk in the completely wrong direction. And then I’ll try to play it off and turn around and go back the other way, but I know I look like a freshman.” 

These freshmen have managed to enjoy certain areas on campus despite still trying to find their way. 

First-year biological sciences student Rishi Desai said he enjoyed being able to run on the track at Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center while first-year biology student Saida Wade said she likes walking by the fountain in front of Thomas Cooper Library because “it’s like a fresh breeze.”

Some have been drawn to places where they can congregate with others. First-year undecided student Liam Sullivan he enjoys the Horseshoe, where he had his first club meeting.

“It was just a very good atmosphere — meeting other people who have the same interest as you, and so, because I made a really good memory at the Horseshoe, now I really like the Horseshoe and walking around there,” Sullivan said. 

Another area of interest was Russell House, where McKnight said she could congregate with friends and spend time getting to know new people. However, she said she feels like Russell House could better utilize its dining spaces and wishes the wait times weren’t as long.

“First week, I waited almost two hours at Twisted Taco for two tacos, chips and queso,” McKnight said. “By the time the two hours was up, I wasn’t even hungry.”

Out of the seven freshmen The Daily Gamecock spoke to, all mentioned the wait times at Russell House that can range anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

“Panda Express does take a little bit, and I don’t know how worth it it is to wait 40 minutes for orange chicken,” Sullivan said.

For a few of these freshmen, the dining halls and retail locations across campus are not their only food option. First-year mechanical engineering student Jackson Forrest lives in an apartment-style room in Green Quad where he has access to both a stove and a fridge. 

Forrest said that this type of living style has made his experience at USC feel more surreal when it came to transitioning from home to living on his own. At home, he said his mom would often cook dinner for him, leaving meals in the fridge whenever Forrest got home.

“In our dorm fridge right now, you open it, and we’ve got like empty coke bottles and ... old pizza,” Forrest said. “It’s a lot different. We have to actually always get food ourselves.” 

While this transition to adulthood may have been intimidating at first, some like Desai have found it much more manageable than they originally thought. For Desai, his main area of concern was being able to get out of his comfort zone to socialize.

“I was worried about that at first, but honestly, I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty well,” Desai said. “The amount of freedom that I have — I’m not really stressed about it anymore.”

Some have embraced this kind of freedom by getting involved with multiple organizations across campus. 

Even though she has only been here a month, McKnight has joined the Association for African American Students, the multicultural outreach student team and SAVVY — a multicultural organization focused on empowering women. Through these organizations, she's been able to pursue things she's passionate about. 

“Changing names of people on the building that don’t represent our university is something that’s big to me, especially for people who look like me and incoming students,” McKnight said.

McKnight also enjoys Hip Hop Wednesday, a once-a-month event where students, faculty and staff can gather to interact and listen to hip hop music.

“I would love to have Hip Hop Wednesday twice a month,” McKnight said. “It was really fun. I loved the atmosphere of it.”

USC's atmosphere feels upbeat for some. For others, it feels like home. For Wade, the atmosphere feels full of opportunity and belonging. 

“When you look out at Williams-Brice (Stadium), you know that view of just the horizon and everything, I feel like that’s the freshmen experience,” Wade said. “You’ve never been there, it’s new. It’s more of a community that you’re becoming a part of, and you’re wanting to represent USC as the fellow upperclassmen have.”


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