Wildcat welcome: or, the start of the new academic year

If you ever assumed that American and British cultures really weren’t that far apart, here’s something that quite wonderfully demonstrates how wrong that is.

The new term starts this week at Northwestern, and, poised as we are on the edge of campus, we’re right in the middle of the Wildcat Welcome.  The drumming you can hear on the video was audible for miles around last week.  New students march through the arch to the applause of existing university members, before attending the inspirational rally where they’re shown the Wildcat salute and encouraged to wear a lot of purple.

Many have taken this to heart.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to take pictures of the very many people wearing purple merely to poke fun at them, but here are some purple decorations around campus, instead:

Two details I like on these pictures: in the first one, if you look closely you can see that the flowerpots on the steps are wrapped in purple cellophane.  Such a sweetly unostentatious form of decoration!  And in the third one, you can see some fliers on the ground.  I’ve never seen this done before, but it’s all the rage at Northwestern – here’s another picture that shows it better.

They’re taped all the way along the major walking routes into campus.  In the rain they disintegrate and coloured paper pulp is trodden everywhere.  I don’t know why, but I find this phenomenon cute too.  Especially since, as M has pointed out, most of them are for a cappella groups.

Maybe I should qualify what I said above about cultural differences.  I had a college scarf (in a tasteful navy and off-white stripe) when I was an undergraduate.  Boat Club members used to wear college tracksuits (though the rest of us turned our noses up at them). I was even pretty keen on my college.  But I’ve never before seen so many people wearing college t-shirts, hoodies and shorts in such a prominent and unflattering colour, seemingly on a daily basis, or talking with such wholesome enthusiastic loyalty, untinged with any irony, about their university.  Maybe it’s a new-term phenomenon.  I’ll be keeping tabs.


About scepticalexpat

British 30something wannabe academic, moving to Chicago for three years in August 2010.
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7 Responses to Wildcat welcome: or, the start of the new academic year

  1. Ginnie says:

    Unflattering colour? I went to NU as an undergrad, and now I’m at University of Texas. Purple is nothing compared to Burnt Orange. Which is worn everywhere. And on cars. And really anything. Be thankful.

  2. awindram says:

    My college colours were blue and white as well. Made the scarf very handy too, I could wear it during term time and then when I was back home to Hartlepool Utd matches.

  3. Eileen says:

    ha! I went to a smaller university for undergrad and to Northwestern for grad school. I never understood the fliers on the ground thing loved by the Northwestern students. It makes no sense, in a place with so much rain/snow! Also the university where I attended undergrad was not known for school spirit… a rally like this, or the en masse wearing of school colors, would never have happened. Funny how I had some similar “culture shock” experiences to you at adjusting to NU, and I’m American 🙂

  4. L says:

    Oddly I think here in Oxbridge things are getting more Americanized in that way – as in, undergrads now are in increasing numbers wearing the kind of branded sweaters, t-shirts, etc which in my day were considered absolutely only for tourists.

    I once met someone wearing a branded sweatshirt that said ‘COLLEGE’. I assumed this was admirable post-modern humour, and was depressed to discover it apparently refers to a reasonably well-known institution in the States. (*where*, though??)

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