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My Immigration Story - Chapter 2

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

September 06, 2015. The week was packed with activities. We had the first house party of the semester. I later learned that there are really only house parties in college, no clubs. Why? because in America you can't drink until you are 21. I was never too big on alcohol, but it was in fact a weird obstacle. Coming to the US at the age of 20 already being able to legally drink for two years, to suddenly go back to being under-aged. And to think that my classmates won't be able to legally drink until their senior year of college (because they are 18). We'll get back to Americans' drinking habits later.

The house party was very casual. It was a scene I learned to enjoy. The scene is the "Swim House" (where four or five teammates live), alcohol, loud rap music, and people leaning against furniture and trying to yell/talk in each other's ear to have conversations. The song Broccoli (feat. Lil Yachty) will forever remind me of the college house party scene. That song was a culture shock of its own. It sounded like a language I couldn't understand.

Two days later we had a "Talgait" event, another term to become a staple in my "college-student-vocabulary". It wasn't until later that year that I realized it is related to a big game that is happening. The Tailgate was another cute scene that I learned to get familiar with: parking lot, open cars with blasting music, hot dogs, cheap burger patties, basic beer, picnic benches, people wearing their favorite sport-fan march, and lots of American flags. The tailgate is not discriminating to age. There are teenagers tailgating with their parents, older couples, and lots of students. I have never seen old people act like drunk teenage kids before.

All of this happened before my first swim workout and I remember feeling terrible for eating all of this junk. I was running every day and convinced my roommate to do it with me.

The next day was a super fun day. This was the day I truly felt what it means to be a part of a team, a big team, an athletic college team. We drove to a beautiful Michigan Lake and spent the day getting to know one another, splashing in the water, and tanning. There was a girl that walked around with 10+ hickeys marked all over her chest. She wasn't hiding it and proudly stated who was the boy responsible. Apparently another freshman swimmer. I started to learn what college sex culture is like, and what "swimcest" meant (keeping it in the family = when swimmers from the same team date).

At one point we sat in a big big circle as each swimmer introduced themselves. What's their name, where are they from, their grade, and their best swim event. The seniors in the team drove us there and drove us back. They were accountable to the freshmen group. It felt like a perfect day.

Talking to American girls oftentimes felt Holywood movie stereotypical - the "Oh My Gosh", and the "Really???". The generic questions like "Do you like America", and "Do you miss your country". A common phenomenon was getting text messages from my roommates with their complaints and asks. Although sometimes the texts came minutes after we had just talked!

I always tell people back home that a big team of 35 girls ages 18-22 would never survive in a place like Israel. Why? Because girls are mean. In Israel, they would tear each other into pieces and would not get along. But in the US we were one big happy family. We were so close and so nice to each other all the time.

People say that Americans tend to be "fake", and I agree to a degree. I wouldn't call it fakeness anymore. American girls simply try not to step on anything sensitive, so they keep it casual. It was hard for me to walk the fine line of being direct without being rude because I felt that American girls are not at all direct about their intentions (with the occasional SMS). American girls try to be very nice, and they want to avoid conflict. So, they often go out of their way to just be nice when they don't have to. Is that fake?

The thing is, I felt like they weren't faking it. They were trained to behave this way. It's culture. They don't know another way of communication. Even the most incredibly generous and kind-hearted Americans I met, were simply conditioned to keep communication at surface level, and to be nice. I can only imagine what it was like for American girls to talk to 20-year-old me. That weird chick that says everything that's on her mind, and thinks she's better than everyone else. Sigh.

Every single day leading up to the first day of school, we had a house party. And while these get very very repetitive and boring - the theme changes. Themed parties are a very American concept. There is a Hawaii theme, Jersey theme, ABC (anything but clothes) theme, toga, slumber party, and All-American. It's fun, and a great conversation starter.

So far, college was good. I felt like I was living inside an American Teenage Hollywood film. I wasn't the main character, but I didn't care. I was happy standing from the side and taking everything in. College was a big hub. Everyone lived close to each other. Everyone partied together, shared classes, and ate at the same cafeterias. It's been 7 years since my freshman year, and I can honestly say, I did not appreciate this time of my life as much as I should have.


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