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Life at Brigham Young University – Adjusting to College Culture Shock

January 3, 2017

Our first Life in College Series article for 2017 profiles Dublin High School Class of 2013 alum and Brigham Young University senior Tori Shipp. Tori graduated with her triplet siblings Toni and Troy, in a Dublin High class that featured two sets of triplets and six sets of twins! How did you settle on your major at Brigham Young University?

headshotTori Shipp: “I’m a geography major with a tourism emphasis and a business management minor. I started as a business major, when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and shifted to the pre-requisites for a recreation management major after my freshman year. It was important that I find a major and career I enjoyed, and where I could help people. I ultimately switched to geography because of my interests in tourism planning which includes destination marketing and working for tourism bureaus. I love to travel and helping people use their free time to have fun.

“Studying geography gave me a way to learn more about the world, its history and the relation between countries. It’s a terrific major to learn a little of everything about the world.” It took a while for you to settle on a major, but you’ve stayed on track to graduate in four years. What is your advice for high school students who may not be sure what they’d like to get out of college?

Shipp: “I recommend paying attention to what your interests are in high school. I always knew I liked history, and organizing projects, but wasn’t sure how to connect the two. When you start in college in addition to general ed requirements take practical classes in a bunch of different subjects that you might be interested in. There is no harm in spending the first couple of years learning about different careers. Shop around and take many different types of classes when you arrive in college. There are lots of ways to satisfy your general ed requirements so take advantage of that flexibility to figure out what you really like.” What attracted you to Brigham Young University?

hikingShipp: “My first choice was the University of Oregon, but for financial reasons Brigham Young was the better choice. BYU is a very affordable college considering how great the education is, and I knew I didn’t want to be dealing with a lot of student loan debt after graduation. Brigham Young is also in a terrific location: just a couple of hours from a national park and near ski resorts, and far enough from home to be independent but not so far that I couldn’t come home often. And the cost of living is great.

“I was also attracted to Brigham Young because there isn’t Greek life; I didn’t want to go to a school where the social life was focused on sororities and fraternities.” How important is Mormon faith to attending BYU?

Shipp: “It’s important. Coming from California where there aren’t as many Mormons I struggled during my first year with culture shock, despite my faith. Mormon culture is an important part of BYU. It’s something to consider.” What non-academic activities have you enjoyed the most?

Shipp: “In a lot of schools Greek life is one of the primary vehicles for community service. At BYU part of the Student Services is dedicated to community service. I love getting involved in volunteer projects, from retirement homes to Boy Scouts to helping refugees, it is really easy to get involved. Community service is a huge part of the culture.

“I’m also a member of the Black Student Union. There are not a lot of minorities in Utah, so being a member of the BSU has helped me meet people from all around the country.” What has your been your experience being in the minority at BYU?

Shipp: “Growing up in Dublin I was always part of the minority, so I’m used to it. There is a lot of ignorance but I’ve always viewed ignorance as an opportunity to teach people: this is how something should be said, or this is the reality of the situation. Most people I talk to are open to feedback.

“I’ve encountered students who have said ignorant things about Black Lives Matter, and when asked my opinion it’s initially assumed I would agree with those things because I’m attending BYU. I take that opportunity to explain what Black Lives Matter is really about, and what cultural appropriation means, and to help other students understand what these issues really mean. I take the time to explain why these are real problems and how we can do better. There are even questions about my hair, about why it’s different. My approach is to be nice, to explain. I’ve never had anyone be rude to me or be negative just because I’m teaching them.

“That said I’ve met black students at BYU who feel differently, who feel isolated after growing up in areas where they were part of the majority. There can be culture shock if you are not part of the 80-90% white LDS community.”

football-game What role have internships played in helping you discover your interests?

Shipp: “Internships and job experience have been the most important part of my college journey. I wish I had started internships earlier than my sophomore year. I’ve had many different jobs: project management, event planning, customer service, sales and catering. All those experiences have helped me understand where I’m strong, where my interests lie and where I need to improve. Work experience is very important for the career I’m pursuing because there is only so much you can learn in the classroom. I’ve learned as much or more from my bosses and co-workers as I have in school.

“My advice to other students is get as many internships as you can and start after your freshman year. Even if you can’t get an internship related to your major, get a summer job. I had a job in a restaurant one summer and while I don’t plan to work as a waitress I learned I was good at customer service! The beauty of college internships is they are only a couple of months; if you try something and it doesn’t work out or isn’t interesting, you know you’ll be going back to school. BYU is in a college town so there are good job opportunities for student.

“In my case I knew I wanted to work for the city so I regularly monitored the city employment website for openings.” What’s been your approach to transitioning from high school to college classes?

Shipp: “Don’t overload yourself in your first semester! I took one of the hardest accounting classes in my first semester and that wasn’t a good decision. I recommend sticking with freshman classes and not jumping into upper level classes. High school and especially AP classes seem hard but college is a whole new ballgame. Give yourself time to adjust to college life.

“I also recommend living in student housing so you are surrounded by students who are going through what you are going through. And socialize and make friends – you’ll need them – school is going to be hard.” Finally, you had the opportunity to study abroad. How did that experience enhance your college journey?

Shipp: “My study abroad experience, which was part of the recreation management program, took me to eleven countries all across Europe. I had to save for two years to afford the trip. Traveling with 32 other students, and getting out of Provo, Utah, really helped me fine-tune my goals, and reinforced my love for geography. I’m inspired to keep traveling!”


One Comment
  1. Michael H. permalink
    January 3, 2017 8:22 am

    I love this! Thanks for your openness and fairness in talking about your experiences. I went to BYU as well and was also a member of BSU. As a white person who has lived in mostly white communities, it was an amazing learning opportunity for me. The school and community are better for having students like you with a variety of experiences and viewpoints to bring, both because of and independent of race and culture.

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