In many ways, our college years are the most pivotal. We become our best selves while facing the worst parts of who we are along the journey. Fear often can bring out the worst in us, and it’s no wonder why so many of us look at this time with excitement, but with some anxiety on the side. One of the biggest fears that we face is the unknown. A new environment, new people, new languages, and a new community can be anxiety-inducing. It can feel like the world that we’ve come to know is either too big or completely flipped upside down. This feeling of unfamiliarity and fear is often attributed to a phenomenon called culture shock. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, culture shock is, “A sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.”
Now, I know we can only prepare for the new to an extent, but there are ways to counter the almost surreal sense of nervousness that can come with a significant life change –like going college, moving into a dorm room, starting a new journey by yourself. For starters, open your mind. Before making any big life decision, it is best to open your mind to the idea that there is always going to be something you don’t know. In accepting that the world is a vast place and that we have something new to learn everywhere we go and with every person we meet, it is easier to accept the things that may seem bizarre or strange to you in your new setting. Another important aspect of coping with culture shock is owning the mentality that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. I write that in the most non-cliche way I can possibly express, but it’s true. College is where you are going to meet people that will inevitably change your life for the better and sometimes for the worse. Either way, it’s all apart of the process, and it’s what makes the experience as monumental as it is.
Lastly, at the end of each day, make a list of the things that made you happy or smile in your new environment. By reflecting on the positive aspects of even the most terrifying situations, we as college students and as human beings can begin to see that the world is not out to confuse us, but instead, we are meant to learn what it means to be apart of this world. Get out there and take in your new environment with vigor and excitement and open yourself up to the new customs that you are bound to see from your classmates and cohorts. Once you can allow yourself to know that there, are endless amounts of knowledge and human experience. You may find that culture shock is merely a lack of perspective and there’s nothing bad or wrong about that. Take the time to look into languages that you’ve never heard before, look into clubs and organizations that peak your interest, and above all else, open yourself up to your fellow humans and take in all they have to offer.