Entering college and being consistently engaged in all that it has to offer presents a variety of challenges to students. Leaving home, family, and old friends behind and establishing a new “home,” with new friends, and even a new identity, can be difficult as well as exciting. Many students find themselves struggling with issues related to independence, autonomy, and separation from that which was once so familiar and secure. Relationships with new and different others is a sort of medium in which these themes are made manifest, and for this reason, can sometimes be riddled with tensions and stress.
Culture Shock and Homesickness
Living in a new and unfamiliar community is a kind of canvas onto which each of us paints our personalities and needs. For some, the transition is fun and thrilling. For others, it is a loathsome and anxious time. Chances are that, no matter where your “home base” is, our community is different from what is familiar to you. Despite what may be obvious to you about America, the Deep South, Alabama, Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama, there is much more here than meets the eye. (This is always the case, no matter where you go, because many interesting people, places, and things do no advertising). Those who put effort into learning about life in this area and acquiring new experiences usually are more successful in adapting to the changes that living here can represent. People and organizations can help by introducing you to life here, but what you make of your new life is ultimately up to you.
Loneliness and Boredom
It is relatively easy to feel disenfranchised, lonely, and bored in a new and unfamiliar community, if only because newcomers are usually only aware of the most obvious of its aspects. Regardless of how it may seem to you, there is a niche for everyone, though it may take work to discover yours. There are dozens of student organizations and groups on our campus, representing a wide range of interests and hobbies. There are many opportunities for recreation, both on and off campus, and many of these are free or the cost is covered by fees you already pay. Options for volunteer work abound, and provide an interesting way to meet new people and acquire new skills. Many local religious groups offer groups and programs for singles, which can provide a refreshing alternative to “The Strip” or organized parties. Refer to the Crimson White publications, The Office of the Dean of Students, and local civic and social service organizations for more information.
As a student you will come into contact with others who are very different than you. Differences can be found on any dimension: race, ethnic identity, national origin, religious beliefs, sexual preference, economic status, and others. When people with such differences come together in one, relatively small community, there is much opportunity for both conflict and mutual enrichment. A very important part of the mission of the University of Alabama involves expanding the intellect and experience of students, and it is hoped that all will benefit from the full range of opportunities available to them. Approaching different others with open mind and acceptance will help you obtain this benefit. This does not mean that you are expected to endorse or condone the beliefs and behavior of others. Rather, it means learning what you can about the variety of human experience and using it to enrich your own life and give productive voice to your opinions.
“Adapt and overcome” is a saying the Marines use when faced with obstacles. If you find that you are having difficulty positively adapting to the social and cultural challenges you face at the University of Alabama, counseling may be of help. Contact the Counseling Center at 348-3863 for an appointment.