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.