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Small College to Big University: One Student’s Culture-Shock Experience

It was eight o’clock on the Friday night before school. I had spent the past five minutes mentally preparing myself to make best-friends with about 70 people. I was excited, I had anticipated this moment all summer—I was about to begin a great journey with a new close group of friends—all of whom I would be meeting tonight! My heart was about to jump out of my chest with enthusiasm! However, as I pulled up to the building, my jaw dropped as my enthusiasm instantly changed to anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.

Before transferring to the University of Oklahoma, I had attended a small junior college with a total of about 2,000 students. In junior college I was highly involved with the Baptist Student Ministry. In fact, I was one of ten on the leadership team. We planned events and maintained the happiness of the entire group (which consisted of 30 at the very most.)

The director from my junior college program had signed me up for this “bash” months ago, and all summer I had been excited to get involved in this new place. That night as I drove the full three miles it took to get there, I calculated in my head how many people I would meet. I figured if my junior college had 30 on the best of days, OU surely had more than twice that many. So I figured there would be about 70 people there, and my goal was to know almost all of their names and most of their background stories by the end of the night. This seemed very rational to me because, coming from a small town, everyone I knew was my best friend. I knew the entire life story of all 200 kids in my high school, and I didn’t see how this would be any different.

Oblivious, I pulled up to the BSU building, and my jaw dropped a whole two inches. There were over 700 kids piled into one parking lot, a live band, and hundreds of boxes! Being the extreme extrovert I am, I felt overwhelmed for the first time in my life. My comfort level went way down, my body tensed up, and my heart started beating faster. I wanted to cry at the thought of remembering the hometown of all these people, much less their names! Being the confident person I am, I got out of the car, took a deep breath, and assured myself I could meet at least half of all the students. The other half would have to be saved for another night, but it was most definitely possible—or so I thought.

After filling out an information card, I started talking to a group of nice-looking girls. After exchanging names and hometowns, I felt a little more at ease with the situation, but then—I heard the statement that sent me into shock. My newfound friend turns to the group and says, “Ya know, Norman is just so small!”
I think I nearly fainted. The look on my face had to be a mix between dumbfounded and amazed. What in the world was this girl thinking? This was the biggest city I had ever been in! My family and I took trips here to go shopping, for crying out loud. The interstate is a mere five minutes away, and you think this city is small?! Oh boy, more feelings of being overwhelmed and anxiety hit me. Confusion, sweaty palms, red face…I didn’t like this feeling at all.

Luckily around that time an older girl named Lindsay took me under her wing and allowed me to follow her as she mingled with the other 695 zombies. At the end of the night I could confidently say I knew about three people fairly well. As an extreme extrovert this was the first of many experiences I have had in the big city. Although this was quite overwhelming, I have found that sticking through the hard transitions really has its benefits.

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