When I left my apartment to join the first USC tailgate of the year, I could not believe my eyes. Campus was a sea of red and yellow, with the occasional white skirt and gladiator helmet. Students, but also alumni and other USC community members, were rocking the University’s logo and happily clinking their red cups to the phrase, “Fight On” whilst making peace signs. When I saw parents flood the campus with their adorable children dressed in little Trojan and cheerleader costumes, I knew what it really meant to be part of the “Trojan Family.”
I had seen eager students wearing USC apparel during the first two weeks of classes, but I never expected things to get this crazy. Campus was speckled with tents and taco stands, and the Row was one big party. It was as if everybody was suddenly friends, bonded together over a sporting event and booze. Even random people on the streets who clearly had no connection to USC were wearing Trojans shirts.
I absolutely loved it.
Eventually night came, beckoning a red and yellow sea of people towards the Coliseum. Never in my life had I been in a stadium this large, and I watched the whole spectacle in awe. The band, the cheerleaders, the Song Girls… It was more like an amazing show than a sports game.
Having seen all this, I understand why the Trojan alumni network is so valuable. As a student of USC, you develop such a deep-rooted connection with this community that you will want to continue contributing to it long after graduation. I find that so cool.
This school spirit thing is a totally new concept to me, because it does not really exist back home for several reasons:
- My home university, the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, was named after the famous Dutch philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam and stands for his values of worldwide knowledge exchange. What would be our mascot? A philosopher riding an owl? Our official color is not too exciting either. We match the city of Rotterdam with our sophisticated dark green.
- The most popular team sports in the Netherlands — hockey and football (or soccer as you Americans like to call it) — are all played at a municipal level rather than through universities. As a result, there is no inter-college sports competition (with the exception of rowing — and nobody except the rowers are actually into that).
- Many universities do not have a real campus. University buildings are often dispersed throughout the city. Although, Rotterdam is an exception to this
- Since our education system is publicly funded, school officials do not have much incentive to spend government money on school spirit initiatives. Their priority is academic excellence, not luring prospective students into their schools.
All of these factors contribute to a general detachment of Dutch students when it comes to their educational institutions. This in no way means that it is not fun to study in the Netherlands — au contraire! Where we lack loyalty to our universities, we make up for it with our powerful student organizations and social groups. We also host a raging nightlife made possible by a sensible drinking age of eighteen as well as a very intense sorority and fraternity life. Although you will never see me wearing an “Erasmus University of Rotterdam” sweater, I wear my student organization and sorority apparel with pride. And from now on, I will also wear a Trojans shirt on game day.