American College traditions we just don’t understand in Australia
From dorm rooms, pep rallies, student involvement fairs and karaoke nights in the cafeteria - I knew American College traditions were something Australians would not understand.
As you can imagine – I was a bit confused. Do I cheer at the pep rally? Do I sign up for a student organisation? Do I go make friends with every single person in my dorm hallway? There were a lot of questions I had but they only really lasted a day.
I was so comfortable once my roommates moved in and took me to my first pep rally. As soon as I felt comfortable enough at the pep rally – you bet, I started to cheer. I got really into it and before you knew it the people around me stopped and stared - “Oh my goodness where is your accent from! Is that British? South African?”
This was the beginning of a million questions regarding my accent, even if I only said one word. For example, every time I order my food at the cafeteria, the sandwich makers ask me to say tomato because they love the way Australians say it. (Americans are rubbing off on me though; I have started saying Tomato like an American, uh oh). This might sound intimidating but it is the complete opposite. Those initial questions have blossomed into amazing friendships.
One thing that has been surprising is that Americans really know nothing about Australia. I guess growing up, our radio and TV revolved around American culture. It has been an experience teaching Americans about our culture at home, what makes our news and what music we listen to.
One funny question I always get is “So who are some famous Australian singers?” – I sit and ponder… As I think hard, only Americans are popping up in my mind. I have realised most of my generation at home listen to American artists. The only few that come to my mind are Guy Sebastian (duh!), Delta Goodrem, and Kylie Minogue. Of course no one knows who they are… and I don’t normally show them a preview… maybe sometimes I’ll give them a snippet of Born to Try...hysterical.
Then, the day came where I attended the Student Involvement Fair. Wow. American college students are so passionate about their committees – they had one for everything and anything. They didn’t hold back either… they dressed up, gave out free food, sang, danced, chanted… It was unreal! I admired their passion. I didn’t sign up for anything, although the Cheerleading team looked a little tempting.
What I have loved about American College is the community vibe. Most of us live on campus, so it is like we are one big family. Students are very approachable, kind and polite. Before I knew it I was making conversation, saying good morning and complimenting my fellow peers everywhere I went! I had more confidence than ever in my social interactions and that was definitely influenced by the inclusive American College life.
Oh and I forgot to mention… Most classes have a 20% participation grade. This sounds scary but it ended up being the most rewarding aspect of class. We all spoke to each other more than usual. Class discussions became so interesting because everyone did their reading – duh, 20% of our grade was based on our participation!
Doing exchange in Chicago was the best thing I have ever done. American college students are awesome and any Australian can quickly adapt to the college traditions – it is definitely a unique and rewarding experience.
Demi studies Law and Global Studies in Melbourne. She is currently on exchange studying at DePaul University in Chicago. If you’re interested in studying abroad, applications for Semester 2, 2018 close on December 15. Find out how to apply here