COLUMBIA, SC — Spring break is over, which means it is time to go back to the books and the college lifestyle. In other words, back to reality. Time is passing by so quickly, and sometimes I honestly cannot believe that it is almost time for me to go back home. In less than about one month and a half, the semester will be over, and I will be going back to Aruba.
In my previous article, I mentioned some of the things I have been doing and also, the things that I planned to do during my spring break. I spent most of my spring break in Asheville and I loved it there. The people in Asheville are very friendly, and the local cuisine is delicious. I loved exploring downtown. Moreover, I also loved the fact that I had the opportunity to spend some time in nature and go hiking. The Blue Ridge Parkway was just an hour drive away from where I was staying, which made it easy to go explore nature and disconnect for a while. Spring break was a much-needed relaxation and I had a great time.
While I was walking to class this week, I thought about the people that I have met and the great friends that I have gained during my exchange semester at the University of South Carolina. This made me contemplate about the concept of friendship. When I walk on campus to go to class or to go grab a bite, I see many students walking to class with their friends. Sometimes these students are walking together in pairs or sometimes in groups. Occasionally, I do encounter students walking alone, but sometimes it is because they are going to meet someone else nearby. Many of these students already have their own group of friends at the university. This led me to think about the challenges that international or even local students can face to find their “place” during their college years, especially at big universities.
I recalled a moment I had during my first week at the University of South Carolina, where a lady was sharing her story about her college life with me. She had mentioned that during her freshman year, she felt extremely lonely. She did not manage to make any new friends, since almost everyone had “their own circle” and she felt that she did not fit in anywhere. However, she did mention that as the months and years started to go by, she managed to meet some new people, which eventually turned out to be her best friends. Up until now, she still remains good friends with this group of people. She emphasized on the importance that universities, especially big universities such as the University of South Carolina should place on finding various ways in which students can get the opportunity to engage with each other and meet other students.
In my case, I was not placed in the international student house on campus, since there were no more rooms available. I was placed into an apartment-style housing. The dorm is very centrally situated, which makes it easy for students to get around on campus. However, it is still an apartment-style dorm and that means that students have more privacy. In addition, they do not host any special events for the residents. Meanwhile, the international housing does focus on hosting events where students can engage with each other. At first, when I got here and found out I was not placed in an international house, I felt a little scared, especially after hearing the story of the lady. I thought about the challenges I might face to meet new people and gain new friends. But as the weeks flew by, I started to get out of my comfort zone and found ways in which I can meet new people. I met people in my class, and I signed up for the Buddies Beyond Borders program. Later, I also found out that there are a bunch of other Aruban students who are currently studying here. All of these things made my exchange semester abroad experience a lot more enjoyable.
I will be going to a Buddies Beyond Borders game night this week. This event will give me and my buddy an opportunity to meet everyone who has signed up for the program. I am very excited to see how this will turn out. Ever since I have decided to sign up for the program, my buddy and I have become great friends and I also got the opportunity to meet other local students.
There are not many weeks left for my exchange semester to come to an end, so I will definitely not miss a chance to keep you all up to date with my latest experiences and adventures as an exchange student at the University of South Carolina.