(Please ignore that dreadful rhyme!)
by Millie Elwell, University of Maryland – College Park
After 55 days at the University of Maryland (UMD), I can safely say that I have fully immersed myself into American culture… and it has been a wild ride! From finding the best sushi place on campus (‘The Spot’), having offers to join sororities, and hearing the terrible ‘soccer’ heckles that Americans come up with (my favourite so far: “where’s your water bottle?”, which surely cannot be effective…), UMD has been a whirlwind of laughs.
The beginning of my experience involved meeting a lot of the other exchange students and trying to figure out the American college education system, which is super different from ours. The workload is constant, but as a human geographer I get to enjoy a range of classes from different courses, and the lecturers are all very lovely and helpful.
Through the societies fair, I have joined three interesting groups. Firstly, Ignite Women, a political group where I have met some lovely girls who I now go to Bentley’s ‘Happy Hour’ with on a Friday afternoon. Also, Terrapin Trail Club, with whom I am going on a hike this weekend to see the Appalachians in fall colours, and lastly, the WMUC Radio Station where I have a weekly show. Through these groups I have met so many new people, especially Americans. Some of my exchange student friends are part of the rugby team, the soccer team, and the hockey team. Others do art, sailing, volunteering, cinema nights, and Greek Life. There are so many options!
My advice so far would be to go out and explore in as many ways as you can, whether that be with societies or in the local bars. Do not pick an 8am class if you can help it, they are quite brutal! Don’t be afraid to ask for peoples’ social media, it’s a great way to stay in touch and organise coffees (for example, I made a friend by sitting next to a nice girl on the bus on the way to Lidl). Americans are so much friendlier than English people! Use the time to travel if you can: in the two months I have been here, I’ve gone to Philadelphia and NYC, and I have more flights already booked for the months ahead. Take advantage of the free museums and galleries in Washington DC (only 20 mins from campus on the metro) and go to ‘Looney Tuesdays’ to see some terrible American DJing. The gym, swimming pools and workout classes are free on campus also, which is amazing.
Overall, UMD has been a great time! The first few weeks were overwhelming for sure, and there was a definite culture shock. However, I can confidently say that all of the exchange students have settled down into our new norm of being a ‘Terp’ at UMD. And we are embracing all the American cringe that comes from being at college… to be honest, it really is quite like the movies!!