Coming from a school of around 30,000, it was a huge adjustment to learn how a small school functions. Even before coming to Alaska, I realized how different UAS would be when there were only four classes I could sign up for that would fit into my requirements back home. And in getting here, there were only more changes to experience.
They definitely aren’t all bad. For example, the community at UAS is so much tighter because it’s hard not to run into familiar faces. I might be the same size fish, but I am used to being in a much bigger pond. At USC, I’m lucky if I run into two or three people I know on my way to class, but as UAS, it is the norm to run into at least 10 people I know. It actually took a lot of adjustment to get used to that.
I have to admit, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss the dining options in South Carolina. UAS has only one dining hall. One! And the entirety of Juneau has only a McDonald’s (I am sorely missing Chick-fil-a). Of course, that is fitting of a small school and town, but I am so ready to go home and get some good eats.
I’ve also learned to appreciate campus events a lot more, because I’ve noticed the changes from a big school to a small school. At USC, there is something going on everyday (so many things that it’s even hard to hit everything if you wanted to), but at UAS the campus events are fewer and farther between, but they pull in so many more people because of that. The Community Thanksgiving dinner we had the other night, for example, filled up the entire dining hall.
The sad side effect of a smaller school is no sports teams and definitely no Williams-Bryce. I could take or leave the sports, but I do miss the camaraderie of game day spirits. For any future exchangers: this is a reminder to definitely consider what sports season you’ll be missing (and if you care about that) if going from a big school to a small school for a semester.
But! Small schools have so many other benefits that USC doesn’t. I have to say, the library is a lot less crowded (even right now, on the verge of finals week, there are easy spots to find, and I am AMAZED). The classes are so much smaller, which is awesome. My largest has less than twenty students, and even my gen-eds are discussion-based.
I am used to discussion-based classes, being an English student, but having my sociology and history classes also feature discussion (sometimes over lecture) has been a really great learning experience for me. The smaller classes have also helped me get to know my professors and the other students in my classes pretty well.
Both types of schools have pros and cons, and I’m glad that I have now gotten to experience both. There may not be as many events, but it is so much easier to get involved in activities here, because everyone is so open to recruiting new members.
And while I am definitely sad to be missing football season, I got to experience so many outdoors things in Juneau that Columbia really doesn’t have. (There is a distinct lack of glaciers in SC, I am sorry to say.) Speaking of which, the big picture above is the view from campus. Can you believe that?? Because I still can’t…
All of that said, I am still glad to return to gamecock country next semester. Classes may be bigger and the weather may be more humid, but it still is home.