I wish there was some coherency and consistency to this post but it is merely an elaborative list of things I’ve noticed about living in America, especially at ASU.
1. Guns (lack of)
Maybe I am unlike the majority of people but my impression of the US from the outside (in particularly red states) was that it was a gung-ho place full of AK-47s, pistols and people being shot. I wasn’t correct.
Arizona has some of the loosest gun laws in the USA yet I have only seen ONE gun on a civilian in my entire 10 months here – perhaps I’m not very aware of my surroundings or something but any fears about guns or being shot? I’ll say not worth having! I regard Tempe as a very safe place, there is a strong-enough police presence, well-lit pavements and students everywhere. Guns? No worries.
2. American Students
You’re probably already anticipating that you’ll get lauded for having a British accent – and you’d be correct. A lot of people love the British accent here, so if you like nattering away (like me) then you’ll love it.
Almost all-American students I know have a part-time job, which is something I’d say less students in the UK have. It’s very expensive to live in Tempe so it might be worth trying for a job yourself on campus – I wish I’d joined the study abroad office.
3. Going out and parties
You’ve got to be 21 to drink here and ASU may not be a good fit if you want to go to bars or clubs.
Day social events are popular with Americans. Events can start as early as 5pm, with people going out around 10 and by law, all places serving alcohol must close at 2am.
Still, I’ve personally had a great time and you could see me often gracing the floors of Mint Lounge, 256 and 42s: make of that what you will.
4. Time Zones
This was something I hadn’t really given much thought to, but it might matter to you. Given the season (BST or GMT) you will be 7 or 8 hours behind those back home in the UK. This means that around 4/5pm every day, your phone will go quiet and there will be very few people to message back home – view this as a blessing or a curse… it’s upto you! Personally, I struggled a bit with this huge time difference, as sometimes it can be nice to talk to a familiar face in the evening after a day of working but this isn’t possible.
Also, if you’re a fan of sport in Europe (e.g football or rugby) then you will have to learn to get up very early for some games and accept the reality that all British sport will be finished by 3pm! As a United fan, I’ve had many days where this has been a blessing. Just something to think about! American sport isn’t for me but if you’re into it, then ASU is the place to come! Due to our location in the west, American sport is on all day long (NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc.).
5. International Friends
I thought I’d be meeting a load of Americans and be friends mainly with our brothers and sisters across the pond before my arrival. I do have a fair few ‘yankee’ friends, but I think generally at ASU, you naturally congregate and grow close to other exchange/international students. We’ve been a friendship group of about 50 in second semester and we only have about 5 Americans in this mix!!
Upside: you’re having the same experience as the other exchanges, and generally are more willing to do the same things, like travelling.
Downside: you probably won’t have a car or many links to a family in a group of internationals. Try to befriend people with cars because it can make life a little easier (e.g. grocery shopping).
6. Power of frats and sororities
This ties in partly with (3) on drinking culture, but at ASU frats and sororities are quite a big deal.
- Compared to frats in Canada and on the East coast, ASU fraternities are a little more intense. Their processes are harder to get through, membership is more expensive (around $1000+ a semester) and more shut-off.
- If you are a male, unless you know a fair amount of people in a frat then you aren’t going to a frat party. Even then, sometimes you need to pay around $20 entry.
- If you’re a girl, you’re absolutely fine. Enjoy.
- It’s totally your call to join a frat/sorority or not, none of the boys on our exchange did (about 15 of us) and only 2 of the girls (25) did – they enjoyed themselves but did stress the culture was very different to what we’re used to in Europe.
- They can be quite cliquey but there’s also some very lovely people in them! A few of my best friends are in frats/sororities.
Bring a hydroflask!! Tempe is hot AF (gets to 45ºC in summer months, and averages around 27-32 in ‘Fall’ and Spring) so it’s important to stay hydrated with COLD water – it can be a real blessing.
Leave space in your suitcase, whether you’re out here for a semester or a year, you will accumulate SO MUCH stuff (especially ASU merch, they hand it out at like every sporting event) so save some space (and money maybe) by leaving some unnecessary bits at home.
Finally, people here work in Fahrenheit. As a Brit, I love talking about the weather, thus I reveal my secret for speaking in native tongue about the heat: 28Cº is 82Fº (FLIPPED). Voila.
Hope you enjoyed, as always you can ping any questions or comments to my email or Instagram.