by Sadie Fienberg
When I was home over winter break, my parents and I had an interesting conversation. I had an epiphany after the conversation was over. My parents and I talked about how no matter where I go in life, I will be faced with people who do things differently than me and people whose personalities I may not necessarily mesh with. Not everyone was raised in the same fashion as me and that is OK. We talked about how people handle social situations differently, how people handle their home lives differently, as far as keeping their homes clean, hygiene and eating. We also talked about how people practice their religion and how people handle stress. No one does anything that is “the right way” to do something, but many people think that their way is the best way to go about completing something.
It seems obvious that everyone grows up differently, but up until recently I was that person who thought that everyone does everything the same. I selfishly assumed that everyone has been raised just like me, so they should be doing things just like me. Unfortunately, that tactic, the one where I think that my way is the “be-all, end-all” is completely incorrect and an unrealistic way to go about interacting with others.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles. It seemed like every house around me had a married couple and a few kids living there. From what I knew, it seemed like most people were also Jewish. It didn’t take me long to discover that I was gravitating towards people – unknowingly I might add – who were Jewish.
It became extremely clear why I gravitated towards those certain people once I moved to college. It was no surprise that when I decided to move into the dorms that it was going to be a “melting pot” of tons of different cultures, backgrounds and races. I honestly thought for a while that it would be exactly the same situation as my Jewish summer camp that I went to every summer for 10 years, but longer than my usual three-week session. Nope, it was not the same.
I was raised by my parents who have been married for 25 years. Not everyone grows up with their parents being married. Unfortunately, the divorce rate in the United States is high, but in turn that means that some kids spend their childhoods going back and forth between mom and dad. Historically, men and women have a different way of doing almost everything. So, in turn, chances are those houses were each run a little differently. For example, getting away with certain things was easier with one parent rather than the other. Maybe your mom doesn’t care if you get home later than your curfew, but your dad does.
Imagine my surprise, along with other peoples’ surprise, when I realized upon moving to college that not everyone is the same. It seems dumb, but sometimes it is definitely not obvious.
Culture shock is inevitable when moving into a dorm. Students are coming from all over the world to live in one building. Clearly, not everyone can be the same religion, race, age, gender and sexuality, but nonetheless, we all are forced to get along and adapt to our peers’ different ways of living.
I think one of the weirdest things I discovered when moving to college was the fact that no one had any clue about my religion. By the same token, I didn’t know much about any of the other religions. Most people just know about Christmas and Hanukkah, but not much more. It is really interesting to hear about what other people celebrate and how they celebrate it. It is also great to inform other people on your own religion.
Regardless of how people are brought up, everyone has his or her own style. No one way of doing something is better than another. There are universal ways to accomplish tasks. Coming to college and learning how to adapt to the different ways of living makes people become more tolerant, which in the end, will help later on in life. We are not always going to be in our comfort zone. There are not always going to be people who are the same as you. Learning how to not judge and accept people for who they are is an important part of life. College helps students accomplish that.
Sadie Fienberg studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.