By Lauren Nesworthy
“We’re so excited to have you here!” “Students like you add diversity to Union College!” “We hope you have an amazing term with us!” These were the phrases that I was bombarded with during my first few days at Union College after arriving from England. Following the eight months of seemingly endless amounts of paperwork and stress that comes with becoming an international student, it was nice to be welcomed so warmly and to know that I’d finally made it, even if it’s only for one term.
As I write this article almost three weeks later, I still can’t suppress the feelings of excitement and satisfaction that surface every time I think about being here.
Of course, not everything has been entirely easy. In between the crazy months of visa applications, booking flights and attempting to pack enough clothes for three months into one suitcase, I had imagined, perhaps a little naively, that I would have no trouble adapting to a different college in a different country.
We eat a lot of the same food, we mostly speak the same language, and I’ve spent several years watching American TV shows. I should be totally prepared, right? Wrong. It’s hard to believe how many differences I’ve found in under three weeks and it would take me pages to list them all, but I can give you a few right now.
Let’s start just with the sheer size of this place. Every student I’ve spoken to so far has defined Union as a very small college, which I initially had trouble believing, because guess what? My university, good old York St. John, isn’t even half the size of this place, yet it manages to cram roughly 6,000 students in, while Union has only about 2,000. I spent my first week wandering around campus in confusion, clinging to my map as a lifeline, and if I’m being perfectly honest, I still couldn’t tell you where half of the buildings are. If you see a short redhead standing around looking lost and confused, then yeah, that’s probably me.
In my short time here, I’ve already discovered that in many ways, campus life here is nothing like my own. Let’s take, for example, fraternities and sororities. You won’t find those in England, nor will you find phrases like “rushing,” “pledging,” or “Greek life.” It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard or seen before, so thank God for my new friends who have patiently explained the whole intriguing concept to me.
One of the best things I’ve found at Union is there’s always something going on here, no matter what your interests are. My university in England sometimes has something mildly fun or interesting happening, but being a small campus in the heart of a city, there isn’t much, so my fellow students and I tend to venture outside of campus for entertainment. But here, there’s plenty to do: free film (sorry, “movie”) viewings, clubs to join, guest speakers to see, sports to play or watch (Ultimate Frisbee might just be the most baffling, yet coolest thing I’ve ever discovered) or you can meet friends for coffee at the Starbucks on campus (you have no idea how much I’m going to miss that when I go home). I’m never bored, I can tell you that much.
In the last few weeks of my life, a lot has changed, and I still have much to learn.