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Going beyond the classroom

Sarah Roof, a Top Scholar and exercise science major, is a 4th generation Gamecock. As a student in the South Carolina Honors College, her time at Carolina has been about taking advantage of every opportunity to pair the unique benefits of the Honors College community with the outside-of-the-classroom opportunities at a top-tier research university.  

What did you want to pursue at USC?

I wanted to take advantage of the University's focus on within- and beyond-the classroom experiences. I used the connections that I made in my classes, and with professors and other students and community leaders to find opportunities to enhance my experience. I had several internships, shadowing and mentorship opportunities. I also studied abroad and had student employment. I wanted any opportunity I could use to take a classroom experience, connect it and make it into something more.

How did studying abroad in Rome, Italy affect your education and career goals?

Studying abroad was a defining moment for me at Carolina. I taught elementary school students English, in the context of healthy living. It was a great opportunity because I was able to experience how Italians live their lives and how they view health, and how that contrasts with the way it is viewed in the United States.

It really brought my learning full circle and I realized how much I enjoyed teaching others about health and fitness.

How did the Honors College contribute to your overall USC experience?

The Honors College enriched my academic experience. Classes were more involved and more complex in the Honors program, and it pushed me further to challenge myself. Every experience was more immersive in the Honors College because I had those contexts.

The relationships I made were more meaningful through the Honors College because I was in small classroom environments. I had access to the advisers I needed, and I felt like a valued, integral part of the university.

I also enjoyed living in the Living and Learning Community. As a freshman, I attended Bedtimes Stories with the Honors dean and cookies and study breaks, and we even started a birthday club and celebrated every person’s birthday in our dorm. But it was really nice to be centrally located in the Honors College community and have access to those types of gatherings. You’re living and learning with the people in your classes, and that’s so important because your strengths and shortcomings are met with someone else’s strengths and shortcomings, and you can help each other and make each other stronger in the process.

What were some of your favorite Honors classes?

A class I took as part of the Honors curriculum was Health Problems in a Changing Society with Dr. Spencer. Through the class, I was able to create a health policy proposal that could be sent to local government. The class was also during the election season, which made it even more interesting because health care was such a big topic. It became such an immersive learning experience.

During my freshman year, I took Learning Non-Violence with Gandhi and Friends. It incorporated meditation and non-violence practices with learning about historical figures who led the way in nonviolence. I learned how to meditate and journal, which I still do. I’ve incorporated the mind/body experience into college.

Tell us about your campus involvement. How have these experiences helped you to grow and prepare you for the next step?

I was a Gamecock Connection peer leader and a student assistant in the Visitor’s Center. I was active in Tri Delta Sorority, where I served on the executive board for several years as a philanthropy committee chair and secretary. I was in Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and the Exercise Science Club.

These experiences definitely taught me how to hold myself and others accountable. Being in a leadership position, I have to be responsible for a lot of things that I facilitated myself. I had to set and met my own deadlines, which taught me a lot about being a responsible leader. I also had to hold other people accountable, which isn’t always easy. But working in my sorority with 400 women really taught me how to do that because you have a large group of people you have to manage and communicate with. Those are things I will carry in my future and in my career.

What would you say was your most meaningful contribution to the Carolina community?

I hope my most meaningful contribution was working with Gamecock Connection. I’ve always felt very indebted to the university for everything they’ve given me. In my mind, helping others understand how many things the university has to offer and show how much I love being a Gamecock in some small way hopefully repays the university for all they’ve done for me. I hope I’ve helped students learn that the University of South Carolina is a place they can also leave their mark and a place that can leave a mark on them.