I have been a student at Princeton for 2.5 years now. When I walked in, I wasn’t like the rest. I didn’t fit in. At least, that is what my High School brain told me. When people asked me, “Where do you go to school?,” I was hesitant to reply Princeton. It didn’t feel like it was a part of me. 2.5 years later I do not even hesitate to say Princeton University. I may not wear orange colored shirts anymore, but I identify myself as a part of the Princeton Tiger community. What happened in 2.5 years that fundamentally changed my culture?
What is culture? Culture encompasses the customs, the traditions, the practices, the nuances, the good things and the bad things that can be attributed to a group of people. A culture is an identity for a group. When I entered college, I was very much of the culture of my high school. I had learned how to best perform under the styles and conversations that my high school endorsed. In other words, I had learned how to effectively get approved by my high school community. When I entered Princeton, there were a new set of customs and attitudes and personas to learn. Princeton’s culture has become so imbibed in me that it almost seems second nature now to assume that the rights and wrongs laid out by the society around me is the correct set of values. Take for example my comment that Berkeley students are crazy for protesting every little thing, and breaking rules whenever possible. A friend of mine aptly pointed out that that is a reflection of my adoption of a set of values that were simply not “Berkleian” in nature, but instead more Princetonian.
Its interesting how a culture can shape us all. Without realizing it, we have a natural desire to fit in. A natural want to get accepted. Whenever we feel that we are being kicked out of the group, we strive even harder to fit the mold. At Princeton, I have learned to value obedience and careful analysis. I have learned to ridicule bashful or emotional decisions. I have learned that Harvard is bad, and that working hard means beating everyone else. But really, what I have done is accidentally accepted these values without realizing it. Had I gone to a different school I would have accepted different values. Perhaps, it is time I realize that these supposed “truths” are really just opinions of the culture I find myself in. Perhaps, it is time that I stop internalize my culture without realizing it.
Culture can be a powerful tool. Culture forces us all to fit within a box. Culture is the cookie cutter that shapes us all the same. I wonder if you can build a culture that values no common culture.