People talk about ‘culture shock’ as if it is something only found when traveling internationally, and yes, visiting another country could certainly provide the phenomena. But most times, ‘culture shock’ can be experienced through even a simple change in your life.
My family moved from San Francisco, California to Colorado Springs in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. Although moving itself was a bit of a culture shock, it was nothing compared to switching from a large public school in California to a minuscule private school in Colorado.
I remember struggling the first day with the shocking differences between the two school systems. At a small Christian school with a student population of only 200, everyone noticed I was new. Students would rush over to try to greet me, but at my old school of 4000, a new kid in school could go unnoticed for the duration of their high school career. Fortunately, when I left behind my first high school, I also left behind all of the anger-fueled fistfights that occurred on an almost daily basis in the cafeteria. Transitioning to a private school, I was astounded by the amount of love and support I felt among my peers.
But the one thing that I did not expect through this transition was to truly experience freedom of speech for the first time in the classroom. At my high school in California, students were told that they could speak their minds on important topics and share their beliefs, but that only happened if you said what was expected. As extreme as that sounds, that statement is not an exaggeration. Sometimes, other students would even question their classmates to elicit a reaction. The moment that people found out that I came from a Christian home, I would get nonstop questions about whether I hated a specific person just because they were gay or if I judged another because she had recently given a speech about her abortion. But at my small private school, I felt the liberty to express my viewpoints, questions, and doubts on certain topics, even if it might have been a different view than what they expected of me as a believer.
At my private school, every senior was required to take a class on worldviews for a semester, which opened up daily conversations on the different outlooks on life. This class allowed for anyone to ask questions and raise doubts and concerns within the classroom setting. It was through these discussions that I was able to not only process what I had been indoctrinated in, whether good or bad, but to make my own decisions on my personal worldview.
Through my experiences, I have thought a lot about what type of school I would want my future kids to attend. Although I am so grateful for my final two years of private school education, I have never dismissed the value of the public system. I learned about different worldviews theoretically in my private school, but it was in my public school that I actually saw them play out in action and practice. Although I was able to openly learn about Christianity at the private school, it was in California that I learned love those who are and think differently than me. As much as I love the private education system, I treasure every year I spent discovering the Lord and myself through daily life in a public school.
Bianca Huerta is a summer intern with the Global Ministry Department at Focus on the Family. Last year, she started a blog where she discusses different topics within the realm of Christianity, as well as opening up hard discussions about shame, anxiety and vulnerability. Studying Youth Ministry and Psychology at Colorado Christian University, Bianca is working towards writing books for young adults on what it means to practically live out grace and truth.