My name is Velvet, I am a 3rd year Business and Events Management Major from Lismore, SCU currently studying at University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass) for Fall session 2016.
Life here in America is great, it’s a cultural experience that I couldn’t have experienced in any other way than an exchange! The college dorms are exactly what you have always seen on movies, at first it’s different sharing a room with another person but soon enough they become a big part of your experience and you couldn’t imagine not having your roommate! The door is always open, so it’s easy to make friends and they drop by all day and say hello, it’s really community focused – and honestly, it’s so much fun living with all your friends! I’m here in the Fall season, so the New England area of America is even more beautiful, the trees turn shades of reds and oranges with yellows and greens, it’s really a sight! People also decorate their houses for fall with wreaths on the door and pumpkins in the front yard.
Transportation here at UMass is easy, there are buses leaving for Amherst town every 15 mins and buses to larger shopping complexes with stores like Walmart and Target every 45 mins (they are really handy shops!). Luckily, some of my friends have cars so we have recently jumped the border and visited Montreal, Canada over a long weekend which was amazing as I’ve never been to Canada! We also spent a day at Six Flags New England which is a great theme park about 45 mins away – major shopping centres like Holyoke Mall are close by and buses go there daily too!
I’ve saved best until last, the people! You come to America to embrace the American culture and learn how they live in all aspects. The people here are wonderful, everyone is very polite and so excited to get to know you once they find out your Australian. The accent is definitely easy to pick up too, I have started to accentuate the ‘R’ in all words (I don’t mean too!) so now words like: before, forever, weird, sure - I say them very different now! Everyone is extremely welcoming and sweet, at UMass especially, holding the door is a huge thing so if you’re going through a door you must keep it open for the person behind you, everyone will say ‘bless you’ if anyone sneezes (so I try to remember to do it too). We use different words for certain things like they say trash, we say bins, they say comforter, we say doona etc. but just remember to embrace this and be interested to take on the words too and custom yourself.
Like anywhere, it’s really hard at first and it took me about 6 weeks to feel completely comfortable, there will be times in the early stages where you will think ‘hmm should I have done this?’ but I promise that you should have! The beginning is hard while you get used to it all and culture shock can hit at any time and for me, I am always home sick! Soon enough you will feel great about the situation and have wonderful friends to spend your time with – I am now feeling sad when I think about the fact I have to leave everyone and say goodbye!
--Velvet Yatras, Southern Cross University (University of Massachussetts - Amherst), 2016