College culture shocked me, but helped me grow

Published 5:08 pm Friday, July 22, 2016

By Bridget Walker

Culture shock may sound like something that only happens when you visit a foreign country on the other side of the globe, but for college students, culture shock is as frequent as a change in season, or in other words, a Thanksgiving, Christmas or summer break. As a student at a liberal arts university in “Hotlanta” (no one who lives there really calls it that, but I shamelessly overuse this nickname) that grew up in small town, USA, I am blown away at the differences in public opinion, outlooks and attitudes of the people in the two places I call home.

In an attempt to put into words what I felt when I began my college career last fall and every time I have returned to Bainbridge since, I have used the word “culture shock,” thinking it was a term I just made up.

Email newsletter signup

But after learning that Merriam-Webster defines culture shock as, “a feeling of confusion, doubt or nervousness caused by being in a place that is very different from what you are used to,” I was happy to realize that it was a real thing, and I wasn’t simply incapable of adjusting to new surroundings.

My first culture shock related epiphany took place after my first day at Oglethorpe University when I very quickly realized that I couldn’t just assume everyone around me believed in God, like the majority of people back home in Bainbridge do.

Coming into college, I didn’t honestly think that every person in the world believed in God, but when you move to a place where believing in God is not the general consensus, your faith is challenged in new ways. Most of my peers and professors don’t consider themselves Christians, but I am extremely grateful that I was placed with my sweet roommate, Abby, who just so happened to share my love of the Lord and was able to support me in my walk with Christ.

Another wave of culture shock came with the presidential campaign. At Oglethorpe, the thought of supporting Donald Trump for president is more of a joke than a legitimate possibility. But driving through Bainbridge, I see signs promoting Trump all over the place. For a while, I was under the impression that I was the only person in the country who didn’t want Bernie Sanders to win, because literally everyone at Oglethorpe was cheering him on.

I think that in college, your answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” might change, and I’m not referring to a job title. You learn just as much, if not more, about yourself than you do about your future profession.

You meet new people, and you’re presented with thoughts, beliefs and ways of life you never even knew existed, let alone considered pursuing. You get to choose which side of the fence you stand on regarding many issues, because you spend time on both. So if you’re going into your freshman year of college next month, be prepared for the challenges that come with deciding who you want to be and sticking to it