by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student
Born and raised in New York City (sorry South Detroit,) life started to look a lot different when I committed to play basketball at Houghton College, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York. I remember the drive up when I was first getting dropped off. We stopped seeing civilization a good hour before reaching the school. It was an endless scene of fields, farms, livestock, and the occasional Amish buggy. I vividly remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”
The first month was the most challenging. Other than the general struggles of making new friends and adapting to college, there are a lot of cultural differences between living in a small town and living in a city. For starters, everyone says hello. I always thought that I was a polite person for smiling if I made random eye contact with a stranger, but this was a new extreme. I kind of liked it. It was a little act, took minimum effort, but for some reason made you feel slightly more at home.
People also seemed kinder, and had a genuine interest in you. There wasn’t a big rush, or an urgency about everything. It was very different for me. I had developed habits that were completely opposite of this kind of living. My walking and driving never quite adapted. Eighteen years in the city and you develop a speed walk that’s the equivalent to a regular man’s jog. My friends were often telling me to slow down through ragged breaths. As for driving, I can’t count the amount of times someone drove with me and never asked for another ride. It’s the fast and furious in the city, the yellow cabs are merciless…
There are countless other examples of cultural differences that I encountered, but they all came together to paint one big picture for me. We have all experienced life differently growing up. Our countries, families, environments, religions, and homes, have all played a role in the way we view things. As we experience these different cultures, there are a lot of important things to learn from the way other people view and do things. At the same time, going somewhere new will often show you things about yourself that you might have never noticed. It doesn’t have to be a new country or change of scenery, it could simply be a different group or new friend. Regardless of what’s new, enjoy the different perspective, embrace it, and learn from it. There’s no better time than now.