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"Shocks" for a Lifetime

by USjournal Student Writer: Rebecca Darrup, Cross-Country Cowgirl

How often do you get the feeling that you just might not belong where you are at this moment?

If you're like me, that happens rather frequently -- and that's actually a good thing. That sinking feeling means that you're meant to go far in this world: whether it's far from home, far in a career, or just to never stop exploring and learning, you will go somewhere incredible, and do something great.

When you start your journey into college and out into the world, especially if you decide you want to be a game-changer, you may run into some, well, shocking things! Everywhere you will go in this world will be so different from the last place you were, and, to be honest, that is an amazing experience! Let me tell you a chunk of my own story -- it's one that has yet to be completed, and has quite a few twists and unexpected (okay, unplanned...) turns.

Mesalands Community College, New Mexico

As I write this morning, I'm excited to have the opportunity to see my family in just a few days; they're flying from Pennsylvania to visit me in New Mexico! I'm really hoping that they'll bring me a few things from home. As much as I love the southwestern United States, it sure is different from the northeastern part of the country. My family is primarily Polish and German, which is an interesting combination for sure, and somehow, that European heritage wound up smack in the middle of a Mexican and Native American culture. Talk about a different outlook on life!

Making the journey from Pennsylvania to New Mexico was eye-opening for me. Driving through cities, forests, flatlands, mountains, and across mesas can really make a girl's jaw drop -- It's incredible to see the change in the landscape across this country! At every fuel stop, the environment and atmosphere were totally different. I make it a point to go into the gas station to pay for my diesel (and I usually really need to use the restroom anyway) so that I can listen to what people say, as well as the way they say it. My friends have told me that I have an accent (I honestly don't think I do!) but that has made me realize that we each sound different to those around us. It can come as a surprise how much of a difference it makes where a person was raised. For example, in the southern United States, you'll hear "yes ma'am" and "no sir" in just about every conversation, and no one thinks twice about it. In the northeast, it's very rare to hear those terms, and people will sometimes get offended if you say "yes sir", thinking that you're implying that they're old! That is not a good feeling, believe me!

Beyond simple words, the culture and tradition is so different down here in the southwest. I recently went to a friend's wedding, and to be completely honest, I didn't recognize a single dish of food at the reception! Then, on top of that, there were Mexican line dances, and swing dances, and two-step dances, and I sure didn't know how to dance to any of that! At a wedding back home, I know all the food, and everyone mostly fends for themselves on the dance floor -- particularly for younger generations, dancing is just freestyle. Personally, some friends have been teaching me how to two-step, and I would rather dance in that style any day.

Oh -- before the reception even started, someone prayed; before eating, someone prayed; before the couple's first dance, someone prayed. Even in the old Catholic communities back home, there's not that much prayer! However, that is one similarity of these two cultures that I greatly respect and appreciate: my German and Polish roots led to an upbringing in the Catholic faith, and although I've been going to a different church with most of my rodeo team, I know I'm always welcome at the Catholic church as well. (I'll let you in on a secret, too -- the Our Father prayer, sung in Spanish during a Catholic Mass, is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.) Even on opposite sides of the country, my faith and the people who live it with me are unchanging, and to me, that is the coolest thing in the world.

When it comes to a culture shock, I have to say, Mesalands Community College is a good place to experience that! My school is a melting pot of students from Pennsylvania and New York (in the northeast US), North Carolina (in the southeast US), Oregon, Washington, and California (on the west coast), and the "local" states of Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and, of course, New Mexico. I've heard stories about international students from Australia and Canada as well, although there's no one from out of the country at the college currently. In the Grand Canyon region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (my home region), I know of one girl from Canada who is going to Central Arizona College, and she is rodeoing well, too. It's not uncommon for my school and my rodeo region to see students from all over the world!

Mesalands Community College, New Mexico

In the year or so since I've stepped out of my comfort zone and begun to experience some of what the world has to offer, my eyes have been opened time and time again to just how incredible this world is. Every single person you meet has something to teach you or something to share.

How awesome is that??

Yes, it can definitely be intimidating, especially at first. When you transplant yourself into a new culture, it teaches you so much about not only that new culture, but about yourself and your own heritage. I have learned to stand up for what I believe in, and to try to help others understand the piece of the world I grew up in, just as I want to learn about their traditions and heritage as well. I've always known that my personal culture was unique, but I've come to understand that even more so now, through conversations and time spent with others who come from different backgrounds. It's pretty amazing to have good friends who are all so diverse!

What are you waiting for? Feed that feeling of exploration, of not settling for staying where you are. Go on an adventure -- every day is a new one!

Here are Rebecca's other posts, in case you missed them:

Best of luck in all your endeavors,
especially as you move forward on your college path!

To begin your journey to study in the USA, use USjournal.com!