Why don't you like the USA
January 21, 2020
Many have countless clichés in their heads when they think of the USA - and only rarely have an idea of what it really is like to spend a semester abroad there. I have collected the most frequently asked questions here - and of course I will answer them.
Why to America of all places?
This question is asked either by particularly adventurous fellow students who spend their semester abroad in Kazakhstan or Kuala Lumpur or by certain members of the family who only eat fatty food in America ("and that's how you want to eat for half a year ?!") and fanatical politicians ("I wouldn't want to go there at the moment!") think. And yes, it's true, there may be more exotic destinations than the US and the country has actually been losing popularity in recent years, also because of Trump and the political climate. But: the USA is despite - or just because of - these times as fascinating as never before. Hardly any other country is as diverse as the USA - from snow-capped mountains in Colorado to tropical beaches in Hawaii to bizarre desert landscapes in Arizona and crystal-clear lakes in Michigan - you will find everything here. Hardly any other country is so multicultural. In the USA there is also hip city life and traditional cowboy ranching as well as regional football hype and big festivals with influences from different nations and religions. Hardly any other country is historically, politically and economically so closely linked to Germany. Hardly any other country has so many excellent universities and such a pronounced college life. And hardly any other country is changing and reinventing itself as much as the USA. This is exactly what makes the USA so exciting, so interesting - right now! But to really understand America, to really explore America, you have to in Americawith Americans Life. And that works best during a semester abroad.
Aren't American universities insanely expensive?
Compared to Germany: yes. American universities cost a lot of money. Life on campus too. And you want to celebrate and travel too. For a semester you should plan between 10,000 and 25,000 euros. That is much. But: many German universities have great partner universities in the USA, at which the study costs are then waived. And if you - like me - want to go to an American college as a freemover, there are many more financing options than many people know. A large number of scholarships are available and there is the option of applying for travel grants or foreign BaföG. In addition, as a German student in the USA you can work up to 20 hours a week with the right visa. When you combine these possibilities, the semester abroad in America will still not be a cheap, but at least affordable pleasure.
Do you have enough time to travel?
Clearly: yes! The workload at US colleges is higher than at German universities and the two large exam phases in the semester in particular may not be particularly suitable for traveling, but there is enough time on (long) weekends to explore the country. During the orientation week, you usually quickly get to know many other international students who are also hungry for travel and looking for fellow travelers. I've also found that many Americans like to show strangers their homeland and like to invite you to their home for the weekend or to take a jaunt through the area. Extra tip: see if the International Center offers cheap trips for exchange students or join an outdoor club like the one at my university. There is an association like this at almost every major university in America and it is perfect for getting to know many fellow students who love to travel and for making extremely cheap trips (for example, I only paid 50 dollars for a long weekend in Canada). For example, during my semester in the USA I went camping in Indiana, camping on Lake Michigan and surfing in California. I took a city trip to Chicago, a second to Los Angeles, and a road trip to Canada, and I've been to countless national parks and cities in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.
Is the semester abroad really as cool as it looks on Instagram?
No not always. Because of course: on Instagram you tend to only capture the absolute highlights. The best trips, the most beautiful places on campus, the coolest parties. But of course there are ups and downs. Maybe even more or more intensely felt lows than at home. The initial euphoria often disappears, especially after the first few weeks, and everyday life sets in. And with it often: homesickness (fortunately hardly for me). The feeling of being a stranger. A messed up exam. More and more things that initially seem new and exciting and now just annoying. The constant friendliness of Americans, for example. Or the obligatory small talk at the supermarket checkout. Or the gigantic waste of food in America, the enormous consumption of plastic, or simply the fact that there is no sparkling water and no wholemeal bread - and nobody, really nobody, understands your longing for it. But: that is part of it - and with a little distraction it goes away by itself. And to be honest, that's how you really appreciate the many, many beautiful things in the semester abroad.
Is college life like in the movies?
Yes!!! With three exclamation marks. If you're studying in America, you'll be cheering on your football team with 80,000 fellow students in the university stadium on Saturday morning (even if you don't like football). You will drink cheap beer from red plastic cups at sprawling fraternity parties and with every sip you will immerse yourself deeper in "Greek Life" (the union of American student associations). You will sit around the campfire at night in summer, toast “smores” - that is, marshmallows with chocolate and shortbread cookies - and sing “Country Roads”. You'll move on to wearing sweaters, socks, or even earrings with your university's logo on it almost every day and won't find it weird. You will meet your university mascot on the way to class, eat in the huge cafeterias and most likely even share a room (with bunk beds, university symbols on the wall and maybe even the sock on the doorknob from many college films). You will - hopefully - live on campus and if you are lucky you will only need a minute to get to the lecture halls. You will join countless uniclubs, meet a thousand new people, and eventually make real friends. In short: yes, it's like in the movies. Maybe even a little better.
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