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“I felt very welcomed and very safe, ” said one student. “All I could think of was ‘I hope everything’s OK,’ ” said another.
Joequise Wright had his nose firmly planted in a genetics textbook Monday afternoon.
While the rest of his College of Charleston friends played table tennis or pool, Wright was perfectly content to plow through his biology homework.
At least he was safe, he said. Wright was far away from a potentially dangerous tropical storm bringing high winds and rain to coastal South Carolina.
Wright was one of 67 College of Charleston students and staff who evacuated to Winthrop University over the weekend to escape Tropical Storm Irma.
“This is my first time evacuating, ” said Wright, a junior biology and secondary education major. “Before, I lived with my grandparents. The older generations don’ t like to evacuate much. Here, I felt very welcomed and very safe.”
Winthrop is hosting 58 students and nine staff members from CofC who left the coast by bus Saturday morning, seeking respite from what was then a dangerous hurricane set to pound Florida.
The students, a mix of international and American, have been sleeping on twin mattresses inside the Richardson Ballroom on campus. The schools agreed the CofC students can eat for free at any of the school restaurants, and can take showers at the West Center just a few steps away from the DiGiorgio Campus Center.
Melantha Ardley, CofC’s director of residence life, said Monday the students have adjusted quickly to their new surroundings.
A few students took a trip to Charlotte, where they ate cheesecake and walked around the city. Wright bought new Nike shoes from the SouthPark shopping mall so he can work out at the West Center gymnasium on campus. Others have checked out Rock Hill’s downtown area.
Some watched the Carolina Panthers NFL football game Sunday on a large screen in the Dina’s Place movie theater.
“They’ re really making the best of it, ” said Ardley, as Irma’s outer bands started to hit York County. “I think they’ re getting a little stir-crazy because of the weather now, but they’ re really appreciative of what Winthrop’s been able to do.”
Zachary Adler, a freshman undecided major from Hartford, Conn., said he never had to worry about hurricanes before he moved to Charleston.
His phone has been blowing up with texts and calls from his mother, who was understandably worried about Adler. But Zachary said he was surprised how nice the welcome from Winthrop has been for him and his fellow evacuees.
“I really didn’ t know what to expect, ” Adler said. “Winthrop is really gracious. We’ ve been treated really nicely.”
Depending on the amount of storm damage at the College of Charleston campus, students could be headed back to the coast by Wednesday or Thursday, Ardley said.
For now, they keep themselves amused by playing board games, working out, watching movies or exploring the campus.
Students Takatoshi Tooyama of Japan and Meint Zwama of the Netherlands say the reason that brought them to Winthrop was less than ideal, but they’ ve enjoyed bonding with their fellow students.
“It’s been a really positive feeling, ” Zwama said.
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