Adjusting to small-town culture

Moving to a town as small as Pullman can be a culture shock to those who have grown up in bigger cities

SYNDEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

Moving away from home is one of the most exciting and terrifying aspects of growing older and attending college.

For those packing away their big-city lives and replacing them with a small-town culture, this can be even more difficult.

Being raised in a big city means being accustomed to certain luxuries, like shops being open on Sundays and for longer hours on a regular basis. This also means the idea of a college town is a foreign one.

There is a certain culture attached to towns like Pullman. This culture consists of football, finding entertainment in simpler activities and spending time in the outdoors more often than someone from a large metropolis would.

In big cities, everything is bigger and brighter — there is an endless variety of entertainment at the edge of a teenager’s feet. This is not to say big cities are somehow better than small towns, but there is a clear difference between their respective cultures.

A sprawling city is always full of options, so moving away from that can feel almost like a culture shock.

No one had to think too hard about where to go on a Friday night. There was no creativity in choosing to go to one of the several malls in the city, for example.

In contrast, moving to Pullman was off-center from what I had been raised on. I was not used to the quieter atmosphere, the intense university spirit, or the somewhat isolated placement of Pullman. As a result, home felt much more welcoming than ever before.

To those raised in a town similar to Pullman in size and geography, this is likely not nearly as dramatic a change.

If someone comes to the school without having experienced living in a college town it can emphasize the sense of homesickness they feel, said Brenda Bye, a Health & Wellness Services counselor. That is ultimately the largest adjustment to be made when moving from a big city to somewhere much smaller.

Generally, incoming freshman experience a split in the life they have lived: the one at home and the one at their school. The larger that split is, the more prevalent homesickness tends to be.

“New students are faced with an independence they have not had before,” Bye said. “This independence is exciting, but it is also scary because they realize that they have to take care of themselves.”

When a person is raised near abundant entertainment and places to spend time, they not only lose the intimacy to family and friends, but also their sense of what a home could look like. Because they are on their own, this is more difficult.

“Anyone that moves away from home is going to experience the challenge of no longer having the same support system they once did,” Bye said.

That challenge runs deeper than just the frustration of shops closing at 5 p.m. For many, home is attached to both a place and personal identity.

The challenge is to somehow separate the city people grew up in from their own identity, in order to fit into a new town. The idea of what constitutes a ‘home’ has to be redefined.

“Everyone feels lost when they move away from home,” Bye said. “The important point to remember is that home is still there, and there are many ways to transition into what seems like a strange place.”

Sometimes homesickness cuts deep, and counseling is available for those struggling with it, Bye said.

The challenge of facing true independence is one that could result in a newfound respect for home, family and friends. Sometimes, the most personal growth is the product of a struggle.