Students with Commonwealth Games mascot

Global Gamecocks

Students test classroom skills 9,000 miles from home

More than 6,600 athletes from 71 nations and territories will compete April 4-15 in the XXI Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, and nine University of South Carolina students are part of the production team behind the mega-event.

The students, majoring in sport and entertainment management, arrived in Australia in January to begin testing events, helping set up the athletes’ village and learning all that goes into making the games happen. They will continue to work in various roles during the competition.

Sport and entertainment management internship director Steve Taylor says the experience will prepare the students for any challenge they face in their careers.

“They are 9,000-plus miles from home, working with folks from Australia, the U.K., South America and Asia. They are learning to deal with different cultures, overcome language barriers and lead people older than themselves. When they are done, they will have the confidence to handle anything sent their way,” Taylor says.

The student work experience is the product of a partnership between the sport and entertainment  management department at UofSC and Australian event management company Incognitus. In past years, the experiential learning collaboration has provided students the chance to work at the Olympics in London and Vancouver, the 2017 World Polo Championship and Beyond the Valley music festival in Australia.

“My favorite part has been seeing all of the different countries as they’ve moved in and finding a way to make every day enjoyable no matter what we are doing,” says student Cassie Prescott.UofSC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management works extensively with industry partners like Incognitus to provide opportunities for students to experience the biggest events in their fields, from New York Fashion Week to golf’s major championships to the Olympics and now the Commonwealth Games.

Taylor says the students have embraced the challenges of the job, including the culture shock and homesickness, and are successfully applying what they’ve learned in class to a real-world event on the other side of the globe.

"Once again the students that have interned with us have acted professionally and been a credit to USC," said Craig Lovett, Incognitus partner/principal. "Whilst we will miss them come mid-May when they return home, we will have comfort in the knowledge that we have once again prepared a crew for future immersion into the world of venues and events"

One of the most important lessons for the students so far has been that, when running an event, the event plan changes as soon as you start.

“You need to be flexible and adaptable to overcome these changes,” Taylor says.

They have also learned that events of this scale are complex and involve many partners, stakeholders and teams working together. The Commonwealth Games offer an opportunity for students to gain career experience that will stand out on their resumes, given the size and worldwide fame of the event.

“I’ve learned a lot about how much planning goes into an event like this and your role in the event from a contractor’s perspective,” Prescott says.

The work assignment pushes students outside of their comfort zone, but the challenges come alongside spectacular opportunities. The students are housed one block from the world-famous Surfers Paradise Beach and the Coral Sea. They’ve had time during off hours to explore and enjoy summer in Australia, giving them an appreciation for the country and culture as well as a global perspective of their career options.

“I want the students to know they can go anywhere in the world and be successful, that they can work with and lead people from different cultures and who speak different languages,” Taylor says. “In our business you have to be willing to move to grow in most cases. These students will know they can not only handle packing up and moving but also thrive in that environment.”

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