Four months ago I embarked on my journey as an exchange student to the United States. Here, ever since my very first day of classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I could not believe I was living the thrilling college experience all those teenage-movies stereotypically portrayed.
Surrounded by an astonishingly enormous campus, U.N.C. not only boasts first-class academics but is also home to world-renowned athletics, particularly basketball: the ‘Tar Heels’. Needless to say that as soon as I received my One Card (university ID), the first thing I did was to enter the student lottery for home-game tickets (seats are quite costly otherwise). Luckily I managed to get tickets for two games at the ‘tiny’ Dean Smith Center, which ‘only’ seats 22 thousand people!
I will never let go of such exciting moments, especially of the UNC vs. Duke game. Deemed as one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball, this match is considered one of the most important of the season. With a group of American friends we watched the live event from an Italian pizzeria right off Franklin Street, main drag of Chapel Hill. Tradition wants the latter to be rushed in case the Tar Heels defeat Duke ‘Blue Devils’. And –luckily- so it was! As the game winded up we witnessed people storming on to Franklin Street and invading the car-trafficked roadways. Everybody was rocking his UNC gear, starting fires on the street and climbing traffic lights poles. Mad.
This is just a hint of what college spirit is like here in the States. Indeed, it is not only at basketball games or sports events that you can see students wearing Carolina apparel but it is a rather common and glaring custom throughout the whole town of Chapel Hill, even for professors. In fact at the university student store the array of UNC-branded stuff which you can choose from is unimaginable, stemming from pens to pillows and from t-shirts to ties. Such an engrained sense of belonging to one’s own university is light-years away from its European universities’ counterpart.
My spring break experience corroborated the previous point and validated it on a wider, national scale. In fact, by spending my (well deserved) break in New Orleans, Louisiana, I had the chance to visit other colleges and wander around this astonishing and very European-looking American Southern city. What I immediately noticed is that the passion and enthusiasm towards one’s own university is to be found across the United States, regardless of whether it is the University of North Carolina, Tulane or Loyola and also regardless of age group. That is something that truly fascinated me and I wish we had more of this school spirit in Manchester, as we have everything it takes to be proud of our uni.
Riccardo Scroppo is a second-year Politics and International Relations student at the University of Manchester, on a semester abroad at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill