The Catholic University of America

 

Cultural Issues on Campus

Fitting in and finding a sense of “home” on campus can be difficult for some students, especially if you do not know many people on campus yet and are still building your new support system. Coming from a different background than the demographic majority can be a unique hurdle for some students. This includes coming from a diverse background in terms of ethnicity, nationality, age, sexual orientation, level of ability/disability, religion, and socio-economic status, to name a few.

At college, someone possessing a background different from the perceived majority of peers may feel conspicuous or like an outsider. As such, individuals may feel uncertain about making friends, expressing opinions, or how to find the best fit on campus. Even matters about how to dress, how to address faculty, greetings, punctuality, worship, dating, and language expressions can be confusing.
 
Challenges faced by individuals adapting to a new cultural may include:
  • Difficulty with language fluency or adjusting to a non-native language
  • Uncertainty of how to interact with people in authority
  • Unclear idea of how to make friends with people from different cultures
  • Uncertainty about dating – especially if dating someone from a different culture
  • Feeling misunderstood when you express yourself in your usual way
  • Finding that food and eating customs are different
  • Finding that religious practices are different
  • Experiencing large differences in the educational system
  • Finding that some people in the new culture are impatient when you don’t understand things right away
  • Experiencing that others can be prejudiced against people from different cultures

Suggestions for Adjusting to a New Culture on Campus

1. Give yourself time to adjust.

2. Try to stay positive and keep an open mind – this may help attract possible friends and allow you and others the opportunity to know each other before making any assumptions.
 
3. Take an active interest in learning about social, dining, and other recreational options.
 
4. Explore DC! It’s a very diverse, international city with plenty to offer and exploring the area away from campus is also likely appealing to peers.
 
5. Talk with individuals of similar and dissimilar backgrounds – others may feel as you do, improve your support system, and/or may help clarify norms and expectations.
 
6. Practice healthy self-care such as exercise, healthy eating, and plenty of rest.
 
7. Get involved! Try out different social groups or clubs (informal, CUA-sponsored, or otherwise) that could include volunteer work or groups based on major, nationality, or interests.
 
8. Seek assistance from supports on campus (see resources below).
 

Campus Resources

Office of Campus Activities, Multicultural Education
125 Pryzbyla Center
Tel.: 202-319-6003
Fax: 202-319-6198
E-mail: cua-activities@cua.edu 

Cultural Student Organizations