Going From Nowhere To Somewhere

Growing up, I lived a shelter life in the backwoods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, now that I attend college in New Jersey, I've learned a lot.
Image from Courtney M White
Image from Courtney M White

I grew up differently than most of my peers in college. Many of them didn't ride four-wheelers with their dads as a form of bonding or understand the thrill of sledding through the cornfields of your neighborhood. I guess I always figured these were things people didn't all experience but I was not ready for the number of crazy differences between the way people spoke and thought. 

I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA to anyone who's heard the acronym), which basically means the area north of Allentown and west of Penn State University. It's known for the Poconos and deep backwoods. I grew up near the New York/Pennsylvania border, near Binghamton, NY. My parents both grew up and still work in the Binghamton area. My house, though, sat on the PA side, where many of my neighbors were related and my school district got an opening day of deer season off.

I decided to go away to college. Not many people in my area do that; most go to a trade school or just enter the workforce immediately after graduating. I wanted to leave the state and not really associate myself with this backwoods life. I wanted something new.

I found Montclair State University on accident when looking for schools with communication and media programs. It was a great fit. I knew I wanted to be close to New York City. New Jersey is literally the next state over. How different can it actually be?

Well, my first week of school, someone used the term "brick" and I was lost. New Jersey has its own language and its own style. They have different ways of life and a different outlook on every day. I had to adapt and adapt quickly. 

But I loved it. I loved seeing the diversity I didn't see back home. I loved meeting new people who all had a story. I loved trying new foods I didn't get the chance to back home. I loved to share with people some of the weird differences. 

Image from Courtney M White
Image from Courtney White

One of my favorite times was explaining hunting culture to friends. My dad is from a family of avid hunters. He waits all year long for opening day in October and hunts from dawn to mid-afternoon several times a week. He used to take the entire month off just to celebrate. It's his favorite pastime. I found it hilarious having to explain what a tree stand was to a friend. I showed them my dad's trophy room, a small room in my basement filled with about 50 taxidermy animals. There's everything from deer to raccoons, from a bear to a fox.

My dad has stories for everything. I had to explain how we actually eat the meat from deer. I even brought some to school to have my friends try. This was met with comical faces from my friends as I cooked venison in the community kitchen of my freshman residence hall. 

It had never even occurred to me the differences in ways of life. For example, one of my friends complained because Walmart was 25 minutes away. They thought it was way too far to drive. Now, back home, my high school was a half-hour away on a good day (Not too rainy, no snow). Driving a half-hour was the norm. My family would drive an hour and think nothing of it. The weirdest thing someone did once (in my opinion, this was totally normal for them) was going out four times in the same day.

We went out for Dunkin, then came home, then went to the pet store, then came home, we went to Costco (my first time actually), then went home. This was insane to me. In my family, once we're out, we're out for the day. We don’t just go back home and come back. 

My family also would never go out just to get coffee or breakfast. It was just too far to drive. I have friends who wake up and think nothing of driving to get coffee and a bagel every morning. Trying to get it through my head that everything is ten minutes away still sits weird with me. 

Food is such a culture shock, too. People here really love bagels. Milk was another thing that shocked me. I never met so many people that don’t drink milk until I got here.  Someone actually looked at me like I was drinking gasoline when I drank a glass of milk for breakfast. Water was a big one as well. Growing up, we drank from the faucet. We would just grab a glass and put it under the faucet and drink it, no second thought. So many of my friends think that's so weird. 

Food delivery was the best thing ever. Up until I was about ten years old, I really thought pizza delivery guys were a movie trope, same with ice cream trucks. When I got to college and realized people regularly ordered food? Best day ever. I remember the excitement of getting my dumplings delivered via Grubhub for the first time. 

There isn't much I would change about my college experience. I've learned a lot and I really love it. The experiences I've had versus those of my little sisters are insane. I just hope she can go away to school and see how awesome different places are. I always say there's a lot to see out there and it cant be more true. 

Image from Courtney M White
Image from Courtney M White
Courtney is a junior at Montclair State University and is from a small town in Pennsylvania. She loves fashion, reading, art, and history.

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