What It's Like To Move To New York

Here's an article I wrote for the Columbia Spectator earlier this semester dealing with culture shock in moving to New York.  The article with edits can be found here, but here's the version I submitted:

Let’s put this out there:  I am from Nebraska.  Yes, I know exactly what you are going to say...wow!  You're the first person I've ever met from Nebraska!  I guessed correctly, didn't I?  Well, it was not too difficult, because I have heard that phrase nonstop since my first day on campus.

When I announced to my family that I would be moving to New York for college, they were scared for my safety and sanity.  Now, I did not grow up on a farm.  But Lincoln, Nebraska is vastly different from New York.  I expected the sirens outside my Furnald window to be unbearable to sleep through compared to my relatively quiet suburban home.  I expected to never ever venture to Brooklyn, you know, for safety reasons.  I expected New York to pose its challenges to a Nebraska girl like me.  But what I did not expect was to feel so different from everyone else at Columbia.

Columbia is supposed to be a beacon of diversity, and here I was a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl from Nebraska, feeling like the outsider.  Compared to my first year floormates, I am as average as they come.  Or at least on paper I am supposed to be.

But the farm girl vibes with which my state imbued me started to give me a reputation.  Despite being everyone's first exposure to Nebraska, people had very strong ideas on what my life must be like back home.  I would walk around campus every day convinced that when people looked at me, they see a mere caricature of a country bumpkin in the Big Apple.  My love of sweet corn is a running joke and no one believes me when I tell say for the umpteenth time that I do not know how to milk a cow.

These differences stretched farther than just my vegetable preferences however.  Freshman year after Sandy Hook, the debates over gun control caused many of my friends to villianize the very culture in which I grew up.  My dad hunts, has numerous firearms, and even taught me to shoot at pop cans in my pre-vegetarian days.  I have to admit that during those conversations, I felt insulted, hurt, and misunderstood.  I wanted to go back home, where even if gun use was not universally agreed with, at least it was understood.

I always expected that it would take time to adjust to the infamous amounts of reading, the dorms without air-conditioning, and the overall culture of Columbia.  I had expected it to be different from Nebraska, where a fifteen minute drive could take me to my favorite little town with swingsets thirty feet high and grassy hills for miles.  But I never expected that I would encounter such adversity simply for being from a state whose population is a quarter of New York City's.  I never expected that New York, let alone Columbia, would have to get used to me.

I quickly realized how important my Nebraskan identity was to me.  I chose to provide insight into the Midwestern gun fanaticism and embrace the overwhelming kindness that my state is known for.  I could not expect everyone to understand just what it is like to be from Nebraska, because there are only two million of us out there.  But instead of feeling like an outsider without a place at Columbia, I chose to do something about my feelings and share my point of view with the community.  And sometimes Columbia's open-mindedness can surprise you.


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Meet The Author

I'm Madysen, born and raised in Nebraska but now living out my dreams in New York City. I moved here to go to Columbia, but living in New York has become so much more to me. This blog is a space where I can share my experiences of reconciling my midwestern upbringing with the life I live in the city. But even bigger than that, this blog serves as a space where I can try to understand where I fit into the larger social world, where I want to go in life, and how I want to go about pursuing all of these endeavors.

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