As you may or may not know, I attended an American high school which means I was already exposed to the American school culture before coming on exchange. In my opinion, the “college culture” is simply an extension of this high school culture. In saying that, it’s still vastly different from the culture back home in Auckland, so I thought I’d write this blog to give you an idea of what it is like over here.
Right of the bat, I’m going to say that the school spirit is contagiously high here at UC Berkeley. In fact, I genuinely don’t think you could go anywhere on campus without seeing a sculpture of the Golden Bear, people in blue and yellow merchandise, Berkeley stickers or even just hearing someone say “Go Bears”! Even the bathrooms here, all have the “Cal” logo on their soap dispensers which I find comical even now after being here for more than three months.
As you all have probably seen in movies, the school spirit at college is tremendous during football games. Unfortunately, football games only happen during the fall semester which is during the second half of the year and I’m on exchange during the Spring semester. None the less, I have still been able to experience a portion of this excitement at a basketball game I attended which was against Stanford (our biggest rivals). It was definitely very exciting to be a part of such a passionate crowd!
Apart from the school spirit, I have also noticed other cultural differences that I don’t think I would have ever encountered at the University of Auckland. I think the best way to sum it up, is that the community at Berkeley is very understanding and accepting of all people. They work hard to create an inclusive and comfortable environment. To illustrate, it’s a common practice here at Berkeley to include your preferred pronouns (she, her, hers or he, him, his) when introducing yourself.
I have also noticed that the Berkeley culture encourages people to talk about their feelings with one another and acknowledge how certain things make them feel. This was especially prominent during the Golden Bear Orientation.
The most common example of this was an activity that I encountered many a times wherein we were all given various descriptions, and if we fitted the description we were asked to stand up (if we felt comfortable doing so) and then we had to “notice who’s standing, notice who’s not, and notice how we feel” before sitting back down. And although this sounds like a minor activity it actually got me actively thinking about things I didn’t even know I could think about so deeply.
Another thing I would like to point out is how open-minded people are over here. Whether it be about a new idea or about other people, Berkeley truly is very accepting of everyone and everything.
So yes, even though America is an English-speaking country, there are still prominent cultural differences that have stuck out to me and broadened my horizons about things I hadn’t actively thought about before.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to flick me an email.
Thanks for reading 🙂