Cooley’s concept of the “looking-glass self” contains three elements. First, we imagine how we appear to those around us. Second, we interpret others’ reactions to us. Third, we develop a self-concept from those reactions. The self-concept development begins in childhood, but it is a lifelong, ongoing process. That means that a student in a new college setting will experience different things that affect one’s self-concept. For example, a student who constantly arrives late to class and is greeted with eye-rolls from other students might interpret this negative reaction from his or her peers and develop a negative self-image. On the opposite end, a student who receives praise for his or her work or participation in a lecture would improve their self-image. One huge change for many students entering college is their exposure to different cultures. Most college campuses are very diverse, with a number of international or exchange students. Bunker Hill Community College is a prime example of this type of setting. People can be prone to ethnocentrism, or a tendency to use our own group’s ways of doing things as a yardstick for judging others. You could walk into a classroom and find ten different cultures being represented, each with a different way of dress, language, and behaviors. However, the academic classroom should be a place of equality. After all, everyone is in that room for a common purpose: to learn. So we all must practice cultural relativism, or try to understand the different cultures on their own terms, instead of comparing them to our own, and not judge the other people in the room by comparing their culture as better or worse than our own. This will help with treating all fellow classmates and faculty as equals.
I visited a Brazilian community in Somerville for my participant observation project. This is a great example of a subculture, or a world with the larger world of the dominant culture. Culture, as defined by Henslin, is the...
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