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Student traveling country visits Greenville

A large portion of Americans in today’s society form their political opinions based on the news station they watch, the newspaper they read or the social media sites they follow.

College student Stephen Buys, who is studying political science and journalism, fit into this category until he decided to make a change. The 20-year-old University of North Carolina student is on a journey across the United States to hear political opinions from local voters.

Buys’ journey brought him through Greenville last Wednesday. He’s planning on visiting all of the lower 48 states over the course of the summer.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to travel the country,” he said. “My dad did it when he was younger. His experience really inspired me to make it happen.”

Although he knew he wanted to travel the country, Buys couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to do so.

“The biggest driving force behind me deciding to take the trip was the 2016 presidential election,” he said. “It was such a divisive election and I go to college at a pretty liberal school. I was hearing one side of the argument and for a while I was OK with that. I quickly realized that I needed to change my way of thinking.”

Buys said he isn’t taking the trip to change his political views, but more to better understand other people’s. Along with politics, Buys is also studying journalism in college.

“I’ve always had an interest in politics and always hoped that one day I may work in the political arena,” he said. “But I figured out I don’t have a good enough understanding of the subject. This entire trip is dedicated to meeting people and government leaders at the local level. I want to find out why a certain portion of the population votes like they do. I want find out what people really care about.”

While in Greenville, Buys met with political leaders such as Mayor Dexter McLendon and others like Executive Director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce Tracy Salter.

“With many years experience in the newspaper industry, Stephen’s take and approach to journalism is refreshing,” she said. “It’s nice to see a journalist, especially one so young and just getting started show interest in traveling the area to learn more about local government.”

 

Buys records the interviews he conducts with people along the way and plans to create an audio documentary of the experience. He’s also basing some of his senior thesis paper on the information her gathers the next few months.

“From Alabama I’ll go to Florida then up to Texas,” he said. “From there I’ll head out west to Colorado, Washington and back down to Wyoming. I’m very much looking forward to visiting the mid-western states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio. Those states are really where the election turned in Trump’s favor.”

Buys plans on making it back to college for the fall semester. His goal is that he’ll start college with a new mindset and perspective on what people all across the country care about.

“I’m really glad I decided to stop in Greenville,” he concluded. “It’s really a wonderful, small southern town. I learned a lot about the political climate in south Alabama. It truly is a unique state from north to south. I’m very appreciative of the people who spoke to me while I was in the Camellia City.”