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SCHC Spotlight Series: Claire Heins, English/ International Studies Major

The SCHC Spotlight Series shines the light on students, faculty and staff who are worth getting to know a little better. Conceived, researched and written by Honors Ambassadors and other stellar SCHC students.

             I hail from the frozen tundra of Rochester, Minnesota and I must say that coming down to the sunshine and balmy weather of South Carolina has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. However, it was a decision that almost didn’t happen, as USC was never really on my radar when I was choosing colleges to apply to. I knew I wanted to go somewhere far from home, so my mom and I drove down the east coast visiting schools. We had an extra day in between North Carolina and Florida, and I flipped a coin to choose between touring USC or Georgia State. So really, I’m here because of a really happy accident. To say I fell in love with the campus would be an understatement. During the entire trip of touring colleges, I had been waiting for that “Aha!” moment, and while every campus we visited was great, none of them really "clicked” for me. If I could describe in one word the feeling I had when I stepped on campus for the first time it would be "belonging". The welcoming nature of the community here is something that makes USC not just a college campus, but also a home. After visiting, I applied to the Honors College and received my acceptance letter the day before Christmas, which was the best present I could have asked for! I officially accepted my offer from USC and here I am, three years later, loving each day at this University like it’s my last.

My interests are really broad and span several academic fields and as a result, I waited until my third semester to declare a major. After a lot of back and forth and an absurd number of visits to the Career Center, I finally decided to double major in International Studies and English, because I loved all the classes that were offered through those majors. They also align well with my professional goal to one day earn my Ph.D. in English Literature and become a professor. In fact, the most defining moment of my time at USC has to be my very first English class, Pirate Literature, which I took through the Honors College. Although I was one of only a few underclassmen, the Professor and the course really challenged me to push my understanding of literature to new heights and helped me realize that English was something I didn’t just enjoy but also wanted to pursue as a career. I have had similar experiences in all of my Honors classes, and the integrity of the academic curriculum I am taking as an Honors student has helped me learn and grow in ways I never dreamed possible.

Two of the most incredible opportunities I have experienced because of the Honors College have been global classroom study abroad programs. A global classroom program is a short-term study abroad program that allows students to travel with a USC professor to another country. The first program I attended, the summer after my freshman year, was an Honors College program in Scotland that focused on Scottish Literature. The course was led by a Professor in the English department who was an expert in Scottish Literature and had spent a large amount of time studying in Scotland. I loved my time in Scotland so much that I plan to return to study there for an entire semester this upcoming spring. For the second program the summer after my sophomore year, I traveled to Japan with a professor who specialized in Chinese and Japanese Art History. The entire trip was devoted to an immersive cultural experience and the other students and I had the incredible experience of staying in a Buddhist temple, while spending our days exploring the rich art history and culture of Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto.

While I had an amazing time in Japan, the most defining part of my summer was the month I spent studying and working in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. The majority of my time in Rwanda was spent studying and learning about the 1994 Genocide and the Post-Genocide society in Rwanda. In my spare time, I worked for the non-profit organization Solid’Africa. Solid’Africa, whose name comes from the idea of “Solidarity,” was founded in 2010 by Isabelle Kamariza, who was visiting the main hospital in Kigali and became aware of the lack of access that patients had to food and other basic necessities. When Isabelle founded the group, they were passing out 5 meals a day in Kigali’s main hospital, and today, 6 years later, they pass out 600 meals everyday and have expanded their mission to an umbrella of aid programs that include providing clean drinking water in hospitals, paying for medical bills and community outreach and education. I helped pass out food everyday in the Pediatric and Maternity wards and spent time providing entertainment to the children. I also helped with administrative work, especially using my skills as a native English speaker to edit and create documents Isabelle needed for the organization, such as a business plan for Solid’Africa’s next big project—an industrial kitchen that will allow the organization to become self-sustaining.

Being a member of the Honors College has truly defined my time here at the University of South Carolina, and it has presented me with innumerable opportunities that I would not have received elsewhere. I look forward to the rest of my time here at USC and I know that wherever I go I’ll always be a part of the Gamecock family.

Pictured: Claire's group in Rwanda getting ready to hike into the Volcanoes National Park with their guide, Odile, to see the mountain gorillas.