Before most international students go to study abroad, we all talk about the culture shock we’re going to face in a country far from home. But something which most people don’t talk about is the ‘popular culture shock’ many international students face in the United States.
When you first talk to Americans, most conversations are about your home country and how you’re dealing with this new environment. But after that point, you don’t have a whole lot to talk about, other than classes and life back in your home country. Embracing American culture and participating in American tradition and customs, gives you so much more to talk about. Being aware of current global events, American sports, media, and popular culture can often prove to be a building block in long-lasting friendships.
For instance, most international students have absolutely no idea what American football is. Although the sport may seem rather vague, the key is to reach out and ask questions. Trust me, it’s more than just a few guys bashing into each other. When I went to the Welcome Week Minnesota Golden Gophers game against the Oregon State Beavers, I was clueless for almost the entirety of the first half. A couple of hours into the game, I realized that I wasn’t doing myself any favors and asked a few American students about the game, and they were happy to explain its concepts to me. Incidentally, one of the guys I asked, is now a good friend of mine and I ended up going to a few more games with him later in the year.
Hockey is a huge sport in Minnesota and our team is one of the best in nation. So definitely go and watch some of those games at the Williams Arena.
Side Note: Football games at TCF Bank Stadium are super fun. Yes, the games can be uncharacteristically long but the atmosphere is incredible and I highly recommend going to at least one game in your first year here at the U.
Talking about TV shows and movies is another amazing conversation starter. The fact that I watch sitcoms like Parks & Recreation and The Office has proved to an amazing ice-breaker on countless occasions. And students who live in residence halls get free HBO Go!
And lastly, don’t be afraid or shy to approach people and ask questions. Try not to think about getting embarrassed or facing rejection because most of the times they also want to get to know you and they don’t know how to start a conversation with you either!
So, to summarize, go watch some sports games, binge on HBO Go and don’t be afraid to talk.