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I chose to attend the College of Charleston (CofC) because a guy at Yo Burrito offered to buy me shots after a harrowing campus tour. It was raining, and I listened to two guys named Colby and Colby, both dressed in matching douchebag Lacoste polos and boat shoes, talk about their latest sailing trip.
“I never want to go to college!” I cried into my taco salad, after my mother stormed out, rightfully embarrassed. Once the bartender decided he didn’t care that he was offering alcohol to a minor, I sat there and thought, The people are really nice here. I think I’ll apply.
Charleston is one of the most underrated college towns in America, which I guess makes it the ultimate college town, because it’s so off the radar that when people come to visit, their minds explode from how chill-yet-messed-up this place is. It’s sort of like, “How can you be so polite after puking all over my Tory Burch sandals? I don’t understand, but I like it!”
It’s BEAUTIFUL everywhere, always.
Charleston’s charming as hell. We like our buildings painted in pastel colors, our greenery perfectly landscaped, and our fountains copper-penny-and-piss-free. Residents respect this beauty, and the city is fairly clean. Lots of famous movies, like The Notebook, and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, were filmed here. Even the ghetto areas are gorgeous, by comparison.
The architecture is ill.
A local ordinance requires homes be maintained in their original style, meaning the outer facades can’t be modified to the extent they lose their original historic value. This means every building you enter has been there since forever, every place has a history, and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time simply by walking down the block.
There’s a serious lack of student housing at CofC; most students move off-campus their sophomore year, reaping the benefits of living in historic houses. Charleston is a wet dream for nostalgic types, which is basically anyone born between 1986 and 1999 (’90s kids unite!).
The locals are so nice.
Coming from NYC, where everyone is an asshole, it’s a dream to see people smiling, saying “please” and “thank you” in a non-sarcastic way, and offering to hold the door for you. People go out of their way to help you if you’re lost, and even the homeless people won’t get mad at you for not giving them change. It makes for a really pleasant college experience; even if no one takes you seriously because of your age, they’ll do it with a smile.
The college has a ratio of 40:60 males to females.
Gentlemen, your chances of getting laid are quite good. Ladies, your chances of snagging a partner (male or female) depend on how well you can make fried chicken.
And those females are some of the best looking on the planet.
The people of Charleston are consistently voted “the most attractive people in America.” Many Charlestonian women are naturally blond and sunkissed, and they all wear sundresses and high heels (even in the dead of winter). They all look like models, and they all have the cutest goddamn Southern accents in the world.
The weather is awesome, in its own way.
Charleston can be extremely muggy, but that’s why we have air conditioning. And I’ll take stifling heat and sunny days over shoveling and having to wear bulky layers of winter clothing. When it does snow in Charleston, everything shuts down and the entire city gets a snowday, not just schools. And when it rains, sometimes it floods the streets, and people break out their kayaks to get around. Charlestonians make the best of their climate annoyances, because they’re too laid back to give it more thought than it takes to shuck an oyster.
There’s always a party going on somewhere.
I remember when my friends at other colleges would “live” for their weekends. “We study and work all week,” said my friend Nate, who went to Connecticut College. “We just let loose on Fridays and Saturdays.”
I didn’t get it — you mean there are places in America where people actually study? Despite that, you’ll find most people in Charleston are completely shitfaced even on a Tuesday night, yet still manage to pull off that 4.0 GPA.
There isn’t a football team.
Southern college football is certainly a way to pass the time, but it’s best left to places like USC, Clemson, and UGA, where they have the room to accommodate thousands of well-dressed drunkards. Weekends in Charleston are refreshingly free of any sort of craziness that comes with an on-location football game.
There IS a kickass basketball team.
CofC’s Cougars recently became members of the NCAA Division I Colonial Athletic Association. Charleston is also home to the Riverdogs minor league baseball team, which is partly owned by Bill Murray.
Oh yeah, and Bill Murray lives here.
Mr. Murray owns a house on Sullivan’s Island, and makes appearances around town whenever he’s in the area. He often attends CofC sports events and is pretty gracious, albeit strange, when it comes to interacting with his fans.
Everything is haunted.
Charleston is one of the most haunted cities in America, apparently. But I guess it’s because lots of fucked up shit went down here — we’ve had pirates, slaves, secession, earthquakes, and hurricanes. My college dorm was converted from an old motel that was shut down because too many people got murdered there.
Charleston has the best drunk food.
Pulled pork sandwiches, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits — that’s what drunk people in Charleston like to eat. We get off on our boozy brunches at AC’s Bar and Grill, and inhale gooey nachos at Juanita Greenbergs while downing pitchers of margaritas.
While the availability of 24-hour eateries is hard to come by, those that are open after the bars close provide some amazing drunchies. Dell’z Deli, Gee’s hot dog cart, and Gilroy’s Pizza are open-until-3am-or-later lifesavers.
Sweet Tea Vodka was basically invented here.
Firefly blows Jeremiah Weed (which is distilled in Connecticut — give me a BREAK) out of the water. Forget about mint juleps, Charlestonians drink this stuff straight out of the bottle.
It’s one of the most liberal cities in South Carolina.
The rest of the state might be home to the highest concentration of Ku Klux Klan members in the United States, but Charleston’s well known for its openness to the homosexual community, as well as its appreciation for African American and Gullah-Geechee cultures. You can catch drag shows downtown, or join one of the six historically black fraternities and sororities on campus.
Really though — we take everybody.
I have friends who are hippies and have drum circles in Marion Square. I have friends who are total Housewives of Mount Pleasant, with their polos and pearls. Charleston’s got hipsters, punks, princesses, artsy types, sports fiends, feminists, mad scientists, curing-cancer doctors, yuppies, snobs, and social activists. We have Fashion Week, a Kulture Klash, Piccolo Spoleto, and gun shows. Even if you think you fit into some kind of weirdo-niche not listed above, there’s probably a club on campus full of people just like you.
You can go to the beach pretty much all year round.
I once went swimming at Folly Beach during Thanksgiving break — the water felt like a warm bath. People go surfing all year long; it’s pretty common to find surfboards in peoples’ dorm rooms.
It’s easy to get a job here.
If you’re looking to work in the field of travel, tourism, or hospitality, Charleston is full of restaurants, bars, tour operators, and hotels that cater to travelers all year round. Even if you don’t want to do that stuff long term, you can make good money through college by waiting tables, bartending, or dressing up as a Confederate soldier and giving carriage tours to visitors jacked up on sweet tea.
Charlestonians are steadfast in their traditions.
Graduation is held every year on Mother’s Day, in the Cistern (the oldest part of CofC). Graduates dress in white tuxes or dresses, instead of polyester gowns, and carry roses down the aisle. It’s sweet to know there are places in the US where the culture and history are still very much alive.
Anyone outside of South Carolina is considered “exotic.”
People couldn’t get over how I grew up in New York City, and for the first time in my life, I was “the hot girl” because of my Italian/Czech ancestry (the closest thing to Italian in Charleston is a bottle of Prego tomato sauce). In a town full of Calhouns, Phillips, Gadsdens, Hamptons, and Hugers, any last name that ends in a vowel is automatically sexy.