Unsocialized Homeschooler Meets the Real World

3:18 PM

Culture Shock. I had a good number of people worried silly about this unsocialized homeschooler trotting off to a non-Christian college. Understandable. The world came and stopped at my computer screen. The most scurrilous person I’d met was the bagger at Country Store -- and maybe my five-year-old brother. I’d never even watched Pirates of the Caribbean until Saturday, for heaven’s sake.

As we Bergmanns say, I was French toast.

Actually, it was almost disappointing how little culture shock took place. The Christian community was huge and enveloping. Literally every single person lived to smile and shake your hand. Sure, the dance parties weren’t exactly Elizabeth Bennett’s cup of tea, but the guys walked you home, the girls gave hugs and good advice, and the history professors talked more about religion than the religion professors.

Making friends took little effort after a two-week missing-my-family-so-much-I-whine fest. (The secret is a combination of claiming lunchtime as social hour and going to bed late…unfortunately.) Hillsdale, for all its advertised conservativeness, represents a good chunk of variety—Catholics, evangelicals of all stripes, Mormons, Deists, and regular people, not to mention gays, Democrats, anarchists, progressives and feminists. (The faculty is even more diverse.) I found my people, a surprising mixture of all the above, and the college time warp bound us together in forever friendship.

Score for the unsocialized!

Not much else compounded the culture shock. Ideas, even in their living, breathing form, didn’t faze me as much as people worried about—I had no inclination to convert to Catholicism after meeting my Baptist-turned-Catholic acquaintance, in other words.

The thing that got me the most? Those awkward moments when somebody references something inappropriate and I, all wide-eyed and innocent, ask, “What does that mean?” and everyone laughs and tells me I really don’t want to know, and my friends explain I recently emerged from behind a rock. (Don’t worry, folks—I’m well-informed now.)

Those awkward moments…and swearing. Some of my schoolmates—some who I love to death and others who I would ________ to death—specialized in both these areas. You know that triple awkward moment when you’re either supposed to laugh or judge, and your conscience dangles on a cliff of indecision? That’s the core of culture shock—at least for this homeschooled kid.

And there are those firsts that prompt that culture shock and its symptom, the violent, pinching stomach. Things like your first dance party where Adele’s music pounds, lights flash and you struggle for breath in the crush of the entire campus crammed in one dance hall. Like the jaw-dropping realization that The Taming of the Shrew is bawdier than it appeared in the children’s adaptation. Like avoiding like the plague your fellow cast members who define “cast party” by the amount of beer consumed. Like watching your RA dress down a guy who dares to swear nonstop in the presence of two flabbergasted female freshmen.


Have I established that I get claustrophobic when foreign mores invade my personal bubble? I do. I feel horrible—I love these people. But what am I going to say? “You’re wrong, and not only that, but you can count me out of your immoral shenanigans now and hence forth”? “Oh, sure, go ahead and get drunk for all I care”? Um…no. If college taught me anything so far, it’s that different people are still people—fun, awesome people at that.

This knowledge and my own conflicted conscience threw each other around: “You prude, judging them with your flinches and raised eyebrows”—“You coward, tolerating this trash.” Punch, bang, smash. Just like that.

So I finally confessed to a friend about my secret boxing match. A while back, at a point where I thought I had boxed up my judgmentalism and shipped it off to Timbuktu, someone had told me I was judgmental. I didn’t want to be judgmental. I wanted to see my friends make wise choices with their lives, their words, their beliefs, to see them wrapped up in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It’s that Christian thing, that urge “to spread Jesus’ love like peanut butter”—to quote Naomi, my next-door neighbor and fellow love lover. Because newsflash? In less than two months of college, I’ve already seen some pretty stupid mistakes made with bad consequences—and I’m not willing to let people I love go through that unwarned.

Fear of judgmentalism sometimes trumps that.

“I don’t want to be judgmental,” I told my friend, and I was hunched over from autumn cold and embarrassment.

His answer got me thinking: “Sometimes you have to make judgments of people,” he said. “You have to make judgments about what you let into your life. If you choose to be friends with certain people, you’ve already made the choice to deal with what they say and do.”

Which could be a good or bad thing—depending on how you act upon it. A thought is already forming after a month and half with these people I love, but since it’s three in the morning, I thought I’d leave the answer to your reason, fair readers. How do you share Christ’s love and your own friendship with people who warp your comfort zone? What’s that fuzzy area between prude and coward?

p.s. I’m on fall break, so the mention of three in the morning should not concern you.

p.p.s. College is the best experience ever. Period. I highly recommend it. More on that later. :)

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5 impressions

  1. asdfghjkl. I MISS(ED) YOU SO MUCH! thanks for updating for your sweet followers. it's been awhile.

    ohmyword. I know exactly how you feel on this. exactly. especially since i've become friends with my neighbor who we don't exactly always see moral issues eye-to-eye on. and y'know, i haven't exactly found the answer either. i don't know what that line is. but, hey, when you find out, let me know. ;]

    remember our phone convo before you went to college and i asked you if you thought college would be more fun than high school and you replied, "i don't know, i guess we'll see!"? umm yeah. i think that has been readily answered. :P

    you're making me (excitedly) jitterish for college now. LIVE IN THE MOMENT ALEXXUS, LIVE IN THE MOMENT.

  2. Miss Bailey Bergmann,

    Everyone judges other people. Period. I mean it.

    The person who says, "You are so judgemental." What are they doing? End of story.

    That being said, every person you meet will judge you and will be judged by you. And your friends are composed of those who accept your judgement of them as part of you accepting them. Can we truly love another human, here, unless we know them? And part of knowing them is acknowledging our percieved flaws of them? (I have re-written this sentence a dozen times in the last thirty minutes, and I am still unsure if it says what I mean. Or is even intelligible.)

    The most difficult thing a person does is expose their own prejudices against another person to that person. But it is well worth it, when someone knows you care. Though, it may take twenty years...

    P.S. As to converting, it hasn't even been a year. Give it time.

  3. Oh boy. :) You have me very concerned. ;D However, from all the videos I've taken from spying on you, I think you just might handle college. I did slip a tracking system in your dorm before I left, you know.

    I still laugh that we did an ignorant skit from The Taming of the Shrew.

    And sister. You've totally changed from that once really shy girl (who could be obnoxiously loud too...to be fair) and now you've got "real" problems. I sit so proudly and so sadly and so hysterically thinking and telling others about my big sister away from college and how her goal is to spread Jesus like peanut butter on campus. And they're like, "Wait, whoa - Bailey!?! Your Bailey?" No, the Czar's Bailey. (Had to slip a quote from Fiddler on the Roof - which mom and I bawled through...)

    I'm sorry for all the grammar mistakes. Blogger doesn't let me preview the comment, and I don't have the nerve or willingness to re-read my thoughts that I just wrote. And I know you can read through my English without the help of a translator. ;)

    Mrs. Peters sends her love and still stops me every time after church to ask how your doing and to tell you that she misses you. She can't wait until you come back and sing!

    Stacy came back yesterday and also sends her salutations. :)

    Love you!

  4. I can't tell you how happy it made me to read this:

    "p.p.s. College is the best experience ever. Period. I highly recommend it. More on that later. :) "



  5. Excellent post. I've often been annoyed by the attitude that fellow homeschoolers have towards college. Nobody at college is going to eat them. Nobody is going to stone them or burn them at the stake. People are just people. I agree with you, college is a wonderful experience :D


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