An International Student’s Homecoming Experience: Foreign, But Enlightening

by Natalie Ser

photo (9)

I didn’t even know it was Homecoming week until two days before the game, four days into the week. I remember wondering, “Why on earth is campus suddenly more purple than usual?”

Norris, Beck’s and Campus Gear were selling “Beat Nebraska” shirts and Northwestern merchandise on sale, and random strangers had invaded the campus in their extravagantly purple spirit wear.

I was pretty oblivious to what was happening until someone gently reminded me that it was Homecoming week, to which I feigned an expression of sudden realization: “Oh yeah, I knew that.”

The truth was that I had no idea what homecoming actually was. Surprise, surprise! My perception of the school-wide phenomenon came from movies, TV shows, and occasionally, books.

In Hong Kong, where I’m from, homecoming does not exist. We had Sports Day, Fundraising Day and so on, and students participated because we more or less had to. But there wasn’t a lot of school spirit, and if one could help it he or she would prefer not to sport any school gear, since students were required to wear “school uniforms” on a daily basis anyway.

Curious about homecoming, I looked to the most reliable source of information, Wikipedia. Apparently, it is a big deal in America, so I shrugged and decided to go with it. After all, who wouldn’t want a free shirt?

At Northwestern, and in America, Homecoming week most strongly emphasizes football; never mind the parade or the tailgates, because it’s the game that truly matters, right?

To be honest, I don’t really understand the allure of football. I know people who get really into it, and I know people who are just as confused as I am as to why it’s America’s favorite sport.

Nonetheless, I went to the homecoming football game because I wanted to understand. I feel sorry for the friend standing next to me, who had to constantly answer my ignorant questions: “Why is that guy throwing the ball?” or “Why do they have to start all over again every other 2 minutes?”

I was awfully cold that night, but the vivacity in that stadium kept me warm. Though I didn’t understand the game, I felt the hype through the sea of purple bobbing up and down, the screaming and shouting in synchronization, and the chanting of the school song.

The morning after homecoming, my friend and I tried to grab brunch at Le Peep, but there were so many people in line! The town was more packed than usual, which was irregular for a Sunday morning, leaving me a bit grumpy.

Of course, everyone was there to experience a meaningful annual event, and I realized that whether it’s specifically football or the overall homecoming experience, it all bubbles down to the culture and background in which you are brought up.

My family is not from the States and has most likely not experienced the full extent of American football, so naturally, I didn’t understand the sacredness of homecoming.

In the same way, most Americans probably wouldn’t get pumped up like I would for the Lunar New Year or the Mid-Autumn Festival.

It’s all about who you are and where you’re from.

As an international student, homecoming was a foreign but enlightening experience; I’m proud to say that I stayed for the entire game, and didn’t sneak out at half-time, which is what normally happens

Yeah…I’m not really a big football fan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.