OpinionOops, I was wrong! I’ve been culturally shocked!

Experiencing new student orientation in a drastically different way
Natalia SalasSeptember 16, 2019772 min
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Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

A couple weeks before I left to study abroad in London, towards the end of the summer, I went to Trinity to say goodbye to my friends. As I was there, I saw a huge group of first-years being herded toward Laurie Auditorium for one of the million orientation events, and I had a sigh of relief thinking about how thankful I am to be past that beginning stage of college (not that it’s a bad time; please, please enjoy it while you can).

I felt that relief because after spending a whole two years in college, I felt like I was fully aware of how everything worked. I knew what my “place” was at Trinity, and I learned how to manage school, jobs, extracurriculars, etc.

Going abroad for a semester is kind of like throwing all that comfort away and starting from scratch. Everything I experienced for the first time as a brand new Trinity student, I’m basically experiencing all over again, but with the added pressure of being approximately 5,000 miles from home.

It didn’t really dawn on me that, since I chose to spend four months in a foreign country, I would be going through the exact same fear and uncertainty that I was relieved to have left behind. Except instead of being led by an energetic group of O-Teamers through the familiar red-bricked buildings of Trinity’s safe and sound campus, I was being rushed through bus stops and subway stations with about 30 other jet-lagged and confused college students from all over the U.S.

I may sound dramatic, since I am in a big city, in an English-speaking country, with dorm-like housing, and surrounded by other students going through the exact same thing as I am. However, after being here for a whole 10 days, I’ve come to realize that culture shock is culture shock, no matter, really, where you go.

The language may be the same, for example, but I saw an entire British musical the other night and I could understand maybe five sentences of it, if I’m being generous. I have not said “cheers” once, and every single time I’ve asked for a bathroom I’ve said “restroom,” not “toilet” or “loo”.

There’s no meal plan here, so I thought how nice, I get to practice cooking for myself instead of relying on a meal plan for when I get back home. Well, joke’s on me because cooking in London is a whole different ball game than it is in the States. The fridges are smaller, and everything expires in like five minutes, apparently, because there are fewer “preservatives” or whatever (or at least that’s what British people have told me).

And in the spirit of being transparent and honest, I’ll say it — I’ve noticed that the water pressure here is different, and flushing is just not the same anymore if I don’t have to literally plug my ears and run away because of how strong and unbearably loud it is, like I did in Thomas last year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love being in London and I am so thankful for this opportunity, but everything is so brand-new to me (and to a much higher degree than when I went from Houston to San Antonio, obviously). Again, kudos to all you international students because moving to a new country to study is really hard, even if it’s just temporary. Just know that if you ever plan on doing so, that going abroad is like stepping out of the Trinity bubble in the most drastic way possible, but that’s part of what makes it fun and exciting.

Natalia Salas

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