My home base of Chicago is known as “The City of the Broad Shoulders” something I feel deeply, having been born in the city and raised in the suburbs. So when I took a position as a hall director at the University of Louisville, I was very nervous about my communication style and the cultural norms I would experience in a city known as “The Gateway for the South.” However, I decided to jump in with the sentiment I always share with my students, “being uncomfortable promotes growth.”
As I’ve reflected on the past few months, the hardest adjustment has been moving from Loyola University Chicago, a private, Jesuit institution, to the University of Louisville, a public, research I institution. The learning curve started out small with “hot spots” in residence halls for students to obtain contraceptives. During hall director training, I experienced my biggest “you’re not at a private, faith-based institution anymore” moment. The Residence Education Model was explained and my initial thought was – where is the Jesuit pedagogy?! Gracias, Loyola!
Then it hit me – I am no longer at an institution where the mission literally hits you in the face. And yes, I’ve definitely walked into a banner with Loyola’s mission on it. This prompted some critical thinking and challenged me to think about how I can engage students who choose to attend for reasons outside of the institution’s mission.
As someone with no previous experience at a public institution, this has been a good learning opportunity for me. I have to think creatively to best use resources and be an efficient financial steward. And, I think my cultural adjustment to a new geographic region is going pretty well for someone from “the north.” Student and colleagues still poke fun at my desire to use “you all” instead of “y’all” and argue that the game, “Bags” is called “Cornhole.” But overall, Louisvillians do a great job of adopting people into their quaint yet vibrant city.
The best advice I can offer is to trust the process. Transition is not always easy – I’ve cried (for various reasons) while watching Power Rangers alone in my temporary space. Building new relationships, personally and professionally, takes time. There will be times where you want to hang out with people but feel unsure of who to call. There will be moments where you feel nostalgic for the familiar or doubt that the adjustment phase will end.
Alas, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel! There will come a day where you feel settled in your office space and do not get lost trying to find coffee at the campus Starbucks. I miss the CTA, real pizza, and my Chicago support network. But, I’ve gained new growth experiences, professional development, and much lower cost of living. Hindsight is 20/20 and I will never know what the future holds. Until then I say – Go ‘Blers and Go Cards!
September is the month of transitions, especially on the college campus. Follow #SATransitions to read as the community reflects upon transition and change, personally and professionally. Want to write for this series or have ideas about future series? Contact Nathan Victoria on Twitter at @NathanVictoria or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.