Why Columbia is my adopted hometown

When we get knocked down, we fight

Many things can be said about Columbia and a lot of them are negative. I’ll join anyone in ranting about the hills or the lack of parking. I feel safe saying I don’t plan to live here after I graduate; that I’d rather be somewhere bigger or more beautiful or near the ocean.

But my past two years at USC have carved a very special place in my heart for Columbia. I know that years from now I won’t regret going to school in the “City of Dreams,” because even though it sometimes falls short of its title, Columbia has opened my eyes to things I would’ve missed out on otherwise.

The diverse student body of USC 

One of the major reasons I chose to go to USC for undergrad was the huge student body. USC has a student population of around 34,000, including 25,000 undergraduate students. We come from everywhere in America and beyond with a thriving international community. This may sound overwhelming, but in fact provides countless opportunities to learn about other people and views. When such a large and diverse group of young, ambitious people come together to live in the same area amazing opportunities and connections arise.

Our low-key artsy-ness 

Maybe culture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Columbia, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Because of USC’s strong arts programs, it’s possible to see amazing dance, symphony, and theater performances at places like the Koger Center (no, it’s not a grocery store) and Longstreet Theater. Beyond that Trustus theater and the Nickelodeon are the places to see below the radar plays and movies.

Coffee on coffee on coffee 

Need to study in eclectic décor? Get coffee at Cool Beans. Want to brunch while record shopping and making hipster friends? Get coffee at Drip. Are live performances and healthy, local living more your thing? Try The Wired Goat in the Vista.

Columbia has enough coffee to satisfy the Gilmore girls (speaking of remember when The Wired Goat was the only “Luke’s Diner” temporary location in South Carolina?). A friend’s teacher told his class that millennials put more money into buying coffee than building retirement funds, but what is a retirement fund if not money you’re saving for coffee in retirement?

Main Street 

Nothing beats a sunny Saturday morning spent at the uptown farmer’s market where you can sample beer, cheese and buy sarcastic aprons. On other days, Main Street is showcasing events like the local gay Pride parade, or the Latin Culture festival. You never know what you’ll find walking uptown in Columbia.

Capital City 

Thinking about your close proximity to South Carolina’s senators and representatives may not be preferable while out in Five Points but Columbia’s role as the state capital is actually a really cool thing. Being so near to our policy makers opens up opportunities to the young people of Columbia, both through official means like the page program, and through more accidental ways like the recent protest. Being a student can make you forget what’s happening in the rest of the world, but living in Columbia is a nice reminder that young people have the ability to participate in current events as well.

Giving back 

There are so many ways to get involved with helping others in Columbia. Whether it’s staying up all night for St. Jude’s, dancing all day with Dance Marathon, or helping out with the Green Quad garden. There are plenty of opportunities to help others. Columbia, as a community, continually grows stronger through volunteer efforts.

Our fight against the flood 

Being affected by the largest flood in a thousand years is not really a plus in terms of where we live, but the way the community reacted to the disaster absolutely is. In many areas, people’s fears were realized when water rushed away with houses, businesses, and streets. It has been more than a year since this tragedy, and our city is still recovering. The devastation was bad but I still think about the week afterwards when my Facebook news-feed was filled with people asking where they could help and what they could do. Groups of very different people, all living in the city, gathered to volunteer.

This response is evidence of the spirit of Columbia. Even when we get knocked down we come back and fight. Our University’s football team might be stuck in a harsh losing streak, but all of Columbia lights up when we do win. No matter where I live once I graduate, I will always be proud to call Columbia one of my homes, and you can bet money that every time I see a Carolina t-shirt somewhere I’ll call out “Go Cocks!”

Photography by Morgan MacLachlan

University of South Carolina