8 Weird Things About College In America (From the Perspective of a French Student)

As a French international student coming from Paris to Boston, I was expecting a culture shock in college. However, it’s not just the food or the language that surprised me …

1. People wandering around in pajamas and flip-flops and going to class wearing sweatpants.

Such a disturbing sight for a French person.

The number one thing that I find so funny and interesting about college in America is students walking around in pajamas and flip-flops or slippers. Where I come from, people feel obligated to dress nicely, especially when going to class. I sometimes find myself staring at a classmate wearing sweatpants, but it’s only because I am amazed at how cool it is to be laid back in school. And it seems like I’m slowly getting used to it because I started walking around in West Campus in slippers while FaceTiming my friends!

2. The crazy school spirit.

How funny is the BU Terrier though?!

In America, people wear college gear from head to toe, everywhere, all the time. Red sweaters, t-shirts, leggings, caps, and even SOCKS that say, “Terrier Nation”, “Boston University”, “BU,” or “Go Terriers”. But it’s nice to go into the city of Boston and recognize fellow Terriers rocking our red colors. And I can’t say I haven’t hopped on the trend: I am contributing to Barnes and Noble’s prosperity by buying BU mugs, stickers, sweatshirts and phone cases for every one of my French friends.

3. Living in a dorm.

I still have nightmares from the yellow carts of move-in day.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my roommate (hi Dani!), but at first I was very anxious to go from a single room in my family’s apartment to a small, shared dorm with someone I didn’t know as well and a bathroom used by more than 30 people. Living in a dorm means having little-to-no privacy, but it’s also a wonderful way to become friends with the people you live with. You get to host and attend dozens of endless sleepovers where you meet so many amazing people (hello Brownstones friends!). In the end, I think I would have missed out on a lot if I lived in a small apartment off-campus like French students usually do.

4. Being undecided about your major.

Maybe … Maybe not …

In France, students have to know what career they would like to have in high school in order to choose a specific curriculum and then specialize in a relevant subject from their first year in university. In America, a lot of students come to college as “undecided” and take a bunch of classes to explore their interests before committing to a major. Even then, they can choose a double-major and a minor, which gives them plenty of options. As an international student, it feels weird to tell your friends from home that you are taking a lot of different and original courses. Nevertheless, it is actually incredibly exciting and liberating to know that you can make mistakes and take your time to find your way in college. There is less pressure and more opportunities to learn new things relevant to your interests and not just to your future job.

5. Alcohol.

I’m gonna need more wine to deal with midterms.

In France, the legal age to drink is 18, as opposed to 21 in the U.S. Of course, American college students still drink, but they hide bottles in the weirdest places, when French students would casually walk around with beers.

6. The size of college campuses.

In France, since most students live off-campus, our campuses are small and only consist of a few buildings for classes. But, in America, campuses are huge: Boston University has seven subway stops! Students spend most of their time on campus, where there are multiple sports cafeterias and dining halls, gyms, stores, laundromats, the university’s own bookstore, etc. Getting from your dorm in West campus to your class in East campus can take up to 30 minutes if you walk!

7. Stores and libraries being open 24/7.

As I am writing this article in the library in the middle of the night, there are people doing a headstand competition next to me.

Even though dining halls close pretty early, a lot of places such as study lounges and libraries remain open at night on a college campus. I love being able to study and have cookies delivered to my dorm at 2 AM!

8. The passion for sports.

The support for BU’s hockey team is insane.

In America, people are passionate about their university’s sports teams and they wouldn’t miss a sports game for anything! In Paris, my high school didn’t have a sports team or a mascot, so my first time taking pictures with Rhett and cheering on the Terriers sports teams was very exciting!

Overall, I am so glad I chose to study in the U.S. and I am so excited for all the weird American things the next four years are going to bring!

Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!