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How to Make the Most of Your College Town

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at South Carolina chapter.

So you’re in college now! Or maybe you’ve been in college. Either way, you’re in a special kind of town that breeds creative energy, diversity and fun. At least, I hope so.

There is so much more to the college experience than classes, parties and drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I consider all of that to be integral to the experience, but there’s a whole other world beyond campus for you to explore that will be different once you graduate.

Don’t wait to venture beyond your known space, because the world around you is going to shift and change, you are going to shift and change – so take advantage of things before it all changes again. I’m nothing if not a “live in the moment” person and that’s what this article really highlights.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your campus area may be, there are spaces you have yet to see and that’s all you need. Maybe you think that at face value, your college town or city is small or boring. I thought the same thing, but it turns out that if you give Columbia, SC a chance, it’ll give you one, too.

Just go.

Let’s set aside any factors of scale, because it truly doesn’t matter how vast (or not) your campus and surrounding area may be. Make a little list of some things you’d like to find, do a little Google and head out.

I don’t want to hear anything about transportation either because I still don’t have a car and I figure things out.

No excuses. Just yourself, maybe some friends and the time to find out what’s beyond calculus.

There are going to be places you won’t know about until you stumble across them and places that are so cute you’ll wish you had found them sooner. I’ve fallen victim to feeling like there’s nothing to do around my uni and know of others in the same boat; the best way to conquer that is to go beyond the threshold of your residence hall or apartment and go somewhere new.

Think about the things you enjoy and find where those are in your area. Check for local parks, museums, libraries and stores. If you’re a shopaholic like me, you’ll want to find the stores. I guarantee there will be a cute coffee shop right on campus too. We’ve got so many I have to rotate through them!

I’m a plant-coffee-dog-book-thrift lover, so some of my favorite local businesses are Gardeners Outpost, Cool Beans, Ed’s Editions, Sid and Nancy and Drip Coffee, just to name a small few. I love thrifting and alternative fashion so much I got a job at one of the few places in Columbia that supported such a thing: Sid and Nancy (so I’m a bit biased on that favorite).

Keep an eye out for what events your area puts on too. Every Saturday, Columbia hosts Soda City on Main Street, an open-air farmers and vendors market. It’s an amazing experience, offering a diverse amount of cultural cuisine, handmade products, local produce, and PETS, filling the early morning air with spices and fluff. Your campus may very well have something similar for you to check out.

Whether the area around you is big or small, it doesn’t matter. There’s fun to be had, I promise.   

Leave your comfort zone

Maybe you’re not finding a whole lot in your area or you’ve already found the couple of places you totally dig. It’s time to go beyond. To quote one of my favorite groups, Yes Theory, “seek discomfort.”

There are a lot of ways to get outside of your comfort zone. Joining a student organization is a brilliant way to discover what your university area, and even further, has to offer.

I have been a part of five organizations during my four years at UofSC, all of which have given me opportunities to go beyond campus with new friends either professionally or for funsies. I have discovered parts of myself during my time in these groups, finding my voice and discovering new passions along the way. One of the bigger groups on campus provides opportunities to travel around the state and to neighboring states; friends going camping, hiking, and having a hell of a time sounds like a good kind of club to me.

Go join a club that sounds exciting to you or one that offers promise of girl-bonding, like Her Campus South Carolina has done for me. There will be an organization that speaks to you!

Eat your way around

The way I see it, the best way to find your way around town is by eating your way around town.

This one is best if you go into it with an open mind and stomach. If you’re limited to your campus meal plan and that’s all your budget allows, I’m sorry and I understand.

If you have the ability to occasionally venture beyond uni dining, I guarantee you will discover your city in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. Try the regional cuisine in a few locations, ask your nearest local where the best “insert food here” is and absolutely try out those hole-in-the-wall dives. If it looks sketchy, it probably is – but the food is probably amazing, too (legally, I am not responsible for whatever sketchy food places you venture into).

If you have a wide food palette, test the area’s international options. Is there a good sushi spot? Go find it. I’ve tried six sushi places in Columbia and still find that Tsunami is best. It takes trial and error. 

There is nothing more noble than going on a quest for good food.

Save that money, bestie

Listen, the broke college kid archetype is real. Thankfully, student discounts exist.

Check your local shops and dines because many may offer student discounts or deals. Many college campuses thrive on their student crowd and welcome them with open arms. Here in Columbia, there are many locations that accept a form of University currency for payment or have other ways students can enjoy their goods. 

The Art Museum in Columbia has a student discount, one of my favorite places to seek a little solitude. Several restaurants in Five Points also offer a discount, which is a delight. Honestly, it never hurts to ask.

No matter how you view your college area right now, that view can change (for the better). You can discover new places, exciting experiences and meet new parts of yourself along the way. It sounds cheesy and it is. Sometimes it’s good to welcome a little cheesiness into your life.

The experience you have at university is what you make of it, so make it a good time.

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Laura Rohrer

South Carolina '23

Laura is an environmental science major and mass communications minor at UofSC. She's involved in the mountaineering club, Sierra club, book club, WUSC-FM university radio station and Her Campus! In her (limited) free time, she loves playing with her puppy Moose and spending time with friends. She's also super into fashion and thrifts like a maniac. She never stops moving and lives exclusively on coffee and Chipotle.