Since I’m American, I always think of an abroad blog being outside of the U.S. But if your Cambodian, Argentinean, or French, the U.S. is definitely a foreign country. So when I found Andy’s blog, Milk and Whisky, I thought it would be a great abroad blog of the week. Andy is a British college student who is studying at Ball State University in Indiana for the next year and pointing out the cultural differences along the way. He’s funny and opinionated and he has made me learn new things about my own culture. I was able to catch up with Andy to ask him about his experiences so far in the middle of America.
How did you decide to study abroad at Ball State?
It’s not a terribly exciting story. Our university offered a study abroad program. I thought it might be fun. I’d always been kind of interested in going to America. A side effect of too many Hollywood movies. That and I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to study anywhere where English wasn’t a first language. I put down three colleges that did my course and I happened to get Ball State.
Did you watch the presidential debate last week? What did you think?
I watched long enough to get a feel of what was going on. I get tired of political debates because you simply don’t know who’s telling the truth. There’s no way of quickly checking whether what’s being said is actually correct. On a purely charismatic level, I thought Romney was better whereas Obama appeared hesitant.
What have been the most surprising differences between home and Indiana?
It’s not really the major differences that get you but the accumulation of small differences. That being said, the two most noticeable differences were in assessment and night life. When it comes to night life, Ball State has made me so glad to be British. I miss our students union and university bars.
The college does organise events but with a few exceptions, they’re pretty poor. I feel sorry for the RAs because I know how badly they want people to go but at the same time I’m rarely interested in what they have planned. If you want to have any fun around here you’ve got to go off campus and find a good house party.
I knew I was going to have frequent assessments before I came but I wasn’t aware of how difficult it would be to adapt to it. It’s good that it forces you to consistently study and you get a deeper knowledge of your subject as a result but at the same time I think the workload for some of my classes is unreasonable.
Will you give football another chance?
Maybe. Probably not college football, I don’t really enjoy standing on crowded bleachers for hours pretending to care about something I barely understand. I did watch an NFL game recently which wasn’t too bad. There was a lot of commercial breaks though. Like every fifteen minutes. It got a bit tiresome.
What do you love/hate about being a Brit in the U.S.?
The best thing about being here is the people I’ve met. I’ve made some great friends. Our university offers a friendship family program and their hospitality has been mind-blowing Going sightseeing in New York. Taco Bell. Corn dogs. The library computers here have two monitors. Ask me when I’m back in England and I’m sure I’ll have a list that would run for pages, haha.
A few things have bothered me, mainly to do with the lifestyle shift. The night life I’ve already mentioned. Meal plans are a nuisance. It’s only real purpose is to restrict what, where and when you eat. I’m not at school any more. I can buy and cook my own food.
I’m also not a fan of room-sharing. I don’t have any problems with my roommate but I like having my own room. Room sharing doesn’t really serve any purpose (except for being a good excuse to squeeze more students into dorms) and it’s just an unnecessary nuisance.
What advice would you give to another student planning to study abroad in the U.S.?
Meet Americans, straight away and as soon as possible. They’ll know where to go, what to do. If you’re only hanging around with people from your home country, you’re wasting an opportunity.
Remember you’re not there for very long. Here’s one of your few chances to try things with no long-term implications. Make of that what you will.