By Eric Lopez
Exposure to new environments - different from where we grow up - can be an invitation for anxiety to fill us. This idea is formally known as culture shock and it is a social adversity that people can adapt to without compromising their own culture. Everyone can face culture shock. Even students who are gearing up to attend college far from their home, may feel lost in the midst of being in a new college. But once adapted to a new environment, your ability to be resilient, empathetic, and confident in your surroundings will be greater than ever before. Published in the Novelly library, Eluney Gonzalez’s novella, When We Get There, follows Ignacio moving from a small village in Argentina to the city of San Francisco in California. Ignacio desires to go back home to Argentina until he comes to an acceptance that maybe he is already home. So how do we bring a sense of home/comfort with us to adapt to new environments?
Perspective matters! Eluney Gonzalez mentions the importance of noticing how big the world is, reminding us that we are one in billions and that people coexist. This eases how overwhelming it is going into a new environment and reassures individuals that their “people” are everywhere. Regardless of how overwhelmed you may feel, you should take comfort in knowing there are others like you waiting to meet you too.
Home does not have to be one place. As Eluney Gonzalez puts it, “home can be in multiple places… nothing in particular makes a home except for you being there, you feeling comfortable there.” Accepting a new home does not mean leaving behind your old one. Eluney highlights that teenagers can stay connected with their cultural roots by speaking with their families about their culture and embracing everything about it.
As a high school junior, I would typically feel repelled by the idea of going to college out of state, despite the vast amount of great colleges there are far from my home. But after hearing Eluney speak in this episode, I felt more receptive to creating a new home in a new environment. I am Mexican and I am surrounded by Mexican immigrant culture. My friends have the same type of parenting. So when I heard that my environment is not the whole world or how it functions, I thought about the diversity I would be exposed to if I did not limit myself to staying in one home. With that in mind, I felt less afraid of offering myself to the new environment and gaining a new perspective of the world. There is no doubt that being unaware of our surroundings is uncomfortable but you can choose to become aware.
Join Eluney Gonzalez as he provides more details on his connection with cultures, the inspiration behind his book, and some special writing tips on Episode 1 of the Read to Heal Podcast.
Eric Lopez is a high school student attending Camino Nuevo Dalzell Lance and a high school content creation intern at Novelly for Summer 2022.