Having never attended a big American university (they call it college for some reason), there are certain things I don't "get." I did my undergrad in Canada where college sports are not a big deal. They're not on the news and no one goes to watch unless you know someone on the team. Sororities and frats are also not as common and at my school not allowed. In general there are a lot of things that take place in American schools that are unheard of in Canada. I did my masters at an American state run comparatively low budget university where most students worked and commuted to school so there wasn't much of a big school atmosphere. So, things I don't get include definitions of words like "frosh" or "pledge." It wasn't until recently that I really understood what the heck a frat/sorority was about. To me it was an exclusive system of arbitrary friendships and a whole bunch of kids living in some gigantic house. Apparently I wasn't too far off but there are things like charity work and stuff that they take part in and the systems are entrenched in all this tradition etc etc. OK so I sort of get it and now I secretly want to take part in one of their little parties so I can say I did.

The other thing that is still a complete mystery to me is this whole idea of homecoming. Apparently this also happens in high schools. It's associated with a football game, marching bands (also uncommon in Canada), the crowning of a king/queen (in high school), and some sort of celebration. At UW there is a big banner announcing homecoming. There will be a rally, football game, "dawg" sled contest (students turning Costco shopping carts into dog sleds I think), scavenger hunt and a bunch of other activities. I really don't get it. Who is coming home and what the hell is being celebrated? What does football have to do with it and why do high schools crown a king and queen? Could you Americans enlighten me?

And how come we don't get to do all this fun celebratory stuff in Canada? Schooling seems so much less eventful there. The only fun thing I remember was Finals Fantasy parties but those were not hosted by the school. UBC's departmental beer gardens and outdoor concerts were pretty cool though.


Anonymous said...

I think that schools in British Columbia are a lot more conservative than that schools in the East. You know that I went to McGill - there they have a big Frosh week (excuse to get drunk and collect free stuff), at least one sorority and one fraternity (pay to make friends and live in a filthy house), and they had an annual big football event based on the McGill-Queens rivalry. We also had tons of Pub crawls, and lots of Wine & Cheese events throughout the school year for each department.
I guess my point is is that I found two distinct lifestyles between the West and East coast of Canada. Perhaps it's because schools in the East are older and steeped more in 'tradition'? Come to think of it, I think McGill had a problem with being a party-school and some people were caught doing illegal hazing events....

Robyn said...

oh my god! you don't know what homecoming is!? i think it's called that b/c alumni go back for the game. when i was in high school, they chose for the homecoming game one that we were pretty guaranteed to win. i hven't participated in college homecoming so i don't really know.

i know what you mean about frats though. they are not big in hawai'i either. i went to like... one frat party i think. i defintiely understand how you would want to experience it (sort of like how you need to drink 'til you puke at least once in life).

oh, uh more craziness about frats/sororities: my husband said that one of his students (at a competitive public midwestern university) claims her mother wouldn't pay for college unless she a (or maybe a certain?) sorority. kookoo!!

so what is finals fantasy? i guess it's not related to the video game.

Egan said...

Homecoming is an odd American thing. It's kind of lame if you ask me, but it's wildly popular. However it much more of a big deal in high school than college. For the UW I think it's a great excuse to raise money and meet up with students.

College: a general term for any schooling after high school.

University: a specific college one attends.

Note: the U.S. and Canada vary dramatically in the usage of these two terms. Sample US sentence: When I was in college I used to party it up on weekends.

"Really, I hear that's a great univerity, what did you think of it?".

Sandra said...

That's right about homecoming in high school being a big deal. In "college" it's mainly the fraternities and the sororities that take part in those festivities. They crown a Homecoming King and Queen in college too. It's different in high school because the King and Queen in high school are based on a popularity contest, whereas the King and Queen in college are chosen because student groups usually nominate a boy and a girl and those boys and girls get together and some unknowns have an election that the student body may/may not be aware of.

I spent some time in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, and London they definitely have frats and sororities.

Van said...

OK so homecoming is the coming home of alumni. Interesting. I bet there's some interesting history behind that whole tradition. I wonder how frats and sororities are different in Canada v USA. All I know is that it all sounds like a lot of fun and it seems like I really missed out doing my undergrad in western Canada. Thanks for all the info!

Robyn said...

I thought the difference between colleges and universities was that colleges are smaller so like you have... (ok after a search) Dartmouth College, Amherst College, Smith College, but you have University of Washington, University of California, etc. Cuz there are also like College of Arts and Sciences, etc. within the universities. Ok, I'm not really sure about this... maybe there are different definitions.

Van said...

But the thing is Americans generally say, "back in college" and that is a generic reference to a university or college, big or small. In Canada, "college" is ONLY used to refer to junior/community college. Those places where kids go to learn trades, take 2 year diplomas, or transfer to a 4 year university.

Robyn said...

hrm... maybe college is like a generic term and university is more specific... like... universities are a subset of colleges?