This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.
More than 1,300 international students from over 100 countries will be enrolled on campus this semester. Three of them sat down with The Daily Gamecock recently to discuss, among other things, their American holidays, party culture and Southern accents.
Here are excerpts from the interview with Bronte Chapman, a third-year criminal justice student from Brisbane, Australia, studying at Queensland University of Technology; Alexander Hamilton, a second-year business management student from Stockholm, Sweden, studying at Scotland’s University of Dundee; and Sandra Winkle, a third-year journalism student from Stuttgart, Germany, studying at the University of Bamberg.
The Daily Gamecock: What are you looking forward to the most about the semester or year here?
Chapman: Yeah, football. And, what’s it called? Tailgating.
Hamilton: Tailgating, yeah. I’m really looking forward to the whole social aspect. Meeting more Americans.
Chapman: Yeah, I’m looking forward to class so I can meet more Americans. They’ve organized activities with all the exchange students, which is also good, because we can meet people from all around the world.
Hamilton: Yeah, that’s also cool. I mean, we’ve mostly been meeting Americans while we’re out.
Chapman: Yeah, you meet them on your own.
Hamilton: I’m kind of looking forward to getting involved in some sports. I really want to start with something typically American.
Hamilton: Yeah. Or like, for instance, I think it’s probably pretty difficult to get into American football, but … maybe getting into some amateur basketball or something, or trying out baseball.
DG: Is there anything else that you’re like, “I’ve got to do this before I leave”?
Winkle: I’m looking forward to seeing Charleston because everyone’s telling me it’s so nice.
Hamilton: I’m kind of looking forward to festivities as well, because like Halloween for instance, is not a big deal. Halloween is totally not a thing in Europe. And also experiencing Thanksgiving will be kind of cool.
Chapman: I’ve never dressed up for Halloween. … I don’t even know what Thanksgiving is.
Hamilton: And also Christmas. Christmas is also probably celebrated a lot more (here) compared to in Europe. I’ll be in New York for Christmas. I’m pretty excited about the fact that we won’t have any snow for winter here either. It’s pretty rare, right?
Chapman: Yeah, isn’t it like an emergency when it snows, and you don’t have class?
DG: What do you miss about home so far?
Winkle: My family.
Chapman: Australia seems a lot more logical. Like, even our money is colored rather than all the same. And tipping, you don’t have to tip. I can’t get my head around tipping. Even kilometers and miles, and liters versus gallons, it’s just like, “What the hell?”
Hamilton: I actually had to ask at the gym, ‘Is this 45 kilos or 45 pounds?’
Chapman: I kind of miss knowing how to do stuff. Even ordering food.
Hamilton: And I’m sure when it gets warmer, I’ll miss the cold. It works that way — whatever you can’t have, you miss.
Winkle: I miss that I know what I’m doing, because every thing’s so new right now. I’m always doing things wrong.
Chapman: Some people are really nice and will help you out, but others just stare at you until you get it right.
DG: What are some cultural differences that stand out between here and home?
Winkle: The food is much more expensive here than in Germany, especially the healthy things.
Hamilton: Yeah, I guess it’s kind of like the Whole Foods level of healthiness is kind of the standard where I come from. (But here) you have to go to Whole Foods, and Whole Foods is pretty expensive.
Winkle: And what I really miss is the German bread.
*Hamilton: *Yeah, I miss the bread too. You can’t get decent bread — well, I guess you can get decent bread, but we have a more extensive bread culture. We get fresh bread …
Winkle: And it’s not so chewy. It’s crusty.
Chapman: You’re missing out.
Hamilton: Good bread is amazing. Yeah, I miss bread.
We’ve already mentioned like the hospitality element of the cultural differences. And to be honest, a big cultural difference I’ve noticed is the whole drinking culture and partying culture. Here it’s very strict, whereas it’s way more relaxed in Germany and Australia, and Sweden above all. So that’s a big deal. I wouldn’t say it’s frowned upon here, but …
Chapman: More on campus.
Hamilton: We were trying to wrap our heads around the dorm rules regarding alcohol and if we could party in our dorms. I mean, in my dorms in Scotland, you could never (get) arrest because it was just partying all the time and drinking your face off. So that’s another difference.
Chapman: Yeah, in Australia, the colleges (dorms) … would organize a big event and would invite other (dorms) to come and they would have a big party.
Hamilton: At home, we would probably be drunk by now. I guess a big part of socializing is drinking.
Chapman: I also actually think that everyone likes to exercise here. I see so many people running around in gym gear. I think in Australia we’re lazy, or people just don’t wear gym gear to uni. I actually can’t get my head around how many people, well, look like they’re doing exercise.
Hamilton: You can see that in the size of the gym, too. … That gives you an idea of how in demand it is.
Chapman: What I’ve gathered is that people eat whatever they want, but they exercise. In Australia, we kind of eat healthy and do less.
Winkle: Same in Germany.
Hamilton: And I think students in Europe do a lot more cooking than students here. I cooked three of my meals every day where I studied, and you can’t really do that here, especially not in Maxcy College.
Winkle: We cook, but I was surprised because my American roommates, they didn’t buy anything like pots or forks and knives, nothing. So that’s why I was just thinking that they maybe just buy their food on campus. And I don’t want to buy all that stuff because I’m leaving after one semester.
Hamilton: I’d say that at a similar size university in Europe, you’d have a lot more restaurants around. Because walking to Five Points is kind of far. There are a few restaurants there, but…
Chapman: Also, you wouldn’t want to go get dinner there by yourself because then you’d have to walk all the way back at night.
Hamilton: It’s like, I just want to grab something nice and healthy and cheap and take it back home, and not from Russell House.
None of us thought about walking alone, that it could be dangerous, so that’s totally different. What, we’re supposed to think of our safety when we’re out at, like, midnight?
Chapman: In Australia we have to think about our safety. But you kind of forget when you’re on campus and that’s where you’re living as well.
Hamilton: I’ve never even thought about that. It’s like, I guess I better watch out or something; I might get mugged.
Another cultural difference when it comes to university life is extracurricular activities. Like, just the fact that you’re working for a newspaper would be not very uncommon but certainly uncommon in Europe. The organizations and club life here is certainly more pronounced. You can find a club for anything here, whereas you would struggle to find clubs in Europe.
DG: Is there anything you would change about this place?
Hamilton: I don’t know my roommate that well, but maybe perhaps in a couple weeks I will get tired of him?
Chapman: I wouldn’t really change much.
Hamilton: Me either.
Chapman: I am happy that I knew people when I came here, because it would’ve been different if I didn’t know anyone. I like that there’s a hammock out there (on the Horseshoe) as well. Can anyone use that hammock? There’s always a hammock. … So that’s just like a normal thing?
DG: What’s your favorite part of American pop culture?
Winkle: “Big Bang Theory.”
Hamilton: It’s funny, because most domestic movies or films in Sweden are kind of very bad, so … the majority watches American movies and TV. So that’s something I enjoy quite a lot. But as it comes to music, I’d say it’s around 50-50 as far as American artists versus European artists, in Sweden anyway.
DG: Has there been any kind of language barrier for you here?
Winkle: I’m missing a lot of words, and I don’t like to talk in front of many people.
Hamilton: And the Southern dialect is kind of rough at times.
Chapman: Even I don’t understand them, and I speak English.
Hamilton: Yeah, so sometimes definitely language comes into play and it’s difficult for me to understand people. And they kind of look at you funny when you ask them what you said, and they raise their voice instead of just talking slower. It’s like, “Well I can hear you, but I don’t understand you.”