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How to make the most of your American college experience

“Man, I love college,” is a common refrain and not just a line in one of rapper Asher Roth’s most famous songs. And quite frankly, we’re not surprised: From roaring football games to colorful school spirit, and interesting cafeteria food, the American campus experience is unique. (And yes, sometimes it is a bit like in movies or TV shows.) For those of you who are thinking of studying at an American university or are already living a campus life, here are some tips on how to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

1. Join campus clubs

College is the perfect time to explore your interests. Have you always enjoyed theater but were just a tad too shy to embrace the spotlight? Then, joining the theater ensemble is the perfect way to step out of that comfort zone and onto that stage. Or, say, you’ve got a knack for advertising? There’s a club for that, too: Join the advertising club to channel your inner Don Draper – and maybe even find your future career. Most of the times, each major (or minor) has a club, which is a great opportunity to learn more about your future career while meeting and bonding with fellow students.

2. Live with roommates

There’s nothing quite as life-changing as getting paired up with a roommate you don’t know – and then live together for a year. You’ll come into contact with people you probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and you’ll definitely learn a lot about yourself and from each other. (Having once lived with a Biology major who was fascinated with lizards, I speak from experience. Who knew those little critters could detach their tails at will?!)

3. Experience school spirit

No other country on Earth does school spirit quite as enthusiastically as the U.S. – in fact, the term “school spirit” is so quintessentially American, it’s virtually impossible to translate: It refers to pride and admiration for your school, and it is displayed by walking around dressed head-to-toe in campus gear (see below) and screaming your school chant at your football games (see even further below).

4. Wear campus gear

Ah, campus gear: plush sweaters, comfortable leggings, and cool T-shirts emblazoned with your university’s name. It’s a comfortable outfit for pretty much every occasion. And it gets better: You’re encouraged – and even expected – to wear these soft little numbers everywhere and at all times.

5. Volunteer

What better way to integrate into your new environment than to volunteer? Volunteering opportunities abound at American universities – whether it’s contributing to a can drive or tutoring a younger student. Not only will you do some good in the community, but you’ll also meet like-minded people and get to improve your language skills.

6. Attend career fairs

When it’s time to find an internship or a job, career fairs are the best place to network and get in touch with recruiters. You might even come into contact with companies you wouldn’t have thought of in the first place! You can fill your backpack with giveaways and business cards while working on getting your foot in the door and snag the internship of a lifetime. (Helpful hint: This might be a good place not to wear too much campus gear but look more like the fashionable and professional go-getter you are.)

7. Eat in the cafeteria

Few things epitomize college as much as sitting in a large dining hall – surrounded by plastic trays, friends, and homework – and getting ready to eat pizza slices with a side of mac and cheese for brunch. Of course, cafeterias also offer a lot of healthy food options, but the point is that they are a great place to meet and bond with your fellow students, dorm buddies, and all those other people you only see while filling up your cereal bowl in the mornings.

8. Go to sports games

Put on all of your campus gear, grab your friends, and practice your chants: It’s game day! It doesn’t matter if you’re (not) into basketball, baseball, football, or any other kind of sport, game day is a bit like a holiday and no campus experience is complete without it. The most spectacular activity of them all is probably college football – complete with crazy fans, cute cheerleaders, and cool tailgating parties. (Tailgating is basically the pre-game BBQ in the parking lot of the football stadium. It’s like a party before the party, and it’s awesome.)

9. Explore off-campus

Now, this may seem counterintuitive, but part of the campus experience is also to step out of the bubble: Don’t forget the real world and go beyond the dorms, cafeterias, and classrooms. Meet the locals, buy non-campus-gear outfits at the mall, and explore the sights and scenery of the area.

 

Image by Oregon State University, Flickr / Creative Commons

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