A massive hello and welcome to yet another blog post about my progress in the States!
Before I begin chatting away, I want to shout out the photo below. It’s a class photo of the International Students for the Fall Semester 2015, taken outside the JCU entrance. These people have made me feel so happy, so comfortable, and so free to be myself since I’ve begun my journey here in Ohio. <3
It’s Day 13 of my adventures, and it’s been wild, particularly at the weekend. Students began to celebrate ‘Streak Week’, which is a fantastic fun-filled week of student-orientated events hosted on campus. The purpose of it is to welcome freshmen to college and give them an opportunity to meet new people and familiarize themselves with the campus before classes start. This, of course, was the perrrrrrfect opportunity for the International crew and I to get loud, get loose, and go party.
The friends that I have made here, International and American alike, are definitely my vibe – They’re party people. Partying with them is an insightful experience, because you not only get to see their wilder side, but you also learn a lot about the culture and quirks being their social lives, and seeing how theirs compare to how you party hard back home. It’s funny really, considering our VISAs and the fact that the majority of us are underage in the US, that we still continue to party on. Living on the edge like this makes nights out so much more electrifying.
At the same time, being under 21 has never made me feel so young. It’s almost as if I’ve been time-warped back to my days as a 16-year-old trying to find herself in a sea of curious and experimenting teens, a time where obtaining alcohol was challenging and risky. On my first night in Ohio, kind new friends native to the area suggested that we went out to an underage bar to see a little of what Coventry, Ohio’s ‘totally dope’ district popular with college students, had to offer. The bar, City and East was not at all what I expected. Here’s what I posted, in my excitement and bafflement.
Not being able to buy a drink was such a weird feeling, considering I’ve been perfectly able to do it for a full two years now. What’s worse is that it’s like being like a kid in a candy shop, as I’m surrounded by new, exotic drinks that I’m deadly curious to try and verdict, but sadly, I’m restricted to quench my thirst for American alcohol culture. Instead, I’ve started to rock the All-American-White-Girl stereotype of loving Starbucks. Right now I’m totally loving the Caramel and Vanilla Frappachinos, which are available at the dangerously closely located Grasseli Library right here at JCU. They mightn’t have mastered my name just quite yet though. At home, everyone who’s anyone knows how precise I am about the accent placed over the vowels in my name. Here, that’s not even the issue. Here, I’ve heard abut a billion incorrect variations of how to mispronounce my name, ‘Shin-nay’, and ‘Sinn-ee-add’ being the most common. At least, I guess, some good came out of it though, as it landed me a new nickname – Sinae-Bae. And before you laugh, remember that ‘bae’ isn’t used ironically, or at least, not in this school.In fact, there are a lot of American slang words that I’ve continuously heard in passing. Eminem, probably the most American guy I’ve met here, has taught me how to get down with the lingo. Buzz words like ‘swag’, ‘rad’, ‘sick’, ‘dank’, and ‘stellar’ are words used to describe something that would be ‘class’ or ‘unreal’ back home, whereas the opposite would be ‘lame’. If someone’s your super close friend, you’d refer to them as ‘ya boy’. How you’d greet such a person is with something called a ‘dap’, which is basically like a nifty, snappy, casually-cool kind of hand shake. There’s also another pretty impressive greeting, called the ‘up top, down low, up top’, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Flirtiness can be referred to here is your ‘steeze’. Also, at parties, the term ”bout to get turnt’ , or ‘turnin’ up’ describes partying hard with no regrets. Another funny one is the use of the term ‘whip’ to describe a car (even though the term ‘ride’ is what I initially expected). When you haven’t done something in a while, you say I haven’t done something in ‘a minute’, or in a really long time, ‘a fat minute’. Instead of hanging out, you could use the term ‘ ’bout to kick it’. If you’ve got something ‘for days’, it would mean that you’ve got a lot of what you’re referring to. Trust me, these slang words and mannerisms are a lot cooler than you think. What makes me laugh is when an American tries out Irish slang – ‘SHOW ME YOUR SHITE!’ was a Khareem classic, when he was pretend-fighting. I literally couldn’t take him seriously, I was in stitches.
Rules regarding drinking are stricter than I expected. I’ve learned that even getting caught talking about alcohol-related occasions can get you into all sorts of trouble. Having posters in your dorms that suggest alcohol can get you into trouble. Having alcohol in your room is punishable, and drinking in your room can lead to suspension from college, and expulsion on second offence. It’s illegal to even carry alcoholic drinks in public here unless they are concealed, as I learned during an orientation meeting where we were told about a former International student who was caught holding a can of beer in public. He was just holding it as he made his was back to his dorm after a party, not disrupting anyone or being inappropriate in any way – Pretty harmless, right? The poor lad spent a few nights in prison, was sentenced to a court hearing, had to pay over 600 dollars in penalty fees, and was seen as a delinquent in the eyes of JCU, with high risk of losing his US J1 VISA. That’s waaaaaay too freakin’ harsh, if you ask me. However, if you know the right people around here, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on at least some form of social lubricant, be it alcohol, or anything else, for that matter.
The key to having a good time as an underage college student is a house party. I’ve experienced three kinds of house party so far – An intimate, chilled out gathering with only a handful of friends, a basement party with deep bass speakers and laser lights, and a banging, tune-filled, game-filled, dance-filled classic house party.
The intimate house party was an unexpected one. I think that’s how they should be. In this instance, a quick trip to WallMart (I got excited because I had never been to one) turned into cruising around University Heights, which turned into parking lot DMCs (for those of you who don’t know, this is an abbreviation for ‘deep meaningful conversation’), which turned into refreshments and beer pong, and a long night of getting to know people. What I loved about this was that I had only met these people that evening, but felt instantly comfortable to chill out with Zipp, Rach, and Alex, it must have been my intuition I guess! It didn’t even occur to me that I had missed the hypnotist that came to campus as part of the Streak Week activities, but it was totally worth it.
The basement house party reminded me so much of the underground warehouse raves back home. Because houses back home usually don’t have basements, it felt delightfully alien wandering around in nothing but the ominous glimmer of party lights.
In addition to my salsa skills, I’m pretty proud to announce that I’ve kinda taken up a new party dance trick – The Whip/ Nae Nae. I don’t know how or why this has been so prevalent during my time partying here, but it’s lead friends to battle in dance offs, it gets the whole crew dancing, and ultimately has made partying a heck of a lot more fun. Lo and Abelle in particular, two very strong, valiant dancing personalities, take their Whip/ Nae Nae very seriously! Check out the video and test it out for yourself! Can you Whip/ Nae Nae?
This week, we decided to take a little road tip to the woodlands of University Heights. Lead into the wilderness by the Khareem and his majestic trekking stick that somehow always finds him home, we lost ourselves to nature. Ohio is a surprisingly diverse habitat for squirrels, mice, wood rats, and deer. Even on campus, you’ll always catch a squirrel busying itself about a tree. The deer particularly interested me because I was impressed by how adapted they were to life in the city – They don’t shy away from people too easily, they maintain a gentle attitude regardless of the hustle and bustle of traffic, and they’ll always remain cautious when crossing roads by pausing and looking both ways before venturing across. As we explored the entirety of The Euclid Creek Nature Reserve, I began to think about the simple things in life. I mean, nature nurtured us, but an ‘environment’ consumed by iPhones, individuality tension, and eye brows, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of why we’re really here. Have we lost sight of ourselves in the concrete jungles of society? As we rock-hopped across the river to approach the busy road leading us back to campus, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the people zooming past this glorious reserve actually took time out of their society-saturated lives to think about the wider picture – That we’re all part of nature’s plan. Is our sight of the wider picture just as wobbly as the rocks along the river? Or are some just more indifferent than others to notice? Who knows. Sugar and Falls was next on our map. A beautiful town built upon a waterfall, Sugar and Falls oozed of sultry summer vibes in a quaint, simplistic, light-hearted environment. Famished from our previous exploring, we stopped off at an Italian spot for some food before visiting the waterfall. The waitresses at The Olive Garden were rose-blushed, sweet-smiling, happy-go-lucky people, assisting us with anything and everything. I was more than impressed – Until a friend pointed out that in America, the niceness is all for the sake of tips. I’m not going to lie here, I got a little disheartened. However, the food lifted me right back up into a delicious Italian dream. After an appetizer of freshly stone-baked garlic bread served with a side of extra virgin olive oil, we relished traditional Italian pizza glory, pizza of which was the best I have ever tasted (sorry Napolis!).
Dined up and food babies packed away, we made our way towards the waterfall. It’s worth mentioning that on our way, we took a quick detour to a little ice cream shop that is considered a little national treasure. Their ice cream is so good that it attracts visitors from all over America, including former president George Bush himself. Not sure how credible that is though, seeing as Sophie, my charming Spanish friend, found a hair in her ice cream. Hmmmmm *skeptical noises*.
The Falls were breath-taking. As you approached the banks, all you could hear was the sound of the thundering water, and the distant paddling of ducks along the less aggravated waters. Sitting there until the sun turned to misty dusk, I just enjoyed the company, the view, and the memories.I’ve made a few shameless visits to my new favorite shopping spot – Target. You can literally find everything under the sun here, pretty inexpensively and of high quality. What I find mind-boggling though is that everyone here drives. Americans are literally the laziest bunch of people I’ve ever known, as much as I love them and all. I mean, Target is about a breezy 10 minute walk from campus. Strangely, it horrifies any American when I mention that I plan to walk – They claim it’s too far away. What’s worse is how fatty, sugary, and salty food in the US is. Everything is heavily processed and produced to appeal to your taste buds, regardless of how unhealthy what you’re eating is. Aaaaaand on top of that, portions are super-sized. I mean, SUPER-sized. I was startled by the 2kg bag of Starbursts, the box of 24 packets of microwave popcorn, and the colossal tubs of Cheetos that are available readily at Target. So, just sending you all a word of warning, I’m fairly sure I’ll have gained a few pounds by the time I’m back. It’ll be painful, but I’ve already accepted this… Hehehe….
Classes are a whole lot smaller at JCU. They’re nothing compared to those lecture halls filled with a few hundred students like I’m used to, with only 8 people taking the same psychopharmacology class as me! Because it’s a private school, I guess that makes sense. I mean, you get more one-on-one attention with your lecturer, discussion in class is encouraged, and you get an opportunity to make friends fast.
Attendance is crucial towards your final grade at this college, and any absence must be documented and explained to a great length to avoid failing the entire class due to failure to attend accordingly. That’s so new to me, seeing as I’m the kind of student to skip a lecture here and there, especially the morning ones ( because I am seriously not a morning person), make threshold effort to meet my class requirements, and disappear into study seclusion for the last two weeks of a semester to cram as much as will fit in a stress-infested melt-down. Oh, and you want to hear the most lovely part about my academic life here? My classes are ALL morning classes, beginning as early as 8am. How delightful?! *sigh*
Walking through these halls feel all too familiar and all too alien, all at the same time. I guess because the weather’s so nice here at the moment, it still feels like summer so it’s hard to think that now is when the work begins. But, having said that, I’m super excited to get back to college, especially since, now, I’m in a whole knew setting and system.Strangely, there’s an Irish shop located about 2 minutes from campus. It sells all sorts of Irish knick-knacks there, like Aran Sweaters, Celtic Emblem carvings and pendants, Cadbury chocolate, Barry’s and Lyon’s Tea, County jerseys, tin whistles, leprechaun-related merchandise, prayer cards, Irish fairy statuettes, Waterford Crystal, and loads of other little bits. I actually ventured in there yesterday with my friend from Buffalo, Eminem, who has never even left Ohio before. He was completely fascinated by our culture, seeing his face light up at all the little items and touches that reminded me of home-made me feel a sense of belonging and pride to be an Irish girl. I even found a name card with my name on it in there, and that’s saying something because I can never find my name on anything, ever. Sinead originates in Hebrew language and means “God is merciful”, according to the card, and it’s an Irish form of Jane, Jeannette, and Jennifer. For Lo, Mike, and I, the three Irish kids on the block, The Irish Trading Company shapes up as such a sweet taste of home, regardless of the ridiculous prices in there. Maybe we’ll just stick to window shopping for us right now, considering all the wonderful things America has to offer that we would rather to spend our money on.
If I had to choose a soundtrack to wrap up my experiences so far, I’d have to whittle it down to three songs:
1. “Lean On” – Major Lazer
For all the times I’ve lounged out in the sun with this song in my head, or that I’ve belted the lyrics of at parties.
2. “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap.
This has played at every party, so it’s pretty integral. My suite-mate Lo is totally jamming on this too, so it’s always playing during our time at home. Gangstering out has never been so much fun!
3. “Ohio” – Damien Jurado
For all the times I’ve people watched, wandered around, breathed in the fresh essence of an American summer’s day, and appreciated the perfect place that surrounds me. I can’t help but wonder, how much am I going to miss this place come December 19th?
I’ll leave it here, and continue on my journey. I’m sitting in sunshine right now, I’ll have to make the most of it before the infamous Ohio winter starts to roll in. I’ll keep you all posted!
….Hold on, there’s just one more quick thing – I dyed my hair a dark cherry color! I guess my red hair was turning too orange for mt liking, and considering that I’m already tanning at a fairly rapid rate, I had to change it up!
Sending you all kisses and cuddles,
Best wishes, and good luck Lovelies,