It’s been nineteen days since I arrived in America, and things are starting to settle into a rhythm that’s not entirely unfamiliar. I’m starting my second week of classes, and have largely settled into living in College Park. That’s not to say I’ve gone native, but I’m also not feeling so much like a stranger in a strange land. The novelty is wearing off in places, but by no means does that mean things have grown boring; just that the honeymoon period can’t last the whole year.
In one of the international student lectures given just after my arrival at the University we were told about adjustment to new and unfamiliar cultures. They classified three main groups of people; Rejectors, Adopters, and Cosmopolitans. Rejectors tend not to cope with integrating into a new culture, and often isolate themselves with the emerging view that returning home is the only option. Adopters fully integrate into their new culture, and tend to lose much if not most of the traces of their old culture. Cosmopolitans tend to adapt to their host country’s culture, and adopt some aspects of it. But they don’t lose much of their former culture, and can easily return home or relocate elsewhere. I feel they’re missing shades of grey in those groupings, but I’d place myself tentatively as a Cosmopolitan. I’m sure my situation is made easier as I’m not jumping to a vastly different culture, and I’m sure my experience is also coloured by my location just outside Washington D.C.. I always felt there was a risk of failing to adapt, or make new friends and becoming isolated out of shyness and a lack of confidence. (but hell, that’s half the reason I decided to do this in the first place; to make myself confident by doing something that’s in many ways scary). But I’m confident now that I’m going to continue adapting fairly well. I’m also making some good friends, which I hope won’t be too surprising for anyone.
My first week of classes was kind of uneventful. I was sort of forced to enroll in a course called Philosophy of Literature, which was a combination of English Literature and Metaphysics, and so wasn’t related to anything I’m looking to pursue in my third year. I managed to drop it and take up Symbolic Logic instead, which funnily enough is a lot more interesting, at least to me. I’m not a big fan of studying English Literature. And anyone who’s mentioned Metaphysics to me will also know that I have no truck with that kind of bullshit. Other than that the only eventful occurrence is how my Philosophy of Science course has sneakily renamed itself Introduction to Philosophy of Science. We’ll see how that pans out.
Finally, I attended my very first (and probably, hopefully, my last) Frat Party. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly my scene. Let’s also just say it was like condensing a thousand-person nightclub into a bedsit. I think the best part of the night was coming out of the party to a set of streets positively swarming with Freshmen. Hundreds of them roaming the streets looking for a place to party; a place that’ll let them in. As I stood there tired, hot and with my head frazzled from playing games of beer pong, it looked more than a little like the battle of Helm’s Deep. the first wave of freshmen poured towards the frat house I had emerged from and promptly crashed against its walls and retreated, turned back by the announcement that the party was full, and now a guest-list-only procedure was in place. More and more came, only to be turned away by impromptu bouncers. Those rejected groups filtered away to seek greener fields. But they just didn’t. stop. coming. I felt that soon the sheer weight of their numbers would overwhelm the defences, and the party would be swarmed by a mass of bodies, teenage anxiety, and burgeoning sexual frustration. I exchanged a look of solidarity with the low-ranking fratboys sent here to hold the line, and with that I gathered my homies and left.
Oh, also, I’ve been listening to Sufjan Stevens’ new EP All Delighted People. If you’ve ever been interested in him definitely go buy it here. Or listen to it for free here.
And if you’re as interested as I am in loud-quiet-loud Icelandic post-rock then give these guys a listen. Their first album is just as good, if not better.
This brave new world that has such people in it. I cannot imagine a party like that. It sounds peculiar and altogether too busy. Although it’s good to know you are ticking off authentic college experiences; beer pong, frat house.
Nick, I’m really impressed with your enterprise and courage. And amused by your descriptions – yeah, that sounds just like the good old US of A. Elaine and I will be there next week, but nowhere near Washington DC unfortunately. We’re flying to Chicago next Thursday, staying a couple of nights, then taking the sleeper train for two days across to Seattle, spending a few days with friends there before going on to San Francisco. Just a fortnight altogether. We’re looking forward to it.
Before that, we’ll be seeing your mum tonight (she gave me the link) as she’s coming over to my belated birthday celebrations in Hastings, at which our band (the Moors) will be playing.
I’ll subscribe to your blog and look forward to further news!
Thanks very much Ken, it’s been very interesting coming here, as you can imagine. Your trip sounds like a lot of fun, I’m sure both you and Elaine will have a great time. I’m currently trying to decide how much time and money I’ll have for travelling around the US. I know a few people with cars, so I’ll be able to sort out some weekend trips to places around the east coast, maybe event as far as New York City. I really would love to go to Chicago though, and that might be a little harder to get to. I’m thinking of taking trains around on my weekends, but unfortunately we don’t really have any holidays that I could spend travelling. I do have a month where I’m allowed to stay in the country after my schoolyear ends in June, so I figure I can spend that time taking trains around the county.
Mum told me she was coming up to Hastings tonight; I hope you have a great time. How are things with the Moors going at the moment?
Good to hear from you,
Late reply, Nick, as we’re still recovering from jetlag and a pretty horrendously delayed flight back from San Francisco airport. But just to say I really recommend Chicago. We were only there for two days. I’ve been through it in transit before, but never realised just what a beautiful city it is: the walk by the lakeside with a backdrop of skyscrapers is just stunning. Plus we found a brilliant jazz & blues record store – yes, such things still exist. Unfortunately we had no time to catch any live music. Now we have to concentrate – our first Moors gig outside of Hastings (in a pub in Rye) is next Saturday!