Making adjustments: How getting involved helped one student cope with culture shock

Created: October 23, 2017
Last Updated: October 21, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Oct. 23, 2017)—Coming to Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) from a mostly-black and Hispanic neighborhood on the north side of Houston, Texas, communication arts major Darious Singleton ’18 didn’t know what to expect when he got to campus his freshman year.

Darious completed his high school experience through YES Prep, a charter school for underserved populations in Houston, and hadn’t spent much time away from his community before college. In high school, most of his peers looked like him, and the only white people he knew were teachers who came to the school through programs like Teach For America. When he landed at W&J, he experienced a little culture shock.

“When I initially got here, coming from Texas, I struggled a lot,” Darious said. “It wasn’t until I found my niche, my group of people on campus, that I was able to really thrive. Now, I feel like I’m in a situation where I can do well.”

Staff and student members of the Office of Inclusive Campus Engagement helped Darious adjust to life in Washington and at W&J. Through opportunities presented by various student organizations working with Inclusive Campus Engagement, W&J students like Darious are able to connect and work through feelings of culture shock or stress when they arrive on campus.

For Darious, that organization was the Black Student Union (BSU).

“It was the people on campus [that helped me learn to deal with the culture shock],” Darious said. “The Black Student Union, they kind of took me in, and there was this group of people who were willing to help me out. I think that they were critical to me adjusting to W&J.”

Now a senior, Darious is looking for ways to give back. He serves as a mentor for the Charles West Scholars, a scholarship program that supports African American students academically, socially, and emotionally during their time at W&J. As he meets new students, Darious encourages them to find the clubs and organizations that match their interests.

“I definitely think getting involved really helped me,” Darious said. “If you’re coming here and you know no one, you can find your group of people—a group of people who will be accepting of who you are, your background, and will help integrate you into the culture.”

This is the first story in a three part series on The Office of Inclusive Campus Engagement and diversity at W&J. Read part two here and part three here

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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