The phrase; "Boys have cooties" was always circulated when I was a child, mainly from other kids who watched way too much American television. In my four months of living in a Berkeley fraternity house among college-aged American boys (they 100 percent couldn't be called men, they needed full-time agony aunts), I learned numerous life lessons whether I wanted to or not. Mainly that personal hygiene and a basic understanding of women are deeply lacking, and there's nothing I can do to change either of those things. Bear in mind that this frat house is just one of dozens in Berkeley alone, and that sarcasm will be heavily used in this article. I won't be naming any names (though I'd love to) and many frat boys I met were positively lovely. It was just the few that needed basic lectures about toxic masculinity and domestic chores that will be targeted by my literary wrath.
1. If they make eye contact with you, they're most likely drunk or high and have obtained a mysterious confidence.
Waking up in the morning and emerging through the jungle of empty beer bottles and fast food takeaway boxes, if you make it to the disgusting kitchen and run into a boy, he'll scutter away into the darkness or refuse to look you in the eye. Whether we'd be standing only centimetres apart while frying off eggs or toasting bread, chances are high that you won't be addressed. They're probably terrified of you, or don't know how to communicate with a woman without downing a keg of beer first.
Many of these boys are spectacularly wealthy (well, their families are.) You need to have some connection to cash to get into college in the USA, usually but not always of course. Many of these boys also went to prep schools, with other boys surrounding them. Their only opportunity to talk to women often is on nights out in clubs or bars, and the heteronormativity is honestly unavoidable. I made some great friends while living in Berkeley, but never felt entirely safe unless there was a female friend or just a regular ol' female around. Boys have no idea the lengths that women have to go to in order to feel safe, just walking down the street. Especially in a strange city without your family.
2. The issue of consent is a major epidemic across US college campuses
Men in America often objectify women, and one of the first things I noticed about our frat house when we moved in was the consistent posters regarding consent. The alarming feeling that only an incident would spur on the sudden mass influx of posters plagued me for a lot of my trip, and Irish women who also lived in the house were all very safe. The rumours about US college campuses lacking safety didn't help, as well as the security guards who insisted on escorting us around the campus at night. According to AAU Campus Climate Surveys (2015), 23.1 percent of female undergraduates, 5.4 percent of male undergraduates, and 24.1 percent of TGQN (trans, gender-non conforming, queer) undergraduates reported being sexually assaulted since starting college. Among graduate students and professionals, the estimates were 8.8 percent female, 2.2 percent male, and 15.5 percent TGQN. Sexual violence is far more prevalent in colleges, compared to other crimes. RAINN claim that only 20 percent of female student victims, aged between 18-and 24, report sexual violence to law enforcement. Frat houses are yet more spaces where women aren't always protected.
3. Their mums have cleaned up after them and spoiled them silly since they emerged from the womb
The boys of our frat house made a 'chore list' for the Irish students alone, and overcharged us absurdly for rent. They essentially exploited us; we paid them handsomely for gross accommodation while they lived there for free, and they spent the money on drugs and then drove to In 'N' Out. They were incapable of cleaning up after themselves, so old food and cooking tools were stacked up, while dirty dishes were consistently in a Mount Everest pile up in the sink. I learned of new smells I never thought existed, thanks to mould and bacteria. I'm convinced that I'm immune to many diseases because of living there. Boys have an astounding ability to leave a mess rotting the place for days, if not months, and play chicken with you until you can't take it anymore and give in. I have the distinct memory of cleaning out green mould from our fridge for three hours and inhaling Stranger Things 'Upside Down' like materials. A gas mask would have come in handy. They also don't know that sheets are meant to be changed.
4. Become Bear Grylls overnight if you have a rodent problem
We had numerous Snow White-esque pets in our abode, such as a Skunk (we named him Larry), ferrets under the floorboards and even bed bugs. We even had to trap a bed bug (insanely difficult task) in order to show our landlord, in order to get a $50 reduction in rent. Yes, just $50. He never actually gave us that reduction in the end…
The point is; Get a thick skin for bugs and unwanted pets. You will suddenly turn into a complete Lara Croft badass and will learn to live amongst nature.
5. Certain toxic, alien practices surrounding fraternity houses and sororities continue to exist
During the weeks before college actually begins, 'Rush' occurs. This is basically where you semi-audition to be in a frat house or sorority, with some houses being significantly more difficult to infiltrate than others. It becomes a common occurrence to see boys with their shirts off and abs painstakingly arranged in a six-pack wandering around screaming; "ALPHA KAPPA LAMBA 'TIL I DIE, BRO!'. They may not be entirely made up of brain cells, but just ignore them. Sorority girls will walk around in matching outfits and sky-high heels, screeching chants that sound like sirens to you. Music will be blasting from 16 different speakers, signs and balloons will line the street. Every house puts the maximum amount of effort in when it comes to attracting the most attention, and future members. The 'hazing' rituals still exist too. One rule which infuriated our entire group was that frat houses could throw parties in Berkeley, but sororities couldn't. The rule had never been changed, and it was part of the college campus law now.
6. They will clog every toilet in existence
In Berkeley, at least, weed was absolutely everywhere. You couldn't make coffee in the morning before scraping your hungover self into work without a frat boy shoving a bong in your face.
From edibles to hemp products to the grass plant itself; marijuana is unavoidable in the area. What are the results of a house full of boys smoking weed until they KO? The digestive system going into meltdown. Who suffers from this surprising turn of events? Normally women, who actually need to use the toilet more often than most boys due to sanitary needs etc. They also need to sit on the toilet seat constantly.
There were four bathrooms in the sizeable fraternity house. You would assume that at least one toilet was always available to use, then. How wrong you are. All four toilets were consistently blocked thanks to the bowel movements of 15 boys, all permanently high. Basic human hygiene went out of the window in days from when I arrived, and I began using public bathrooms in the area to just experience what a regular toilet is meant to be like. Never take your pristine white bathroom for granted, ladies. Some day, it could be compromised by Snoop Dogg & Co.
7. You will never take privacy for granted again
Sharing a house with 25 people at the same time can make it extremely difficult to get any time alone. You're probably sharing a room with at least one person, and even small errands like trying to do laundry can take hours with everyone queueing up.
Many of us don't enjoy the feeling of being alone, but if you're accustomed to having your own room as I was (my identical twin and I fought viciously over bunk-beds so our parents separated us) then sharing that space can be a huge shock. Arguments over whose side of the room is messier occurred daily, and clothes went missing all the time. Random strangers would walk into our house, seeing as only the house manager had a lock on his door, so every room was fair game. The house itself was never locked, and it became difficult to know who was one of your frat boys and who was a randomer.
This made privacy a long-lost friend who you ached to see once again, for however short a time. Going to the bathroom or showering was blissful even for those few moments alone. Despite the grubbiness of the bathrooms themselves…(Hello, Cif? Cillit Bang? Lost but not forgotten.)
8. Someone will eat your food, and you will be fuming over it
You could do a full grocery shop in Trader Joe's down the road and within minutes, hungover boys or high boys who have the munchies will have annihilated your entire snack stash. Most people tried to spend as little money on food as physically possible, either by stealing food from wherever they worked or by stealing food from the house. Now, I took the odd slice of bread or splash of milk for my (Barry's) tea, but that was all. I advise you to create your own bunker of sorts, where you hide all your treats and actually decent-tasting food from everyone else in the house.
Never tell anyone, not even your closest friend, where it is. Or else have a password so you can know who to trust. Surviving in a frat house takes buckets of crisps and dip, microwave popcorn, Cadbury's chocolate and pot noodles. Trust me.
9. American's can't drink legally until the age of 21, and they can't handle it
One of the reasons why frat houses are so obsessed with drugs in California is that it's easier to get them, rather than getting their fake IDs rejected while trying to score alcohol. When they DO manage to get booze, boy are they bad at handling it. Mainly due to the insane levels of peer pressure from the Bro Mob. If you told one of them during a game of Beer Pong that he had to poison himself with weed killer then do a backflip in front of a sorority house naked, they'd probably do it. It was toxic as f*ck. We went on a bar crawl with our house manager for his 21st birthday (we thought he was 30-years-old, so that was a shock…) and he drank a bottle of hot sauce and tequila and vomited bright orange puke down the stairs of the bar, and all of us were then banned. There were only two bars in town, so it was a low blow. While they can handle their weed, when it comes to binge drinking there's nobody like an Irish person to put them in their place.
10. You'll miss Ireland more than you expected
From basic teabags and bread that isn't made entirely of sugar to Irish carveries and homemade meals, there's a lot that you'll miss about the Emerald Isle. Finally having food that isn't processed, being able to afford a meal again, being around people who understand sarcasm and whose country isn't politically dangerous and immoral will be blissful. Seeing proper forestland and greenery is often hard in America, due to the difference in climate. Flying back and seeing the patchwork field of bright green fields, you'll forget all about the dried up desert backyard of the frat house. Also having your own room again will bring tears of gratitude to your eyes, if you can grab one.