I have been at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the United States of America for a little bit more than a month. Right from the start of the semester I recognized that a lot was handled differently than in Switzerland. Some differences are more relevant and impactful, such as there being only 20 to 30 students per class, others are minor like Americans tend to eat earlier than people in Switzerland.
A major difference to college life at home is that getting involved in the community is almost mandatory. These communities can be at a lot of different places. For example, I live in a typical college dorm with a roommate and about 50 to 60 others on the same floor. Responsible for us are two individuals who are trained for emergencies to help us and guide us to the right place. They are called Residence Advisors (RAs). But they also help the residents of the floor to get to know each other with a lot of different activities. We painted bricks that can be used as doorstoppers, there was the week of a random act of kindness and most recently there was a tournament for the best movie on Netflix. On top of that there are floor meetings, where everybody comes together and discusses a certain topic. Every floor in every residence hall on campus has that system and since every student has to live on campus for at least a year, every student has that experience.
Then, there are communities for your interests. At the start of the year was a day when all the clubs, which are all run by students, can present themselves and where students can sign up for certain clubs. I personally joined the “International student association (ISA)” and the club for all the geography students since I am a geography major student. In total there are more than 120 clubs in the university which you can join. These clubs meet regularly and also organize a lot of activities like picnics, pumpkin carving and and so on. These events are also often combined with free food. The ISA club is one of the bigger clubs on campus, which allows them to do more things like a trip to the Six Flags theme park or to the Wisconsin Dells, which is a water park. Those clubs are not as big as they are here than at the University of Bern. There is the “SUB” club in Bern and every faculty has his own association, but they are definitely not as big as they are here. And the percentage of students who are in a club is definitely higher here.
Another way to get involved in a community is to volunteer for any number of activities. This can involve gardening, serving in a dining hall or helping at an event. This is also very popular here. I volunteered for the “International Fair”, where I sat at the stand of the University of Bern and talked to a lot of students who are interested in studying abroad. Mostly, the organizer provides free food for the volunteers, which I think helps gaining volunteers.
All in all there are a lot of opportunities to get involved with other people and within your community. And because there are so many possibilities the University actively supports and promotes these opportunities. I had to get used this kind of college life which isn’t just about going to classes. But I think I did a good job adapting and getting involved in a lot of different things. I can improve my English language skills by getting to know a lot more people and by doing things I like to do.