Opinion by Anna Maria Gardiner

Sitting under the shade of a tall oak tree as the warm southern sun shines down on the University of South Carolina campus, students studying and throwing frisbees in the Horseshoe think to themselves how happy they are with their decision to become a Gamecock.

As high school students start thinking long and hard about where they should continue their education, certain doubts come to mind when imagining life at the University of South Carolina.

“Is it too close to home?”

“I’ve lived here my whole life. Would there even be anything exciting there?”

At the home of the Carolina Gamecocks, 359 acres of land covering downtown Columbia, there is much to be excited about.

Founded in 1801, the school was first known as South Carolina College. From this point, the school flourished pre-Civil war and overcame several postwar struggles. Buildings scattered around the campus, especially those found in the Horseshoe offer students with a chance to be surrounded by history–a privilege that comes with attending school in the capital of the state.

From this historic origin, the university has grown not only in size, but in academic success and has overtime produced a long list of impressive achievements.

The University of South Carolina is number one in several different areas, including having the number one public university honors college, undergraduate international business major and international experience. Staff members at Carolina strive to help students not only reach their goals, but create new ones while offering them the instruction and guidance that will be needed along the way.

The research program at USC proves this effort put forth by all members of the school, as seen by how it is the only institution in the state that has received the highest ranking by the Carnegie Foundation as an institution with “very high research activity.”

Gamecock students are not only successful in the classrooms, but also strive in athletics. Some achievements include 2010 and 2011 College World Series Champions in baseball,  2014 SEC regular season Champions in women’s basketball and 2010 SEC Eastern Division Champions in football.

The student section found at these sporting events can be described as a die-hard crowd of fans, notorious for their tailgating, athletic support and “Sandstorm” cheer at every Gamecock kickoff. The school pride found in students at Carolina is not only prominent, but contagious.

Greek life at USC is another luring characteristic of the school for students interested in developing the values of service, friendship and leadership. Fraternity and Sorority life at Carolina makes up over 21% of the entire student body, through 41 different Greek organizations.

The contentment of students with their education at USC can be seen by how many out of state students attend the school. One third of the student body at USC are students from outside of South Carolina, paying a tuition of almost three times as much as in-state students. The university puts out a good name across the entire nation.

Popular places around campus include the Strom Thurmond fitness center, the best of its type in the country on a college campus where healthy lifestyles and recreational activities are promoted such as rock climbing, racquetball and beach volleyball. Along with the never-ending list of fun things to do at Strom, students also enjoy exciting locations within Columbia, including the the Vista, home of nice restaurants, boutiques, galleries and nightlife near campus.

Rather than attending a school secluded to itself with limited surroundings, the University of South Carolina is only two hours from the beach and the mountains, allowing students a chance to easily travel, explore, and expand their horizons–fulfilling a true college experience.

Although the campus of USC is large, the college is known for having the atmosphere of a small college due to the genuine relationships and family feeling of the student body and staff. Attending the University of South Carolina is a chance to receive academic success while creating the most memorable college experience along the way, leaving the students the life-long pride of being a Carolina Gamecock.