Miami sunshine, palm trees everywhere and South Beach a mere drive away. No, it’s not an advertisement. It’s an actual description of the University of Miami, where I’m currently studying for the semester.
Despite the warnings I’d heard that the “American Dream” only exists in movies, having lived here for a month now, I think it’s safe to say that’s completely wrong. With a state-of-the-art gym, a brand new Student Activities Center featuring picturesque views, and an on-campus pool where you can relax between classes with brand-new friends, it’s a little hard to remember that I’m here for college when the campus looks more like a beach resort.
The transition wasn’t as difficult as I had expected, but I’ve encountered many surprising differences here. The first major difference has been the drinking scene, which is nothing like what it is in the United Kingdom. Across the Atlantic, it’s common to have loud pre-drinking games in your dorms, beer and vodka bottles are strewn around communal areas, and left over kebabs at 3 a.m. are the norm.
However, alcohol is strictly prohibited all over the university, except for one location on campus – the Rathskeller. This is the only bar to have a casual drink (ID is required), and even adults on the main streets of America are prohibited from openly drinking from an alcohol bottle.
With the drinking age at 21, I’ve noticed that students usually resort to getting a fake ID. For the most part, Brits can think back to how alcohol was purchased when they were around 16 (paying people to purchase alcohol), and that would describe what American college students still do.
Furthermore, universities in the U.S. employ residential assistants. Think you’ve finally escaped from the watch of your parents? Think again. Residential colleges place an RA on every floor. Among other things, they are there to ensure that underage people are not drinking, and that legal aged students are not providing alcohol for younger people.
That’s not to say that this has put a downer on drinking at the University of Miami. In terms of the social side of college, UM knows how to party and definitely lives by the motto, “Work hard, play harder.”
Hundreds of students usually flock to the Grove Thursday nights, which has many college-aged bars. Fridays and Saturdays usually consist of an endless stream of frat parties, house parties and pool parties. Fraternities (yes, they really do exist outside of American movies) usually host parties on most weekends (think red cups, huge Greek letters outside of a house where frat brothers live and beer pong) when frat row is buzzing with people.
Be warned: Fraternities, for the most part, only let women women into their parties; males are rarely allowed to enter. I’ve also been lucky enough to party in South Beach, as I’m 21, which was an amazing experience. I’ll definitely be doing that a lot more often in the next few weeks.