More than three months – and the first finals coming soon!

This is one of my first posts in here, I am not sure if anyone read about me before. I am enjoying my year at Fountain Valley School of Colorado, in Colorado Springs. We live close to the Rocky Mountains and fantastic ski areas like Breckenridge and Keystone, which open great opportunities for our ski team, which I am in now.

The first quarter is over, and I can already tell that I learned a lot of new things and improved a lot in all academics, athletics and personality this year. I started to play the guitar, having never ever tried before, I became a decent western horse rider after never having dealt with horses before. I started to take a wonderful Ceramics class. I never thought I was good in arts, so I am really surprised of what talent I have in me. I started taking voice lessons, and even auditioned for Colorado All-State Choir. I learned how to live and share a room with someone who I never met before. Dorm life is great!

What I especially like about my school is the location of our Campus: Colorado is probably the most scenic state out there, and our Campus offers a great view onto Pikes Peak. The Campus is huge (1,100 acres = 4.5 square kilometers) and I love going for a run out in the prairie. It is really warm and dry up here (we still do not have snow, and it does not seem to get colder within the next days).

Thanksgiving break just ended today, and I had a great time, staying in three different families. Especially Thanksgiving day was great, we had a huge party with 36 people, celebrating two birthdays and a proposal besides Thanksgiving. I learned how to fry a turkey, how to eat a lot, and I now understand the basic rules of football. Living with different families and getting to know so many new people teaches me a lot about how to get to know people, and that asking for help is always the right approach to solve problems in America.

Although I find American people to be very open and welcoming, I experience some cultural differences that sometimes really bother me, because it can be hard to understand and live with those things: I believe a life is made out of small things, so the small differences bother me. In my point of view, America is made out of islands. Many islands. My school is an island, and McDonalds is one, Walmart is one, and every house is one. In between, there is: Nothing. Only roads. There are not many parks, and nearly no public transportation. If you don’t have a car, you are stuck here. And since cars here are incredibly inefficient, I can not see any advantage in this system. I miss going somewhere by foot, or by bike, by bus or by train. Americans would see this as discomfort. But most of us international students would see a walk to a bus station being the necessary time to relax, for example. Though it slows life down, it makes us more productive and efficient. What also bothers me is seeing all my classmates applying to college, and the immense pressure that parents put on them. Getting into College here is something you need to do if you want to stay friends with your parents. Though the tuition will make your family poor.

Here are some funny cultural differences that I experienced:

  • In American houses, you would not use the front door to enter the house, but most likely you would enter through the garage. That is why Americans keep their shoes and jackets close to their garage door.
  • Bathroom doors have no locks. If it is closed, it is occupied. If it is not, then come in. And make sure you leave the door open after you are done! You better think twice before you open the bathroom door, because someone might be in there, but maybe the wind just shut it. No lock will tell you. And it is interesting: I feel weird using a bathroom without being able to lock it, but it is just trusting each other, which is good. Though I already saw family members walking into each other.
  • Families open their house to each other: If you have a friend over or you are over at your neighbor’s house, you would just walk up to the fridge and take something if you are hungry. Where I am from, you would never even think about looking into someone else’s fridge without asking.
  • Here, you keep guns. Everywhere. Even in places children can reach them. And they are loaded. Wow.
  • There are nearly no front loader laundry machines here. And those upright one’s people use here waste water and don’t wash your clothes very well.
  • You would buy a t-shirt in a bigger size, because: You will put it in the dryer, and it will shrink. That is also why most people here do not fit in their clothes.
  • … and there is a lot more (lets not talk about how houses are built out of wood only)

All those experiences let me think see my own country in a completely different light. I am proud of my home country, and everything we accomplished. And I am proud of having the comparison. People who have never travelled to another country would never have such an amazing point of view. Thank you, ASSIST!

More: My own blog, in German: MatthiasFVS