Imagine all the movies you’ve seen about American college life, try to collect all the clichés from the frat parties, the jocks sitting at separate tables, sports you hardly even heard about (let alone knowing how to play them), to the cool professors and talkative students and so on. Got it? Multiply it by ten, and that’s what I’m living in now. When during the international orientation they warned us about the culture shock I was sceptical. I’ve been to the US before, I know about their politics, I listen to their music and watch their movies, what could I possibly be culture-shocked about? I was so wrong. And I’m glad I was.
I’m Júlia Bakó, by the way, one of the Kellner students spending a year studying at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I’ve been here for more than a month now, but it feels like I’m still getting used to everything. The other day, I locked myself out of my room leaving my student ID inside, without which you’re a lost person here, so I had to wait for fifty minutes early in the morning for a rather grumpy campus security employee to come and let me in to my own room. I was late for work that day. Oh, yeah, because I’m working here on campus, in the Student Activities office. Getting a job here is not hard, and highly recommended if you’re planning to travel around as much as I do.
Last Saturday I went on a kayaking/canoeing trip with the Outdoors Club for example, and since the weather is still fairly nice here (sorry about the cold fall, fellow Hungarians at home) we could even swim and flip the canoes for fun, just because why not. I would attach some photos, but I only took my analog camera with me to take photos for my photography class. Because you can actually take a photography class here (you could also take metalsmithing for that matter). So now I know how to develop black and white film, how to enlarge it and I have 24/7 access to the darkroom here on campus.
Since this year counts more like a gap year, I had the chance to take whatever classes I was interested in. Photography helps me to use my creative skills and relax a little, because otherwise – be prepared – the studying part is pretty tough. I’m reading at least 200 pages for every week, I’m constantly writing papers and I also have to join the discussions on class, because participation counts in your final grade. And by participation I don’t mean holding your hand up once, saying a sentence and be satisfied with yourself, but presenting your own arguments, defending them if needed and debating with the professor and the other students. All of this in English, possibly in a fairly sophisticated way. It’s tough, but I honestly think, that I’ve learned more here during this one month that I have at home during a whole year.
When I mentioned culture shock it wasn’t just about the actual studying part but also the social interactions. Getting lunch, do yoga or go out with people you fairly know is totally normal. Just get over your social insecurities and you can make friends easily. Especially if you join a club. Right now, although I’m not a club member anywhere, I’m volunteering at Cinestudio – a super cool cinema on campus – so I get to watch movies for free once a week. I usually also go the Women & Gender Resource Action Center’s Friday discussions. Also, showing up at random club’s events is fun and a good way to make friends; once Zsófi and I went to three different dinners on the same night just to try South American, Chinese and kosher food.
Anyway, I think this is it for today. We are going to Boston the next weekend, so be prepared for a lot of photos.