25. College life in the USA (interview)

podcast transcript

Okay. So today I’m here with my friend Alex, and we’re going to talk a little bit about what the college experience is like here in the United States. So Alex, where did you go to school?

I went to Ohio State University.

Okay. And can you tell us a little bit about your experience? Did you join a fraternity, and what is a fraternity and sorority for those who don’t know?

Sure. So I almost joined a fraternity.

Really?

I was very close, yeah. So a fraternity is like a group of guys, it can be small, like maybe just 20 people, or it can be really big, maybe like 100 people or even more. You all live in a house together or maybe a couple houses, and there’s camaraderie and there’s some fellowship, and you get to know everybody and you throw events together.

Yeah.

It’s very similar for sororities. It’s girls who live together, and there’s some fellowship there. It’s a really good way to make friends, especially if you move away to college and you don’t know anyone.

Yeah.

So my freshman year I wanted to join a fraternity, and one of my friends was like, “You should join my fraternity.” So I tried it out, but I thought a lot of the guys were kind of lame.

Yeah.

And there’s so many rituals. Like, one of the things that they wanted me to do was memorize the Greek alphabet, and they wanted me to memorize this oath. It was like paragraphs long. I was like, “Okay, sorry, you guys are taking this a little bit too seriously for me.”

They have a lot of rules too. Like, you have to go to the library for two hours on Friday or something, and you have to go to at least one event that they throw each week. My friend was always going to these events because she had to.

Yeah.

You have to socialize. You can’t just chill.

It’s mandatory socializing.

Yeah, it’s kind of weird. It’s like, on one hand you meet a lot of people, but then on the other hand you’re paying for friends and you’re paying to be told what to do, which I’m not cool with.

Yeah. It’s just how you take it.

Yeah.

There’s obviously cool people, and …

Yeah.

It could be kind of weird and structured. Did you want to join a sorority?

I thought about it, and then the more people that I talked to, I started to notice that the people that I really enjoyed the most weren’t in the sororities.

Yeah.

So I didn’t really want to join … Yeah. Because I went to FSU, and that was a pretty big party school, and the sororities I think were just full of girly girls who liked to go out, and they just had a different vibe.

Yeah. Sometimes I kind of got the impression that the people in fraternities and sororities weren’t as genuine.

Yeah.

Not that there aren’t genuine people in them-

Yeah. I also think it really depends on what school you go to, and what actual fraternity or sorority you’re talking about.

Definitely.

And each individual person’s different too. But for sure, I think that there is a tendency for them to be a little bit faker.

Yeah.

Yeah.

But, I would say that most of the parties that I went to on campus were hosted by fraternities.

Definitely.

So that’s a big part of the fraternity and the sorority-

It’s the party scene.

Dynamic, is the party scene.

Definitely. So how much did you participate in the party scene in college?

I think my freshman year it was more, because I had never done it before. So it seemed very exciting to me. And then … I did it some, and then I kind of realized, “Eh, I don’t know. This isn’t quite for me.” I don’t know. A lot of guys … Yeah. I guess I don’t know how to describe it, but it just wasn’t my scene.

Yeah.

Did you like the fraternity parties?

I don’t think I went to very many fraternity parties, and the ones I did go to I didn’t like. That’s why I didn’t go to them.

Yeah.

But I definitely liked house parties, like chilling at house parties at people’s houses that maybe I knew one or two people at, and then you just meet a bunch of other people and just drink and hang out.

Yeah.

But technically you have to be 21 in the United States to drink, so of course I only drank after 21.

Oh yes, me too. Of course.

Which is pretty crazy that people in the United States have to wait that long. You can enlist in the Army, but you can’t have a beer.

Yeah. And my dad said when he was in college, everyone drank, when you were a freshman to seniors, and it was totally normal.

Yeah.

And now, the fact that it’s illegal … Or, now that the drinking age is 21 instead of 18 like it used to be, now everyone has to hide it or get fake IDs if they want to go to the bar.

Yeah, fake IDs. That’s a really big thing. Did you have one?

I didn’t, no. But most people did.

Yeah. So Alex, what did you study, and how long did it take you to finish school with all that partying you were doing?

So much. So I studied electrical engineering, and that … Most degrees they say, “Oh, it takes four years.” I would say that’s not the case. You really have to stress yourself and take a lot of coursework every semester to actually finish in four years.

Doesn’t engineering typically take five?

Yeah, so I’d say for most people it takes four and a half or five.

Yeah.

And couple into that that … I can’t remember the statistic, but probably like 70% of people end up changing their major from what they come in with.

Yeah.

So some of the classes they take at the beginning won’t apply to the major that they end up with. It takes like four and a half to five years, because one, the coursework is hard, two, you normally switch majors, so who knows what they’re doing when they come into college-

No one. And normally you switch majors … I’ve heard it was, on average, five to seven times. Yeah.

No!

Imagine how long school would take you if you just switched majors every few months.

Yeah.

Because at some point you’re gonna take classes that are specifically for a major, and then you switch, and you’re gonna lose all of those classes. I mean, okay, let’s explain the structure of how colleges work though. So the first two years, you take general courses. So, what are some general courses that everyone takes?

Okay, so for me for engineering, the general courses that it didn’t matter what type of engineering you went into, everyone had to take some calculus or some math, you had to take chemistry, physics, and introduction to engineering. So that kind of gives you a wide view of all the different types of engineering to give you some exposure.

Yeah. But those are the requirements to enter into your major, but generally everyone takes like very, very general courses across all majors.

Yeah. There’s also-

Like speech-

Yep.

English …

History.

History, general math, which actually, I took these tests before I went to college in high school so that you could just get a good grade on those tests and then you don’t have to take any math classes in college, because I hate math. So you can actually get out of those by proving that you have an understanding of it beforehand. After those … So, did it take you two years to do all of those classes?

I think … So you can kind of choose how you want to do that. I think for people who don’t really know what they want or are still questioning it, they will take those general courses at the beginning to buy more time. Because no matter what your major is, those general courses you have to take regardless of your major.

Yeah.

So you can take those, and it buys you some time to decide. But if you really know, or if you’re eager to get into some of your more detailed classes of your major, then you can put off the general classes and take them your senior year.

Oh really?

Yeah. So that’s what I did.

Really?

Yeah. My senior year I was taking like fashion history.

No way!

Yes.

That’s so funny!

Fashion history?

Fashion history.

Did you like that? Oh no, you said it was harder than you thought?

It was way more work than I wanted it to be.

Yeah. Sometimes you take an elective, you’re like, “This is gonna be easy.” I took a religion class, like a world religions class. Damn. That was actually the hardest class I had out of every single class I took.

Really?

My whole … It was just a general introduction to world religions, and it was much harder than even my more intense major classes.

Okay. Wow.

The teacher was just crazy.

Yeah.

He just stood up there and just talked for an hour, and then he would test you on every little thing that he said. He wouldn’t write anything down, give you any notes-

No.

So he would test you on very, very specific details of one thing that he said in passing. It was crazy. I’ve never had a teacher like that.

That’s not fair.

It wasn’t fair, but I wrote down everything he said. I was one of the only people to get an A in that class.

Okay. Good for you.

Because everyone didn’t think that he would be that crazy.

Yeah. So you can decide whenever you want to do your general courses.

Yeah.

Most people take them early.

Yeah.

I think they recommend-

Because normally, you’re trying to figure out what you like.

Yeah.

So what do you think about that system? Because, one of my students, he’s from Chile and he’s a lawyer, and he just began studying law from the very beginning. So you’re not spending six million years trying to get your law degree, because here you have to do two years of general courses, at least two years of another major, and then you have your bachelor’s. And then after that, you go on to get your law degree, which is, I think, at least two more years of schooling. So by that point it’s six years of schooling when he can just book it out in four years and actually have more specialization in law, because he knows from the very beginning that’s what he wants to study.

Yeah.

What do you think about that system? Do you think that we could actually implement that here, or that wouldn’t be successful with our culture?

I think that that sounds beneficial for him if he knows that that’s what he wants to do, and you don’t really have that option here. Like, if you want to be a lawyer, you have to jump through all the hoops.

Yeah.

But I think on the other hand, I think most people don’t know what they want going into college. They kind of have an inkling or … For me, it was like, “Oh, I like math and science. I’m gonna go for engineering.” But I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. Did you feel like you knew what you wanted to go for, or did you just pick something and roll with it?

No, I knew.

Okay.

Yeah. I think the problem was choosing between a bunch of things that I liked. That was kind of annoying.

Okay.

Because you can only study so much.

But did you feel like taking a broader course selection helped you decide maybe what you wanted to get into, or not necessarily?

I mean, in high school I think so, but I don’t think that helped me at all in my-

Okay.

Like, getting those two years in college I don’t think made me realize something was out there that I didn’t realize.

Also quite frankly, I think one of the biggest reasons why they make everyone take those courses is because they get money.

For sure.

And a lot of those departments aren’t as popular, so-

Like, who wants to take a speech class on purpose?

Yeah.

Not a lot of people. Maybe some people, some smart people, but …

So it helps keep the departments alive.

Yeah, definitely. So what was your favorite class in college, and why? Or even your favorite experience in general.

My favorite experience was getting to work in my research lab. So, I wanted to get involved in research-

Doing what? Research-

I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Yeah.

But I knew I wanted to get some actual hands-on experience, because the classes weren’t really cutting it.

Okay. That’s another topic that I was gonna bring up. Do you feel like it actually prepares you for modern day work? Is school necessary?

Yeah, absolutely. But it totally depends on what you’re getting into after school.

Yeah.

For engineering, I would say it’s absolutely necessary for 99% of people who want to get involved in it.

Do you think that people could self-teach engineering?

Sure. Yeah. I think you’d have to have a really … Really have a knack for it.

Yeah. Okay.

And be talented and very self-motivated.

Yeah.

But also, when you apply for a job and they see that you don’t have a degree-

Definitely. You need one.

It just really matters in terms of how people perceive you for getting a job.

Yeah.

So even if you’re just as smart and know the exact same things, if you don’t have a degree but the other person does, that is a massive differentiator.

Yeah.

Do you have one of your favorite experiences from undergrad?

I think my favorite experience was teaching yoga.

Okay.

I didn’t want to teach actually. I just got certified because I wanted to do that for myself, and I just wanted to know what’s going on in my body when I’m in these classes. And then I was working at the gym already at the time, teaching spinning, and I got along really well with the boss of the whole gym. And we were just talking and I was like, “Yeah, I’m getting my yoga certification.” She’s like, “Well you have to teach then.” And I said, “No.” And she said, “You have to.” I’m like, “No.” And she’s like, “Okay, well I really want you to.” And I said, “I’ll audition-”

You got pressured into it.

Yeah. I was like, “That’s not my thing, I just want to do it for myself.” And then I just auditioned for some of the yoga teachers that were already there that I took tons of classes with, and it felt really natural.

Yeah.

To get up there and teach, and it felt really, really easy. And I remember going up and teaching spinning. It was not natural or easy. You have to get up there and be motivated, have good music and scream at people-

That’s an intense kind of environment.

Yeah. And honestly, the reason I got into spinning in the first place was because I took a class with someone and I was like, “Hell no. I can do this way better than she can do this.” So that’s literally why I decided to do it, because I liked the class and I thought that I could do it better, which is dumb. And then when I actually started doing it, I realized that it’s a skill like everything else, and you have to develop it, and it takes time.

So did you do it better?

So at first I did not do it better. At first I struggled. I almost quit after the first semester, because I had hardly anyone in my class, I was like, “I’m really bad,” I got really unmotivated because I felt discouraged. And then I was like, “You know what? Fuck it. I’m gonna just try harder.” And then it became really, really popular after that because I was able to figure it out. But it’s definitely good to be humble starting off and not just assume that you can do things better than other people. Okay, so Alex had a really cool experience in college where he was able to participate on a project where he invented basically a robot. So, tell us a little bit about that.

Okay. So for one of our freshman year engineering courses, we got to choose between whether we wanted to make this little robot that had to fly around on these tracks in the ceiling, and it was super lame. All the upperclassmen were like, “Oh, that one sucks, don’t do it.”

Really?

And the other option, which was more work but was way cooler, was … There was this obstacle course. And for the class, you had to design a robot to maneuver this obstacle course and complete all of the tasks. And if your robot could do it the fastest, then you’re the best. You get all the bragging rights.

The robot bragging rights.

So there was this … It was such a cool … They make a new course every single year, and they put so much work into it. There’s ramps, and we had to move this little salt bag and put it into a garage, we had to twist a little lever, we had to maneuver around this rock that tried to screw up our wheels, we had to press some buttons … It was so much fun. And that’s what made me want to go into electrical engineering, because I got to wire up these little motors to drive around, and these little mechanisms to twist. And getting to wire up the little motors, I got so excited when they got to work and everything. It’s the hands-on stuff that makes you realize that that’s what you want to do.

Yeah. Definitely.

Or it’s what you don’t want to do.

Yeah.

Which is equally as important to know.

Yeah.

Which I think you mentioned earlier, do you think college prepares you for after … It obviously depends on where you go and what kind of experience you have.

Yeah.

But I think in a lot of ways it doesn’t, because a lot of it is like theory and book reading, and it’s not as hands-on. And it’s the hands-on stuff that makes you realize that you do or don’t like it.

Definitely. Yeah, and I feel like you’re not doing anyone any favors by reading about all this stuff and then not actually experiencing any of it until much later. Some careers are very, very different from studying them to living them. Business for example, they’re just not even remotely the same thing. Reading about a business versus running a business are just two completely different organisms, and I think that some people might actually not like business and running a business, and what that all entails, and you might not realize that until-

It’s too late.

It’s too late.

Yeah.

And you’re fucked. You already did your school … And honestly, school’s too expensive to just keep going back. It’s too time-consuming, and it’s also really challenging to go to school and work at the same time.

Definitely.

So it’s not conducive to be able to go back and change your mind.

So you worked, what, during your undergrad, right?

I worked a little bit during my undergrad, and then full-time for the master’s.

Okay. So what was the work-life balance like for you then? Do you think most people work during college?

I think most people work during college, yeah. I think a lot of people move out when they’re 18, we go away for college and we move into dorms, and we need to get some money, and oftentimes our parents will just completely cut us off at 18. So you get a scholarship and then the rest of the money you get for school, like you have to get a loan to pay for that tuition. And then in order to survive, you have to get a job to pay your basic bills and get some food. So most people do put themselves through school, because most people are completely independent at 18 I think, the majority of people. I do think that a lot of families help in small ways, like they’ll pay for their phone or their car insurance until they graduate or something-

Or pitch in a little bit for tuition.

Yeah, or they’ll pay tuition. But I don’t feel like very many people just, their parents give them a free ride forever and ever.

Definitely not.

Yeah. At some point, for whatever reason, 18 is the age that people tend to become financially independent.

And it’s kind of … It’s so weird, because a lot of people work in high school, but if you’re working in high school you’re not making very much money.

Yeah.

You’re probably making like 10 dollars an hour, 12 dollars an hour-

And you probably spend it.

And you probably spend some of it with your friends, exactly.

Yeah.

Or on something silly.

Yeah.

But when you go to college, your first year when you go in the dorms, if you’re lucky and you go to a school in your state and that’s the cheap option, it’s like 20 or $30,000 for that year.

Yeah.

And if you’re lucky, you’re making 10 bucks an hour.

Yeah.

Or 12 bucks an hour.

Yeah.

So like you said, most people are not getting a huge scholarship or a lot of tuition help from their family, so you just take on all this debt.

Yeah.

And like you said, you really can’t afford … A lot of people can’t afford to dilly dally around with different majors or keep going back.

Yeah. And that’s something that I’ve noticed in Europe, because the United States is one of the only countries that has such high tuition for school. And I notice that in Europe, people are way different when it comes to choosing a major. They will completely change, they’ll stay in school forever, they’ll study so much or whatever they want, they’ll take on a lot, and they won’t be working really. And it’s also … Or they’ll be working and it’ll be … The tuition is so cheap that it’s no effect on them, no cost to them. So their whole life decision about which direction to take, there’s not that stress of, “Okay, I only have one shot at this. I better get it right.”

Yeah.

They have completely trial and error, and within the system it’s kind of paid for. It is weird though, because then I see people who are much older and they’re still studying.

Yeah.

And it’s completely normal. And here I feel like that happens a little bit less, and if it does happen, you study because you specifically know you want to do something and you need a degree to do that or to do it better, whereas I feel like over there people are like, “Fuck it, let’s just study some more.”

So how much is tuition over there?

I think it’s like 400 bucks, or like 1000 bucks.

Stop. No!

It’s nothing.

What?

It’s basically free.

That sounds amazing. You really could have a lot of freedom and time, and maybe, I think for a lot of people too if they start college right after high school, maybe that’s not a good time for them to continue doing classes. Maybe they want to stop and come back later.

Yeah. People travel the world, they come back … There’s just a lot more freedom, and they have a lot more vacation … I don’t know. It’s a different lifestyle definitely. If you can’t tell, I kind of prefer European-

What?

Certain European cultural things. That would be ideal. And I did do a podcast about the American consumer debt, and I specifically talk about how I’m getting loans to pay for school. For example, doctors make good money here, but they have crazy loans, and they’ll be paying that off until their 40s at least. So people think, “Oh, well they have a lot of money, so that’s fine.” Well no, because they have … How much do you think they have in debt? Over $100,000 I would say.

Over 100,000?

I would say.

Yeah. I would say most … If you go away, not to a public school but to a private school, it’s gonna be more than $100,000.

Yeah.

For just undergraduate, for just four years.

Yeah.

And if you’re becoming a doctor, that’s 8 to 12 years of schooling.

So it could easily be like $400,000 or more.

Yeah.

I had a friend who went to school for her undergrad, and one year there was I think close to $40,000.

That sounds about right.

And I had a heart attack.

Yeah. It’s so scummy. A lot of foreigners will get accepted to American Universities, but they don’t get any aid.

Definitely, they don’t get any.

And they do that on purpose because they don’t care if you come or not, but they care about the money.

Definitely.

So it’s like, they’ll be happy to let you pay full price.

Exactly. I think they even charge a little bit more for foreigners.

Yeah, with the same specifications.

Yeah.

Or the same resume, whatever.

Yeah. No, it’s really sad. They’re definitely being taken advantage of.

Yeah.

And a lot of it comes down to money unfortunately with the universities here. But at the same time, if you’re living in a developing country and you have a diploma from a good American university, I feel like that can help you open a lot of doors.

Definitely.

So people are willing to do it still, but it doesn’t make it right that they’re being charged an astronomical amount because they need something like that.

Definitely.

Yeah.

Just because they can do that.

Exactly, just because they can get away with it.

Yeah. How was your undergraduate experience different from your graduate experience?

My undergraduate experience was much different than my master’s. So, I went into my undergrad, I lived abroad for one of the years … It was still an American university, but people partied a lot because it was in Spain.

This was for graduate?

This was for undergraduate.

Okay.

So yeah, I think it was just very chill. It was very easy, the classes were very easy. Everyone was socializing, there was so much socializing. It was all about meeting people and making friends.

Yeah.

And having experiences. And then when I got to my master’s, no one gave a fuck about meeting people. No one wanted to hang out, no one wanted to do anything fun. They just wanted to study. They were very serious. And sometimes after you got to know people they started hanging out with you a little bit, but for the most part it was just … People had already been working for years. Some people just started having kids, some people were in their 30s … I mean, these are grownups, and they’re going to get their master’s for a specific purpose. They’re either going to pursue some kind of job that would benefit from a master’s, or they’re gonna do their PhD and stay in academia. But everyone there has a goal, has a mission. They’re not there to kid around.

Yeah.

And they’re also much smarter, so everyone is smart. You pick out all of the top people in your classes in undergrad, and those are the people who go on to get their master’s. So you’re not gonna be the smartest one in the class anymore, and that’s much better. It’s a little bit uncomfortable at first, but it’s much better in the long run, because then you get smarter too.

Do you think that’s one of the reasons why it was harder academically?

Yeah.

Because everyone else was-

Definitely. Because when your teacher is grading your paper and they’re reading all the other student’s papers, that’s … Your grade has to be in comparison to everyone else’s. What else would it be? So definitely, yeah, there’s people who could probably just drink a bottle of tequila and write a much better paper than me, but I tried very hard, and that’s okay. That’s life.

Yeah.

But yeah, it was really enjoyable, because you get a lot of people who are interested in the same thing in a room-

Definitely.

And we’re all geeking out.

Yeah.

It’s basically a bunch of nerds who are getting really excited about this research and these topics, and no one else outside of the room cares or knows what you’re talking about. And it’s just a bunch of language that if someone walked in the room, they wouldn’t know what words we’re saying, because it’s all really specified to that field. So it’s a really, really different experience.

Yeah.

Going from general to specific. If I could describe undergrad, I’d be like, what you study is going from general to specific. And whether or not that’s useful to you I think determines what you plan on doing with your master’s after that. Because I do feel like a lot of people pursue higher education because they’re not sure what to do next, or they’re not sure what job to take. And I would say that that’s the wrong course of action.

Definitely.

I would actually say to know what you want before going to get your master’s, have a reason for going there. It’ll make it easier, you’ll be more motivated and also you’ll get something out of it. I don’t know … Alex said he wants to do a master’s. So, tell us why you think that’s necessary and who you would recommend that for in engineering?

So, necessary, definitely not. I definitely don’t think it’s necessary. But for certain people, I think it really can benefit them. So I really like the research realm and working on experimental stuff. It’s kind of linked to academia. Definitely for that, you need to have a really solid foundation of the fundamentals. So going to graduate school and really getting to learn the stuff from the inside out, and the specific field that you’re interested is so important for research. And for most companies that do research and development, they almost only hire someone with a master’s or PhD. My company is an exception, so I got very lucky. But yeah, that’s why I want to. I’m also using master’s as an excuse to travel.

That’s sick.

Because for graduate students, all of these companies will have these internships that they hold exclusively for graduate students. So if you want an internship but you aren’t a graduate student, they won’t give it to you, even though they have an open spot and they have a budget to give away.

Really?

But if you are a graduate student, it’s relatively easy to get these internships. Even at … A bunch of major companies do it, like Tesla, Ford … Literally all of the big companies have these graduate-specific internships.

Why is that?

I think it’s because they want to feel you out, and if they like you they want to hire you after you graduate.

Yeah.

I think that’s why. It’s not a bad gig, right?

Yeah.

But also, it’s kind of a nice excuse … So, there’s all these opportunities just for graduate student engineers to live somewhere for three months. What a cool opportunity to get paid money to go experience a new place, a new part of the world. And living somewhere for three months is different than visiting on vacation for a couple weeks.

Certainly, yeah.

So that’s one of my biggest reasons why I think I want to go back.

The only thing is that, I feel like you just started getting into the groove around like month three, and you’re like, “Peace out!”

Yeah.

“I’m getting kicked out now.”

You’re absolutely right. You can do them for longer.

Okay.

The one I requested was gonna be six months. So yeah, you can negotiate it.

Yeah.

Which is kind of nice.

Yeah.

But it just depends on if you want to get out of school, or if you want to hang out and make some money and experience new places.

Yeah.

It’s all in what you want.

All right. Well I guess we can wrap it up there. Is there anything else you want to say about the college experience? Any recommendations if someone’s applying?

Sometimes the place that you really want to go you might not get into, but where you end up still ends up being a fantastic situation.

Yeah.

And it’s like, it matters what school you go to, but what you make of it, where you are, matters way more. And honestly, I think what you do outside of classes is just as important as what you’re doing in classes, and the connections you make and the jobs you get from your connections or the experiences you get from those are just as important as the classes. So what university you end up at does matter, but at the end of the day it’s what you make of it, both academically and socially.

Yeah. I’m really glad that you said that, because I personally think that it’s dumb how everyone puts so much pride or emphasis on where they went to school, because I feel like it’s 100% about you and what you’re doing within that school. And even more importantly, you mentioned the connections with people. I think really the only thing that would make you benefit more from an Ivy League school, besides harder classes which won’t necessarily translate into a better career, is the fact that you might have people that you can connect with that have more money, or they have higher connections, they’re a little bit more in the upper class and they could probably get you jobs at certain places. That’s the only benefit. But besides that, I truly do think that people end up in the same places when they came from completely different backgrounds and schools, because it’s about the experiences that you start to accumulate after college. And even while you’re in college, there’s so much you can do. Yeah, I think people get really down about where their degree is from when it kind of doesn’t matter at all.

Definitely.

Yeah. I’ve wound up in the same exact place as, going to FSU as my undergrad as somebody … We both end up at University of Maryland, and someone went to an Ivy League and I went to FSU. And they paid probably way, way more money, and we’re doing the exact same thing. So I wouldn’t sweat it.

Definitely.

Yeah. All right, nice. Thanks so much Alex.

Absolutely. Thank you.

Yeah. And hopefully we’ll have you on again.

 

Vocabulary

Fraternity (men) and Sorority (women)Fraternities and sororities, or Greek letter organizations, are social organizations at colleges and universities.  
FellowshipA group of people meeting to pursue a shared interest or aim.
CamaraderieMutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.
OathA promise about your future action or behavior
Genuine
Sincere, authentic, truly what something is said to be.
Freshmen
The first class of college; year one students at university level
Majors
Your major is the topic you specialize in after 2 years of general courses at the university level.
An elective
A non-required course. Students must take a certain amount of electives, but they can choose whatever those course subjects will be.
Hands-on experience
Experience that requires you to actually do something. For example, if you study how to build a house, this is theoretical. If you build a house, this is hands-on experience.
A differentiator
Something that differentiates or separates or makes you stand out from someone else.
Audition for something
Try out for something. You have to audition to be in a play, to be in a choir, etc…
SemesterOur university school years are broken into 2 semesters, fall and spring.
Obstacle courseA man-made area full of physical obstacles that either a person (or in this case, a robot) must overcome to prove their agility. For example, in the military an obstacle course might have a wall you have to climb and things you have to jump over.
RampsAn inclined surface. For example, handicap people in wheelchairs need ramps in order to access areas where there are steps.
LeverA rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy or firmly fixed load with one end when pressure is applied to the other.
Maneuver (around)To move around
MechanismsA system of parts working together in a machine; a piece of machinery.
(What that) entailsInvolve (something) as a necessary or inevitable part or consequence. For example, part of being a student entails studying. So if you’re a student, you must study as a consequence.
Time-consumingTakes up a lot of time
ConduciveMaking a certain situation or outcome likely or possible.
DormsDormitories; where students sleep on campus.
ScholarshipMoney given to students in order to help pay for their tuition. You can earn scholarships through many different ways.
LoanMoney you borrow from the bank to pay for something.
TuitionThe cost of your schooling.
Scummy Dirty, unpleasant, or nasty. A person can be a “scumbag” which is a bad person.
A diploma The certificate you earn when you complete your degree (major) at a university.
Open a lot of doorsHave a lot of opportunities (like for jobs or connections).
AstronomicalVery large amount
Graduate These are the years of schooling that take place after you’ve earned your BA degree. They consist of the MA (Master’s) degree and PhD.
UndergraduateAA (Associate’s degree), which is the first two years, and the BA (Bachelor’s degree), all four years.
AcademiaThe environment or community concerned with the pursuit of research, education, and scholarship.
Exclusively forOnly for…
(It’s not a bad) gigGig is a job in this scenario. But gig can also mean when you are paid to perform live for someone (like a comedy gig or singing).
Ivy league schoolIvy league schools are the most academically rigorous schools in the USA. They are very challenging to get into. There are only 8 of them: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University.

Idioms and Collocations

Throw a party/eventWe use the verb “throw” when we host a party.
Take something too seriouslyThis is a collocation we use when someone is very serious about a matter.
A different vibeA different feeling
(It wasn’t my) sceneYour scene are places or scenarios that fit with your personality. For example, if you love to party, then you love the party scene.
Enlist in the army
To enroll or join the army
To get out of something
To avoid doing something you don’t want to through an excuse or action. For example, if I’m supposed to clean the house for my parents, I can pretend to feel sick to get out of doing it.
To buy (more) time
To do something that will give you more time. For example, if I have an exam tomorrow but I call in sick, I buy myself more time to study.
Eager to do something
Excited to do it
Put (something) off
To delay something. For example, “I put off studying until the last minute”.
Say (something) in passing
To say something quickly without drawing attention to it. To just mention something briefly in conversation that you are not focusing on.
Book it out
To do something quickly. You could say, “We only have one more essay to write, let’s just book it out tonight”.
Jump through hoopsWhen you jump through hoops, you have a lot of obstacles or things you have to do in order to complete something. For example, if you want a US Visa, you have to jump through a lot of hoops like paperwork and documentation in order to get one.
To have an inkling about somethingTo have an idea about something, but not a real understanding of it.
Quite franklyThis is a collocation we use to mean “honestly”.
To not cut it To not be enough. You could say, “My grades don’t cut it, so I can’t graduate”. Meaning my grades are too low to pass.
Have a knack for somethingHave a natural talent for something.
Bragging rightsWhen you’re allowed to brag, boast, or be openly proud of yourself for an accomplishment.
Put (someone) through schoolSomeone or something that pays for your schooling.
Take on debtThis is a collocation we use to say that people get loans for something.
DillydallyTo be slow and mindless with what you’re doing. We often tell people, “Don’t dillydally. We’re running late!”
Trial and errorThe process of experimenting with various methods of doing something until one finds the most successful.
To get away with somethingTo do something bad but not get caught. For example, I stole my brothers credit card and got away with it by blaming it on my little sister.
To kid aroundTo make jokes or be humorous
Geeking outBeing a nerd or very studious about a specific subject and very excited about it when others would probably think it’s not fun.
(Learn something) from the inside out You know something very well and very thoroughly.
Feel someone outTo get an idea of how someone is and have they behave.
Get into the groove Get into a flow state. Meaning you are able to do something naturally, easily and comfortably.
Peace outBye!
Wrap it upEnd something
To wind upTo end up; to arrive or end in a specific state, situation or place.
Don’t sweat it Don’t worry about it. We also like to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, meaning don’t worry about little things.

Questions

1. How does the university system work in your country?

2. What was/will be/is your major?

3. What do you geek out about?

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