Blog #5: A U.S.-themed night abroad

Apr 05, 2023
Emily Pachta hosted a U.S.-themed party as she studies abroad in Birmingham, England. (Courtesy photo)
Emily Pachta hosted a U.S.-themed party as she studies abroad in Birmingham, England. (Courtesy photo)

Sophomore Emily Pachta of Wichita is studying abroad at Newman University’s sister school in Birmingham, England, and continues her latest adventures in blog No. 5.

Follow along with Pachta’s blog posts on the Newman Today news site as she explores the British university also named for St. John Henry Newman, as well as Birmingham and other cities and sites in England and Europe.

Read blog No. 1 — Getting acquainted

Read blog No. 2 — A day in the life

Read blog No. 3 — A trip to Scotland

Read blog No. 4 — Travel tips

Emily Pachta in front of Edinburgh Castle (Courtesy photo)
Emily Pachta in front of Edinburgh Castle (Courtesy photo)

Hey guys, I hope you are all doing well in the U.S. Speaking of the U.S., I had a U.S.-themed night for my international friends and it was a success. But while I was planning it out, I thought about some of the U.S.-specific aspects that my friends may have not eaten or heard. So if you want to be super patriotic, I will teach you how to throw the perfect U.S.-themed party. 


Hamburgers — obviously. I actually asked my friends what they thought the most popular/stereotypical U.S. food was and they said hamburgers and fries. I bought hamburger patties and veggie burgers for my vegetarian friends and fried them up with some cheese. Voila.

French Fries — more commonly called “chips” (I literally hate that and refuse to refer to them as chips). I actually found seasoned french fries and was so excited because maybe they wouldn’t just be potatoes. I kid you not, they literally only seasoned them with salt. I had to recheck the package to make sure it said seasoned. It was one of the most British things I have seen so far. 

Pachta holds a plate with a cheeseburger and seasoned fries during her U.S.-themed party. (Courtesy photo)
Pachta holds a plate with a cheeseburger and seasoned fries during her U.S.-themed party. (Courtesy photo)

Freddy’s-inspired fry sauce. This is very Midwest (shout out to Freddy’s for being created in Kansas) but my brother used to make this all the time. Seasoning salt, mayo and ketchup mixed until it tasted right. I thought this would be the easiest part. It was not. Apparently seasoning salt is an American thing? All my friends had no idea what I was talking about. So I found a spice blend that is seasoning salt adjacent. In this situation, it worked but it doesn’t compare to the real thing. 

Ranch and veggies — I miss ranch. Guys, if anyone wants to send me ranch I will send you my address. Please. Anyway, I found one brand of ranch in all the supermarkets here. I kid you not, it was called “Newman’s Own Ranch.” It’s like it was meant for me. It tasted OK but not even close to the wonderful Hidden Valley Ranch. 

Newman's Own Ranch (Courtesy photo)
Newman’s Own Ranch (Courtesy photo)

Peanut Butter and Apples — I whipped this out in the library one day when studying with my international friends and got some weird looks. I genuinely could not believe they had never heard of this combo because it is top-tier. My Dutch friend actually sent me a video of her eating apples and peanut butter the other day on her own because she loved it so much. Another win for the U.S. 

P.S. Peanut butter and jelly is also a very U.S. thing and they all think that combination is wild. They don’t know what they are talking about. 

Candy — My parents brought authentic American candy from the Manhattan Walmart. Super fancy. We dined on sour Skittles which are different here in the UK (they don’t have the delicious sour coating), Sour Punch Straws (my all-time favorite), Tootsie Rolls (which everyone weirdly loved), and Cheez-Its, which aren’t candy but are incredible and only offered in America (I think). So shout out to my parents for bringing us these treats. 

"Rare snacks from the U.S. smuggled (not really) across the border," Pachta said. (Courtesy photo)
“Rare snacks from the U.S. smuggled (not really) across the border,” Pachta said. (Courtesy photo)


I got asked if country music actually existed. To those wondering, yes country music exists and it is constantly being played in Kansas. While country music isn’t my thing, listening to my America playlist gave me an overwhelming nostalgic feeling about being on the lake in the summer. Here are some of the top songs that I think really scream “AMERICA.”

  • “American Pie” by Don McLean
  • “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynrd
  • “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas
  • “Take Me Home, Country Road” by John Denver
  • “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “God’s Country” by Blake Shelton
  • “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus (the absolute greatest of all time)
  • “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood
  • “Firework” by Katy Perry (Iconic)
  • “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts
  • “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle

I actually have a Spotify playlist labeled “America” so if you ever need it for a Fourth of July party or to educate your foreign friends, let me know. There are a lot more songs there. 


For dinner, I found a 10-hour video of a U.S. flag waving so obviously I played that while the music was playing. After, we watched one of the best U.S. movies — “White Chicks.” There were too many movie choices so I thought this would be a perfect choice and way more American than “Top Gun” or “Independence Day.” 

Overall, it was very fun. Honestly, Americans are not thought of highly in Europe so it was nice to have a good American experience. I am not patriotic (haha) but it gets frustrating when everyone is constantly talking badly about the place where you were born. They act like the U.S. is such an awful place to live but most of them have never even visited or know where Kansas is. Obviously, that is a generalization about Europeans so don’t take that to heart. The moral is that showing the fun and silly traditions can help shine a good light on the great “U. S. of A.” 

Once again, thanks for reading and reach out to [email protected] for any questions or comments. 🙂

– Emily Pachta

Study abroad opportunities at Newman University

Students are encouraged to participate in Newman University’s overseas study and exchange programs, which contribute to individual and intercultural development.