By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
While most college students, especially those who reside in dorms, are exposed to a wide range of cultural differences, London native Donovan McClure has found both similarities and differences with his fellow members of the school’s soccer team.
One of the strongest associations is with London native, Tom Bayliss. However, Bayliss lauds his hometown in England while McClure can talk about his hometown just 30 miles away.
While his Kentucky hometown is the namesake of Bayliss’ native land, Bayliss admits his residence in southeastern Kentucky was somewhat of a culture shock.
He readily admits that the roads in the United States he has seen thus far excel those in his native land but laughingly says that the British practice far better grammar skills than those in southeastern Kentucky. But Americans are far less reserved than the British, he says.
“Everyone is so welcoming,” he said in his proper British accent. “People have been wonderful to help me.”
Bayliss also pointed out other differences in his native home and his new American home in Barbourville.
Though at Union College on a soccer scholarship, Bayliss said it is easier for the British to attend college than in America. In fact, British schools offer primary education for children ages 5 through 12. Secondary school is offered for students until age 16 and college is offered after the secondary education is completed.
British teens cannot hope to get driver’s license before age 17, but just the mention of driving brings out spurts of laughter from McClure, as he recalls Bayliss’ first attempts of driving in the United States.
“You drive on the wrong side of the road,” McClure laughed.
“It was really different,” Bayliss said of his American driving experience, as McClure continued to laugh.
While American driving was a challenge for Bayliss, he was also introduced to the American Thanksgiving tradition--a holiday that is, of course, not celebrated in Great Britain.
While Union College was closed for Thanksgiving holidays, Bayliss accompanied McClure to his family’s Thanksgiving traditions. For the first time ever, Bayliss enjoyed an American favorite--macaroni and cheese.
The McClure family was amazed when Bayliss referred to white fleshed and orange fleshed potatoes as “sweet potatoes.”
Bayliss also experienced his first Black Friday shopping over the Thanksgiving holidays--another first.
“We went to Kmart and did some shopping on Thursday night,” McClure said. “Then we went to Lexington on Friday. He couldn’t believe it.”
Although Christmas is still a highly celebrated holiday in Britain, Bayliss was speechless when witnessing the frenzy of American shopping habits in the days surrounding Thanksgiving. While most Americans are recuperating financially from Christmas spending, the British have huge sales in January similar to the Black Friday shopping deals across the sea.
But while he adjusts to his new surroundings, he is appreciative of the opportunity for an American college education and to be a part of a sports team that has welcomed him in with open arms.
With both Bayliss and McClure on soccer scholarships, the two friends mesh with their other teammates and look forward to next year’s season.
For Bayliss, coming to America to play soccer is a dream come true. The British advocate sports, especially soccer, and the 22-year-old Bayliss has been playing since he was three years old.
“You start playing sports very young in England,” he said.
As the two Londoners finish out their first semester of college, they look forward to their next semester that begins in January. Bayliss was flying out late last week to his home outside London, England, where he anticipates spending time with family, friends and his dog. McClure, on the other hand, made the short journey back to London, Kentucky, where he is seeking work during his Christmas break.
“He’s going home to visit his family for Christmas,” McClure said. “While I’ll be spending time with my family too, I’m just another one of thousands of college kids who want to make a little extra money during Christmas break.”