Culture Shock in College

The term “culture shock” can refer to a variety of responses in conjunction with experiencing discomfort with something outside of your typical cultural experience. Especially in college, you will be exposed to new people and ideas. Here is your guide on navigating this change in environment. 

Political culture shock 

A primary contender for culture shock is a new political environment. While many young people tend to identify similarly on issues, there is a lot of room for variation on college campuses. You may find yourself in heated political discussions that end friendships and raise tensions between you and other people. It can be uncomfortable and lonely to have an interest in politics, yet no one to share in your viewpoints. There are many ways to go about turning political culture shock into productive political perspectives. 

For example, start each introduction to your view with, “in my experience” or “my view is different in this way, but similar in this way to yours.” That way, you are always acknowledging the other individual’s opinion, but leaving space to express your own in a respectful and open way. 

Find groups on campus who identify with your viewpoints. If you can locate a political group on campus you’ll feel more at home during those meetings and might be able to make friends who share the same values as you. Not that you should always immerse yourself in what feels comfortable, but it is nice to have that space available to talk to others and remain comfortable and affirmed when needed. 

Economic culture shock 

Going to college introduces you to people who are in each socioeconomic status. Even if you go to the most expensive university, there are students there who are only able to afford it from full scholarships. It’s important to remain aware of your words and actions in college, because you never know what someone is experiencing with money. 

It’s better to ask if someone is up to going out somewhere or would rather stay in. Starting a dialogue about making plans could be made more inclusive by simply supplying two options. One option can have a cost associated with it, while the other can be little to no cost at all. “Hey, this Friday would you all like to either watch a movie in my room or go out to get dinner?” sounds better than “I was thinking we should go get dinner and drinks this Friday.” Someone might feel uncomfortable, especially in a group setting, trying to counter your suggestion with a more affordable option. So, be aware and inclusive with what you suggest. You never really know someone’s financial status and comfort level with spending.

There are more aspects to culture shock in college than political and financial, so be aware of your own feelings about your environment change. Reach out to people and know your resources when you do need help from a professional. Many students end up transferring schools as a result of culture shock, which is perfectly normal. Follow this guide and remember that no one can invalidate your feelings and experience!