Tola Akinwumi ’21 RGLP Reflection: Learning to Overcome Culture Shock

Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together 25 student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston, Montreal, or New York City, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. The Spring 2019 cohort spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

Coming to Dartmouth and adjusting to the culture here has been an experience that not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, but forced me to be more cognizant of my environment and the different types of people around me. Back home I had the comfortability of always being around people who either looked like me or grew up in the same environment as me. It was easy to navigate social spaces because there were obvious and apparent commonalities with the people I came across.

At Dartmouth, everyone has different backgrounds and everyone’s story is different. I struggled to understand this for a while. From how people spoke to how they dressed – the differences scared me. I continued to struggle as my peers seemed to be adapting to this change in culture with excitement and curiosity. I met these changes with hesitation and skepticism. 

Culture shock can be described as someone feeling disoriented or alienated when interacting with a different way of life or space. For me, I had to overcome culture shock in two steps. First, I had to establish my own sense of identity. Who am I? Where do I come from? What does that mean? It was important to me that I understand myself in order to prevent getting lost while navigating this foreign environment. Second, I had to dive in. I began to make more attempts to get out of my comfort zone by talking to different types of people and going to different events with an open mind. That’s the most important part about putting yourself out there – having an open mind to learn and understand why people are different and to celebrate those differences. It has been a long and bumpy ride and I still can’t say that I have fully overcome my culture shock. However, I am teaching myself to meet unfamiliarity with patience and confidence.

-Written by Tola Akinwumi ’21, Spring 2019 RGLP Participant 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.