“What dorm do you live in?”
“I’m thinking about changing my major.”
“Sic em Bears!”
These are some common questions and phrases students say on a typical American university campus. The U.S. is unique in this way. European university students would likely smirk or raise a brow if someone said these phrases.
In the short time I have been studying at Corvinus University of Budapest, I have already observed several differences from my school, Baylor University.
Dorms or Flats
At Baylor, just like at universities all over the U.S., students commonly live in on-campus housing or “dorms” at some point during their college career. Dorms are a huge part of creating campus community. I experienced a smooth transition into college life by living in a dorm with a roommate. In contrast, European university students typically live in off-campus residences or “flats.” The university is primarily used to house academic classes rather than students. The traditional American dorm is seldom seen at European universities.
A foreign concept to European universities is the beloved bookstore. Just about every university in the U.S. has a bookstore fully stocked with not just books, but university spirit wear and memorabilia. The walls of the Baylor bookstore is covered floor to ceiling with men’s and women’s apparel of all kinds, splashed with green and gold as well as stamped with the interlocking BU. This leads to hundreds of walking advertisements for Baylor.
The Corvinus bookstore, located in the 19th-century “Old Building,” is connected to a small coffee shop. It, indeed, carries books. And it does, technically, carry university apparel. When I walked in to look for a Corvinus keepsake to take back home, I found very little. Instead of wall-to-wall spirit wear, I only found a white T-shirt and a red zip-up hoodie with the school logo modestly placed in the upper left corner.
Speaking of spirit wear, “spirit” is likely unheard of at European universities. U.S. universities are obsessed with student welfare, according to our Baylor professor Maxey Parrish. Creating school spirit and facilitating student activities are massive concerns of university officials. Baylor has a Department of Student Activities just for this purpose. It’s confusing to Europeans and even quite comical that we put such an emphasis on athletics and school spirit.
Flexibility with Degree Plans
U.S. students change their majors all the time with ease. I changed my major three times before stepping foot on campus and then once more at freshman orientation. European students don’t have it so easy.
Laura Catherine Wilson, an American studying at University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, said “Most uni’s are three years and you have to drop out and reapply if you want to change your major.” Clearly, choosing the right degree plan early on is essential for students in Europe.
At the end of the day, there is not a right or wrong way to run a university. These differences, and so many others, add to the unique culture of Europe and the United States. However, I’ll always be proud to say “Sic em Bears,” even if Europeans giggle at me.