Culture shock: how students find their way in college

Orientation day, no matter how well organized, still holds a great deal of anxiety for the average new student.

Potentially even more so for those transfer students from the smaller, rural community colleges. Campus maps become the lifelines students cling to as they find their way around the sprawling Minnesota State University, Mankato campus. By the end of orientation day, most have figured out where they need to be on their first day of class. Those who came for the early orientation in June were less likely to have had their schedules completed, requiring them to make a second trip down to help figure these things out.

Many enjoyed the comfort of living at home while attending a community college and the whole housing situation presents another intensive learning curve. With so many housing choices—on-campus, off-campus, and private rentals—it can become an almost overwhelming experience without parental help. MNSU staff, local papers, local property management firms, and local realtors all provide helpful information to the student and their encouraging families. Like a puzzle, as the pieces fall in place, the task becomes increasingly manageable and the stress drops steadily.

Then comes the first day of class. Those who took time to orient themselves ahead of time find themselves helping those who haven’t. Everyone somehow gets where they are needing to go. Those first days of classes are full of instructions and syllabuses to tell them what to expect.
As the course confusion clears, students scramble through the first couple weeks trying to figure out the clubs they would like to belong to and how they fit into their crowded schedules. For many, it creates some compromise and frustration in their first semester as they learn to work around the schedules of these many clubs, groups, and Greek life.

So many pieces to fit together on the larger campus that all take time and effort to figure out—a true growth experience on its own.

With so much happening and so many opportunities for growth and learning, navigating the experience gradually changes from daunting to routine, from fearfulness to confidence, as the machinery of education begins to shape our future and fortify our abilities with the seemingly endless opportunities. As confidence and self-assuredness creep into our conscienceless the pieces fall in place and normalization brings us toward our goals. In short, we rise to the occasion, we adapt to our circumstances, and overcome our obstacles.

Our confidence grows and the whole experience becomes just another of life’s great adventures to be lived to the fullest. We make friends, set goals, achieve success, make choices, and move ever forward toward the uncertain completion of our mission in life. Many of these are the things that all students share, the things that connect us as we endeavor to persevere. Will we change the world for the better? Will we invent the next new thing? Will we solve the world’s problems? Time will surely tell.

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