It was one day last week when I found myself with two spare hours after my class was cancelled, something I have learnt happens frequently here. Rather than head back to my apartment, I decided to take a walk around campus in search of something exciting. Heading out into the quad I was first attracted to a party the local radio station was hosting as a way to encourage students to get involved with the school’s numerous clubs and organizations. While listening to the music, I was approached by two girls recruiting for their sorority, an older gentleman and his young daughter trying to convert students to Christianity and two petitioners. One was gathering signatures for the legalization of marijuana and the other for legal sanctions against the police for a recent shooting. Meanwhile, local clothing chain Anchor Blue had set up a tent near the bookstore and was selling their leftover merchandise. As I continued to walk, I discovered that the fast food and coffee joints on campus seem to outnumber the school buildings. It was the absurd and eclectic experience I had hoped for and I was grateful to have not been sitting in my developmental psychology class.
I don’t know about the rest of the Concordia population, but I spent the better part of the last two years doing little other than studying. Having avoided most campus activities and events, I became tired of being sober and uninvolved in extra-curricular activities. Then, last December, a Sunday rerun of National Lampoon’s Van Wilder inspired me to make the best of my college experience and encouraged me to apply for an exchange with Concordia International.
Unlike the herds of people who venture across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a rewarding university experience, I applied to California State University in Fullerton, Calif. The small suburb of 125,000 people is located 12 minutes north of Disneyland and is home to five post-secondary institutions including one community college, two comprehensive universities, a law school and school of optometry. This means that the majority of the city’s population is college students, with CSUF alone counting 36,000 students.
I wanted to become one of them in the hopes of having a true American college experience, or rather the one we are exposed to in TV shows, movies and rapper Asher Roth’s song “I Love College.” And so far I can say, Fullerton has provided me with an experience comparable to the exaggerated precedent set by Hollywood.
With a one-location campus that feels eight times the size of Loyola, there are many facilities and events. The school boasts a student recreation center, complete with state-of-the-art exercise, dance and training facilities, a rock climbing wall and swimming pool where parties are thrown weekly and where movie nights are held poolside several times a month. Also on campus are soccer fields, football fields, volleyball courts, basketball courts and baseball diamonds which are host to CSUF’s nightly sporting events and tailgate parties that are all the rage. The school’s student union houses a disco bowling alley, billiards room and gaming room where parties are held every Saturday night.
So far, I have attended an array of interesting events including one disco bowling party (surprisingly fun), one pizza dinner (Pizza Hut is way better in the U.S.) and one baseball game (CSUF Titans won!) I have also gone to three college parties and though I am a little hazy on the details, my advice to you all is that 750ml of vodka is way too much for one night. And while the parties are not as crazy as depicted in Hollywood productions, they are way better than the ones I attended in Montreal though that could be on account of the warm Californian weather.
Aside from crazier parties and a super-equipped campus, CSUF’s education style is noticeably different than Concordia’s with professors acting more informal. In one of my first classes, we spent half the class introducing ourselves and sharing our summer adventures. Then, I had one teacher tell us that because she doesn’t get paid enough, rather than writing essays, we simply have to buy the book she authored so she can get royalties. She also warned us not to cheat because she was uninterested in filling out the crazy amount of paperwork necessary to file a complaint.
The school also operates under the philosophy that exams should be administered frequently and with minimal material. Thus, I have four exams a semester in every class, which works out to an exam after every 6 classes. Though I quickly became accustomed to the casualness and the frequent examinations, one thing I found completely bizarre was that we have to buy our own Scantron sheets and writing booklets for exams. If we forget to do so, the professor will sell them for double the bookstore price. At CSUF, professors are also known to give “reverse pop quizzes,” where a professor has you study for a scheduled test and instead of administering the exam he gives you full marks and proceeds with the next lecture. In other words, simply knowing we had studied was enough.
In the past few weeks, I have learnt a great deal , like regulated school events can be just as wild as non-school events and that as long as it’s part of a game of beer pong, warm beer tastes fine. At CSUF, I never know what to expect next; from my professors, from my peers and even sometimes from myself. And though my perspective on the typical college experience has been radically changed, thanks to this exchange I finally understand Van Wilder’s perspective and why Asher Roth said: “I love college, do I really have to graduate or can I just stay here for the rest of my life?”