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No student is ever truly ready for college

Students are highly expected to lead with change in college specially when attending school as "in-state" or "out-of-state" within their country

Students study at Starbucks at the Memorial Union on the ASU Tempe campus on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.

Students study at Starbucks at the Memorial Union on the ASU Tempe campus on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.

There is a popular misunderstanding that culture shock only happens when students study abroad. As students prepare for these kinds of programs, they're trained and briefly oriented on how to deal with cultural differences overseas. 

Unaware of the reality of how college truly works, it's fair to say every student experiences culture shock. Students are expected to adjust to changes that they did not anticipate or are not even aware of.

College planning, for example, focuses mostly on academic success mentorship. Students start college with a mentality that is mostly influenced not just by society but also by parents and academic advisors. In a way, they are being told how to feel. When they start to experience college on their own, they realize that it's not what they thought it would be. College, for many, is a constant evaluation of identity and individuality within a new and unknown system.

Students are constantly meeting new challenges, regardless of their time in college. A senior’s experience can’t be considered more manageable and "under control" than an incoming freshman. It’s an evolving process that doesn't get any easier with time.

College can be considered a culture of its own. There are ideas, practices and a collective identity among students. They share some things that are quite evident. Simple things like ignoring homework and responsibilities to go out on a Friday night, choosing meals based on a budget and deciding whether to take a nap or go work out are decisions that college students have to make every day.

Other experiences are shared by many but students are not open to them. Now in his junior year in college, Miles Metke is still trying to figure out his college experience in ASU.

"In college it's hard to find friendships over people you just want to party with," Metke said.  

Originally from Washington, for Metke, coming to Arizona and being away from home has been really hard for him, but he knows he is where he needs to be in order to succeed.

These feelings are rarely talked about, however, they are very common among students. If society and students among themselves do not address this issue, more young adults will continue to feel alone in college.

Communication itself can also become very hard and frustrating. This challenge is not only seen abroad, but also when a student goes back to his or her home country. ASU graduate student Thomas Shalloe started his bachelor's degree in Washington and received his diploma in Argentina, where he was born. He says that when he would go back home, many times he had a really hard time communicating efficiently in Spanish.

Shalloe's experience, for example, does not imply that it has been any easier or harder than students who attend school in Argentina full time. Shalloe says that the most eye-opening thing when abroad was comparing two different systems of education. In the U.S., while high tuition costs influence students' relationships with professors; in Argentina, Shalloe says, a student's success depends greatly on the student's own effort and commitment to his or her education.

"Being uncomfortable in your country is not necessarily a bad thing," he said. "It makes you think critically about your own system and how you can, as an educated citizen of your society, change and improve those aspects of your educational system."

Through cross-culture education, Shalloe was able to evaluate his own culture shock experience. It varies widely within context. A student's experience should not influence and affect what is expected from other students when going abroad or going to college as an in-state or out-of-state student.

On the other hand, an in-state student in the U.S. might experience a sense of not belonging. Incapable of managing these new consequences leads to self-diagnosis of anxiety disorders and depression, another misunderstanding or new social trend that further complicates students' coping experience. 

Students are not used to the change, as well as executing conflict management. They are unaware of what the true problem is because culture-shock has been excluded to experiences abroad.

When students go home to visit, they experience reverse culture shock. They do not expect to feel like strangers the place they considered to be home. They are lost in what once defined them, leading students to question their individuality because they are no longer who they used to be. They look at this as something negative because they are incapable of understanding this shift.

It's hard for students to accept that just because they are changing doesn't mean the world has to change as well.

Although culture shock is more prominent in experiences abroad, it shouldn't neglect the fact that a person can feel like a complete stranger within his or her country or state.

Feeling lost is scary, no matter how old students are or how experienced they consider themselves.

We shouldn't exclude anybody's experience. Just because your ASU classmate is from Glendale, Scottsdale or Mesa, for example, it doesn't imply that he or she is coping with change, just as an international student's experience abroad is harder and therefore more justified.

Rather than sharing this false idea we should realize that its something very common among college students. They are trying to understand what they want and who they are not only as students but also as a person. Society owes these students a chance to not have to constantly live up to certain social expectations such as having his or her life under control, regardless of change. 

Reach the columnist at or follow @santiagoc_17 on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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