A Wonderful Culture-Shock: What Surprised Me at College

 

    When you first get to college, it can seem pretty daunting. For many people, college is one of the first times you’re more or less on your own and independent and you don’t always know what to expect from campus life. And with that, I can say that I was really surprised when I discovered how progressive my campus was compared to high school.

    High school, like college, is a time of discovery. I was a sophomore in high school when I became aware of social issues. Prior to that, I knew things like sexism and racism existed but I thought they only existed in extremes and were mostly a thing of the past. Once I realized that marginalization was still a very real and prevalent thing, the world felt different. Not to sound cliche, but it really was like taking off rose-colored glasses. Suddenly everyday microaggressions and flat-out prejudice attitudes became glaringly visible in almost everything. And for a time, I was very vocal about my thoughts about these things- which did not end all too well.

Even now there is still a strong opposition towards people being vocal about social justice issues- especially young women- usually involving people throwing around phrases like “snowflake” or “social justice warrior”.  So that, coupled with being in high school (a place not exactly known for civility) led to a mix of me gaining a reputation and getting into more fruitless arguments than I’d like to admit to. And when it came to other people who shared my views in high school, we didn’t get along on personally. While I did have some friends who I could talk to about social issues, as well as access to online resources about these things, it was still a frustrating and draining experience. After sophomore year, I found myself holding my tongue all too often in order to avoid conflict- something I still find myself doing today.

 

    College was a culture shock, to say the least. Aside from the number of resources and organizations devoted to inclusivity and equality, social justice and progressive ideas were everywhere on campus. Discussions of topics like feminism overlapped- and still overlap with many of the courses I’ve taken an English major and aren’t just limited to Women’s Studies. In just two years I’ve taken classes about women in Ancient Greece and Rome, read and loved literary works like A Doll’s House and The Handmaid’s Tale, and have learned the gender and racial intricacies of British literature. Words such as patriarchy and cultural appropriation were not only taken seriously but common academic phrases. With this, the courses I have taken have also introduced me to a wide array of literature by feminists writers and writers of color. But social activism is far from a classroom-only thing-- all around my dorm, there is a positive atmosphere that’s progressive and informative. And with that, I have found that in college it’s much more easy to find people with similar views who aren’t opposed to discussing societal issues and things like that.

    I still sometimes find myself in disbelief at this change in atmosphere. I don’t care if people complain that colleges like mine are “too politically correct”- I will always appreciate how I go to a college that fosters progressive thinking and tries its best to make students of every background feel welcome. While this is only my experience-- and I will admit that my school isn’t perfect-- being progressive and socially aware is a lifelong process. And with that, I believe that my college will continue to strive to be a better place for everyone.