What Culture Shock Feels Like

SoCal, more specifically the 626 area, is a place that almost everyone has heard of; whether it be from the popular 626 Night Market that happens every summer, or the notoriously good Asian food. (Seriously. I introduced myself to someone from Massachusetts saying that I was from the 626 area and they immediately knew what I was talking about.) Like many other locations, it has its own particular culture that the residents identify with. In a new environment, meeting another person from the 626 area evokes a sense of familiarity; there’s almost an immediate bond that forms over conversations of good boba places and a longing for home-cooked Asian food.

Because I’ve been living in the “626 bubble” my entire life, being thrown into UCSB culture felt like being pushed into a freezing pool when I wasn't ready. Of course, my experience isn’t as drastic as that of an international student; it amazes me how they can travel to an entirely new country for school and still remain so strong and study-focused. But coming from a primarily Asian hometown, I hadn't seen a pair of blue or green eyes in real life until I started school at UCSB, and I was actually kind of awestruck (and slightly jealous) at how pretty they were. It’s strange not having good boba places or authentic Chinese restaurants at my fingertips, but the exposure to other types of foods has definitely made me a happy camper. My parents have always gone to Asian supermarkets to buy our groceries, so the transition from local markets to big chains like Trader Joe’s and Albertsons is something different; and honestly, slightly exciting. Biking culture is something very new to me as well, considering how driving was the main source of transportation back home. If you didn't have your license by junior or senior year of high school, you would feel left out since all your friends were already on the road. I didn't learn how to ride a bike until the summer before college started, which is when I learned that biking is the most efficient way to get around UCSB. (Yes, I learned how to ride a bike at 18 years old, and I’m still terrified of other bikers on the road.)

Of course, these all might sound like First-World problems, but these new experiences forced me to take steps out of my comfort zone. It's terrifying at first, but will definitely end up being a positive experience in the long run; and maybe one day I can expose my family to the wonderful things I've experienced here at UCSB. Culture shock sounds scary and intimidating, and it typically has a negative connotation. But, it could leave a long-lasting, positive effect on you if you treat it the right way.

Images via Giphy