Grace Clarke (University of Maryland – College Park, U.S.A)
My first night spent in the US was pretty luxurious. I had a hotel room to myself, ordered room service, and slept in a king sized bed. Then after arriving on campus, having to drag my overweight suitcases to my hall and up the stairs to my dorm, I was swiftly brought back down to reality. To add to this, the temperature was uncomfortably in the thirties, and the humidity was unbearable.
Now, onto my positive first impressions and experiences at UMD…
The week of arrival involved various orientation sessions, with the usual awkward introductions and typical questions (“where are you from, what do you study…”). Most of that week I spent exploring campus, sitting in the sun, making friends with other international students, and enjoying comparing and contrasting our respective countries and universities. It felt like a holiday, with the beautiful campus and the sun shining at all hours during the day. I think I can speak on behalf of my friends; we did not want the week to end!
One of the most memorable parts of orientation was a presentation about American culture. In this presentation, we were informed about ‘the rules of dating’ and what is and is not considered ‘a date’. FYI to all those planning on dating in America, if you end up splitting the bill, or you grab a coffee, this is not considered a date! As patronising as this was, we still refer to and laugh about it to this day.
America loves foreigners and on our first trip to DC we were greeted in true American style as we walked out of the subway station. The president’s motorcade went zooming past us! We took this amazing spectacle to be a celebration of our arrival. I mean, what are the chances of that happening?!
I felt settled fairly quickly, and the first weekend soon crept upon us. My international friends and I were not short of choices of activities and invites to parties. When people say that Americans are mesmerised by European accents, especially the English one, they are not wrong! We went to an introductory event at the college football stadium, and we really got a feel for the school spirit that everyone imagines when they think of American colleges. Later that night we headed to our first fraternity party, which pretty much lived up to every possible stereotype that you can think of, and I will say nothing more than that…
I don’t want to give the wrong impression of time spent studying abroad because trust me, the workload comes as a shock, but during our first week of classes the afternoons were spent by the outdoor pool (a complete novelty to us sun-deprived Brits). In true American style, we also spent evenings on the floor of our dorm corridor learning the infamous ‘Cup Song’ using red solo cups and playing ‘Cards Against Humanity’ with some of the American students, who were keen to ask every possible question regarding the British culture.
Our second weekend arrived, and it was time to immerse ourselves into American college life even further – we tailgated from 9am, and then watched the first quarter of an American football game. After asking ‘real’ Americans to explain the rules of the game, we decided that it was too hot, and spent the afternoon at the pool (surprise, surprise!). We made the most of the Labour Day weekend and went to a fraternity day party, where there was a BBQ and plenty of American games to learn to play.
Life here has since become a little less American Pie and a bit more crying at the library! But I am still loving the exchange and would definitely recommend those who can to apply!