From the sunshine state to the steel city
Coming to Point Park causes culture shock for many students
April 18, 2017
Filed under OPINIONS
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One of the unique aspects of Point Park is the large diversity among our students, of which admissions staff and professors seem to be very proud. But how do the students feel about it? What is it like for those who aren’t from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or even the United States?
How do students deal with the culture shock of coming here from the outside? Although I came here from Florida versus a different country, entering Pittsburgh felt like an entirely different world.
The first difference I noticed was the environment, the things I missed and the people who call this city home.
I was (and still am) amazed by all the hills and mountains, the tall buildings and the seasons. Coming from flat Florida, I was never used to seeing land rise into the sky, but here it’s a common thing (weird). Likewise, Florida doesn’t have huge buildings.
The tallest I’ve seen was 20 stories high. Up here, there are buildings that reach far beyond that, which is unbelievable! Also, there are seasons here. To most of you, this is no big deal, but for me it’s like seeing a unicorn.
Before coming here, I have only read, heard of, seen pictures of or watched movies with the seasons in them. However, to see the change for myself was unreal — a dream come true!
Although seeing these new natural elements was amazing, after a while, I realized how much I missed parts of Florida. I basically grew up in the water and prefer it to land.
At first I thought three rivers would be close enough to one ocean. I was wrong. In Pittsburgh, the water is a muddy green instead of the clear blue I’m used to. There are no calming waves, and the water is always ice cold even in the summer.
It was not the same, and I started to desperately miss my ocean. But the homesickness didn’t end there; another part of Florida was missing: palm trees. It wasn’t until I went to Phipps Conservatory and saw a dozen plants from my hometown that I realized how long it’s been since I saw a palm tree.
The visit was one of the weirdest experiences I ever had. To see something that feels so familiar yet foreign at the same time is indescribable. It felt so right yet so wrong.
I used to be surrounded by these plants and now I can only seem them when I go inside a building? That is truly bizarre to me and sad that a part of my home isn’t here with me. Sometimes when I get homesick, I want to go back there and hug a palm tree until I feel better.
Finally, the biggest cultural difference was the people themselves. I come from a medium-sized, upper-middle class beach town in South Florida. The average person in my town was a white, Christian or Jewish republican who had some money to spare and most likely owned some type of watercraft like a boat, paddle board or surfboard.
Point Park and Pittsburgh are the exact opposite; there are people from all over the world, multiple types of classes, races and religion. It was a shock coming here because I have honestly never seen this many African Americans, democrats, LGBT or Muslims before.
To put this concept in perspective, my high school had about 3,000 students, and around 2% of those students were African American, and only 2% of my friends them didn’t act like their stereotype. Out of all my friends, 5 of them were democrats, and I was aware of approximately three or four lesbians.
Also, out of the 3,000 kids, there were only two known to be Muslim. Obviously, Point Park is much different, and at first, this difference was a shock to me. As a straight, white, republican girl I wasn’t used to being the minority and had to learn how to deal with people who were the complete opposite as me.
Similarly, I was shocked and had a hard time getting used to the idea of the transgender community, drag queens and hearing a guy talk about his love life, but not with a girl.
I don’t have anything against gay people, but these concepts were simply unheard of in my town, anyone who was gay either kept it hidden or didn’t express it as openly as everyone does here. Back home, I was never truly introduced to these ideas before, and at first I had trouble understanding them. It all felt so foreign to me, like being in a new world.
Despite the cultural shock I got from experiencing the seasons, missing the tropical paradise I call home and being introduced to so many new ideas, lifestyles and people, I learned a lot from these changes.
I learned the seasons are a real thing and people can and will build into the sky. I learned not everywhere I go will have palm trees or an ocean nearby, but there are still beautiful sites to see. Most importantly, I realized not everyone I meet is going to be like me; the majority are going to be the opposite, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with them.
After being at this school for a year, I can see why many of the staff members are proud of the diversity here. Regardless of being amazed or shocked at first, I now feel more aware of a variety of cultures, instead of only having my small town’s views as my world.
Point Park’s diversity opened doors for me I never realized were there.