University of Oregon
Studying abroad has become a common occurrence for many students at UEA. They can spend time in universities around the world, from Spain to Australia, Hong Kong to France.
For myself, this opportunity has led me to the USA and the University of Oregon in Eugene. With the setting of the Pacific North West, it is fair to say that Eugene has a bit of a different feel to the flat land of Norfolk.
Having only been here for a week so far, it is difficult to see how the UO differs to UEA. In all honesty, there is a slight dash of familiarity about the place; the union is even made out of concrete.
There is a lot of green and there is the general attitude that the campus belongs to the students, something which I always feel is true at UEA.
Although it does feel familiar in some ways, the campus is also so very American. It’s easy to constantly feel like you’re in Saved by the Bell: The College Years, or like you’re about to bump into Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Having constantly being told that what we see in Hollywood is not real, the appearance of a US campus is very contradictory; what we have been led to believe it looks like is exactly what seems to be true.
However, there seems to be one thing missing: the American students. I have moved into dorms with my roommate (yes, we have to share) and have stumbled across the nicest pizza in the area, but due to international students arriving early, making friends with American students is still to be ticked off the list.
It is this concept which must be the hardest for students from the UK studying in America: we don’t feel like internationals – we speak English. Regarldess, I still have to sit through the endless meetings about the differences of the culture, and even how to greet an American. Plus, watching the faces of many bemused Americans trying to figure out a Yorkshire accent will be amusing (no, we don’t all sound like the Queen).
Being referred to as an international student isn’t exactly what anyone on a year abroad wants, as it can create a feeling of difference between students. I don’t want to be treated differently to the girl who will move into the next room. Year abroad students come to America for the true college experience and the international label can place a barrier in the way.
Orientation week is not yet over but it has become apparent that simply because I speak the same language, I am not going to be seen as an honoury American. It seems that for the whole year I will still be seen as “international” and probably rightly so. Our culture is different, our education is different and even our language is slightly different (as demonstrated by asking where the nearest cinema was – nobody understood).
Amongst plenty of other things, this week has taught me that being an international student is easier said than done. I’ve gained a vast admiration for the many international students that are welcomed to UEA every year, particularly those who are not native Engilsh speakers.
Moving to a different country, even for a year is hard, especially when there are so many things to deal with, from signing up to classes to simply finding your way around campus.
Make sure to take some time for those international students at UEA during freshers’ week if they look a bit lost. It’s not easy studying somewhere else for a year, and being friendly goes a long way.
Photo: University of Oregon.