Walking home from classes on a warm spring day, College of Charleston student Maggie Wyatt was celebrating great news as she stood near the fountain in Cougar Mall. She had just received an email from Universite Catholique de Lille in France congratulating her on being accepted into its year-long study abroad program.
A sophomore, Wyatt is pursuing a double major in international business and marketing as well as a minor in French and Francophone Studies. She hopes to one day become a chief marketing director of a corporation, perhaps a French one. Sitting under the moss in Cistern Yard, Wyatt shares the story of her winding and culturally immersive journey to CofC.
“I was born in Heidelberg, Germany,” she says. “My dad is a colonel in the U.S. Army as a Foreign Area Officer who specializes in North African and Middle Eastern countries, cultures, and languages. His job required him to travel a lot and the family went everywhere he went.”
Wyatt lists all of the places she, her mother, father and three older brothers have lived; California; Tunisia; Rhode Island; Abu Dhabi; Virginia; Morocco; and South Carolina. Until high school, Wyatt had not lived in one place for more than three years.
After settling in South Carolina in 2010, the Wyatt family – minus their patriarch, who was deployed at the time – began to build a true home. Maggie’s mom, known as Miss Janice, oversaw the construction of Rogers Creek Farm, a small working farm built on land that had been passed down through generations of her family in Blenheim, South Carolina. Building a permanent home for their family was always a goal for Wyatt’s parents.
“On the night my dad proposed, 27 years ago, they promised each other that they would come back to South Carolina, where they are both from, and build a homestead for their future family,” she says. “They were both determined to fulfill that promise no matter where their journey would take them over the years.”
In 2014, the family successfully raised and sold their first crop of hay. Today, the farm boasts 30 head of cattle, 35 chickens, four pigs, two dogs and one kitten. When all four kids come home, the house is bustling, to say the least. Wyatt swoons when discussing her new home and family, saying how blessed she feels to have lived the life she has.
“They built a permanent place for us to always come back to and enjoy for generations to come with our families,” she says. “I have never lived in one place long enough to consider myself ‘from’ anywhere, but the farm has become a safe haven for me – a place to call home.”
The nomadic lifestyle of her childhood has undoubtedly shaped the woman Wyatt is today. However, it was not always a romantic adventure, she says.
“I would create friendships and then have to leave. When I moved to South Carolina from Morocco, my peers didn’t even know where Morocco was,” she recalls. “I was a bit of an outsider and no one really related to me, so it was hard to make connections. People were in their own little comfort zones.”
Because she had never considered a place “home,” Wyatt’s comfort zone was not a physical place or mindset – it was, and remains, her family.
“I gained an appreciation for the places I’d lived, of course, but I also realized how precious my family is,” she says. “We’re all very close. No matter how many times we moved or what material things we left behind, we had each other, and that’s all that mattered.”
Coming to the College of Charleston was yet another big move in Wyatt’s life. She fell in love with the history laced throughout Charleston’s cobblestone streets and pastel-colored homes.
“I chose CofC because I wanted to solidify this feeling of home in South Carolina,” she says.
The culture shock she experienced in her first months of college did not last long for this chameleon of a woman. She thanks her upbringing for giving her the ability to make friends wherever she goes.
“My past has affected the way I think about every person I meet. I know that there are multiple facets to each and every person,” she says. “Somehow they came to meet me on their life’s journey and yet they still have a history that I could never know if I don’t ask. My parents have given me a priceless gift of not only tolerance of cultural differences, but also an appreciation of them.”
Lauren Vega is a junior from Huntington, West Virginia, studying arts management and international studies in the Honors College at the College of Charleston. She is also a National Merit Scholar, a scholar in the International Studies Program, and a 200-hour registered yoga teacher.