Being an Out-of-Stater: How to Overcome Culture Shock

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I moved into my college dorm for the first time, assuming I was in the same boat as almost everyone else. At least, that’s what I was made to believe all summer. After all, we’re all college freshmen moving away from home. We’re starting a new chapter of our lives at a new school in a new place. So, that makes us all pretty much similar, right?


Yes, we were all coming to the same destination for the same purposes, but our pasts were all vastly different from one another. While for some of us the transition to college was a 15 minute commute, for others it was a complete culture change.

I honestly didn’t even consider the University of Maryland to be a great distance from my hometown of Buffalo, New York. I didn’t differentiate myself from any of the other in-state students, because we looked and acted pretty similar for the most part. I then began to notice some differences in simple things, like how I say “pop” instead of “soda,” or how no one here seems to know sponge candy (aka the best chocolate covered treat ever to exist). Then some other things began to jump out at me.

Where I come from, everyone knows everyone. When we see people on the street we always say hello. When we see someone sitting alone in a coffee shop, a complete stranger will more often than not go and sit with that person. This is why Buffalo is nicknamed, “The City of Good Neighbors.” As I was exploring this new campus with my roommate I noticed that people are often taken aback when I stop to say hello. I usually get the “Who are you and why are you talking to me?” look and sometimes a slight awkward smile.

Truth is, these slight differences in behaviors are nothing major. None of this really had any significant impact on my college transition, aside from the unusually warm weather that I’m so not used to. But, it did make me think. If I’m noticing these differences, and my home is only a couple hours away, what must some of these other out-of-state students be experiencing right now? What are their thoughts?

After a few days of repetitive, amusing questions about Buffalo chicken wings and snowstorms, I realized as awkward as it felt to be the girl who says certain words weird and the girl who needs to stay indoors when the temperature outside is over 80 degrees, I love the city I come from, and the people who live there. Instead of trying to blend in and change my ways, I wanted my new friends to experience a little bit of Buffalo from Maryland. So, I had my mom drop off a couple boxes of sponge candy. My friends and I ordered some Buffalo chicken pizza slices from a shop on Route 1, and we talked about snowstorms and snowboarding.

So yes, at the end of the day, being the out-of-state student was more of an adjustment than I had accounted for, and with all of the adjusting I already had to do, it really came as a shock. Even so, I’m glad I did it. Being an out-of-stater has allowed me to branch out in ways I’ve never been able to before.

I think the biggest mistake for out-of-state students is that they can sometimes be misled to think they have to adjust to the social norms of wherever they’re going to college. Instead, I’d say embrace the out-of-state mentality and all of the awkwardness that comes with it.

Yes, I still feel complete culture shock at random times, but even students who live in-state will feel the same way at some point or another. We are all adjusting to a new way of life, and things won’t always be like exactly what we’re used to. Thankfully, we’re not alone, and at the end of the day we’ll all adjust into our new and independent college routines.

Erin is a broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland. She enjoys acrylic painting, playing piano, and long-distance running. Erin also enjoys skiing and snowboarding in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.

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