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Near the end of August, right around the time when you first arrive on campus and start settling into your dorm, you may notice something strange happening.

Some students are walking around wearing matching shirts. Others have colorful face paint. Some are in strange costumes. Is it a party, you wonder? No. It’s American football season. These students are fans getting ready to cheer for their college football team.

As an international student, you may have seen similar excitement about European football, which is called soccer in the United States. Or this level of excitement about a game might be completely new to you.

Many universities make college football part of their identities. Students, faculty and alumni build connections and forge friendships as fans of the sport. This is particularly true for colleges in the southern region of the United States.

Many universities take pride in their team’s achievements. Schools that have won championships often brag about it on billboards or signs around campus. They may host special events to celebrate games won.

Everyone connected with the university comes together for football season. Students and members of the community crowd the stands. Cheerleaders on the sidelines encourage the team. Band members play the school song and other musical favorites to give everything a festive atmosphere. Alumni may even return to campus to watch important games.

The annual homecoming game draws the biggest crowd. Homecoming is an occasion for the school to celebrate its achievements and heritage. At the center of this weekend-long event is a football game featuring the home team, usually playing against a traditional rival.

During homecoming weekend, alumni are invited back to campus, and the university may host picnics, special performances, dances or other events to bring students and alumni together.

Get ready for football season

Here’s how to embrace this new experience, while still getting your schoolwork done:

  • Plan ahead – On days when football games are scheduled, campus might be louder and more crowded. It might be more difficult than usual to find a quiet place to study. If you have work that needs to get done, plan ahead to make sure you won’t be too distracted. If you need to take public transportation or even just walk across campus on the day of a game, give yourself extra travel time.
  • Join in the fun – Students can often get specially priced tickets to make it easier for them to attend a game. Yet watching the game in person is just part of the fun you can have with football. If you can’t sit in the stands, consider joining in a tailgate party where students cook outside on grills set up near the stadium. You might also watch the game on television. Many schools screen major games in common areas. They might even be televised for you to watch in your room.
  • Make friends – Friends make football season (and your entire college experience) more fun. Many U.S. students will enjoy sharing their love of football with you. Ask questions about the game, join in on special events, and make new friends.

Getting involved with college football can help you feel more connected to the campus community. Plus, it’s a fun cultural experience.