I’ve just walked in the door after finishing my last trip to South Carolina in the foreseeable future. As I drove the 3 ½ hours from Columbia to Atlanta, I got to thinking about South Carolina and became a little nostalgic. This is my tribute to the Palmetto State.
Clemson: I love Clemson. When I first became a recruiter we did not have very many programs available for “generalist” applicants. We needed specialists, particularly in the areas of agriculture and environment. We also didn’t have any money to travel overnight. My boss sat me down and said I needed to focus on Clemson because they have a great agriculture school and a lot of students who study environment as well. And focus I did. Because it is only a two-hour drive from Atlanta, I could do day trips there when I wasn’t able to visit my other schools. My exhaustive efforts have paid off. In the past year alone the number of applicants from Clemson University has increased by 79%, skyrocketing the school to the number one producer of Peace Corps applicants in South Carolina. So mostly, I love Clemson because I’m proud of the response the students have had toward the message of the Peace Corps.
Also, side note: I recently discovered an amazing little coffee shop called All In Coffee Shop. Not only is it super cute, with great indoor and outdoor seating but they also have a wonderful stance on buying ethically traded coffee as well as donating two percent of their gross sales to humanitarian efforts in the areas of water projects, orphan care and human trafficking.
Charleston: Who doesn’t love Charleston? The quaint downtown area, the amazing food and the Southern charm make me envious of the residents. Toast of Charleston is one of my favorite breakfast places. The Deluxe French Toast is phenomenal! I’ve stayed in several hotels throughout the city. They are all overpriced. And most charge about $15 a day for parking, which in my opinion, is absolute extortion. The nicest place I stayed, however, that also offered free parking, was the SpringHill Suites which has a view that overlooks the Ashley River. They have a shuttle that goes downtown as well.
Columbia: I must admit that Columbia is not my favorite city. I find it to be rather drab. But there are some perks to going there. My favorite place to stay is the Embassy Suites right outside of downtown. First of all, the rooms are great. Any suite is better than a regular hotel room, so there’s that. But they also have a daily happy hour, free cocktails and wine from 5:30-7:30pm! Most of the time, I was still working during these times but it’s a nice touch regardless. They also have a beautiful pool/hot tub area. It was always nice to soak for 10-15 minutes after a hard day of running around the gigantic USC campus trying to get to class talks on time, followed by an evening information session where I stood for two-hours and wore out my vocal chords answering an unending litany of questions.
Of course, Columbia also has Five Points, a cute neighborhood shopping district that has a lot to offer in terms of food and nightlife. A personal favorite of mine is the Hookah Spot, which just opened up this past March. Their staff is friendly and the prices are reasonable (unless you want a water- that is $3- so bring your own!).
Rock Hill: Rock Hill probably wouldn’t be on the top of many peoples’ lists. It’s a medium sized town outside of Charlotte, NC. I go there to recruit at Winthrop University. There is one very special thing about Rock Hill.
One day I had just finished with my day of recruitment activities on Winthrop’s campus. The government car needed it’s oil changed so I was driving down Cherry Street, eyes peeled, searching for a place that would change the oil with minimum wait time. Then BAMM! I see it. I think I’m dreaming. In a rundown little shopping center is the sign of my most favoritest fast food joint in the whole, wide world: Penn Station. Penn Station is found all over the place in southeastern Indiana, northern Kentucky and Ohio where I grew up. I had no idea they came this far south. And that Penn Station, which I just happened upon one day when God was smiling down on me, is the ONLY one in South Carolina. I will not have a chance to eat Penn Station before I leave for Africa and that makes me very sad.
South Carolina seems to get a bad rap nationwide. But having worked in the state for three years, and having met hundreds, if not thousands of South Carolinians, I am honored to have gotten the chance to experience the state and much of what it has to offer the business visitor. And if that doesn’t convince you that South Carolina is great, then you should also know that South Carolina has the cheapest gas in the nation right now. I passed a station today, just outside of Columbia that had gas for $3.07/gallon.