“Wake Up Matthew, it’s time to go!” I slowly begin to open my eyes, still holding tight onto my blanket, as my friend Ryan tries to wake me up. The time is 8 am and it’s my last day in the state of New York. I was visiting for the very first time in my life and was having a great time. This past July, my friends and I stayed in Manhattan for four nights and spent the last night in Port Jefferson. We spent the majority of our last day trekking all the way to Newark International Airport, where we had a return flight to Los Angles to catch at 2:35 pm. Surely, we had enough time for one last eventful day in New York.
We all rushed out of our hotel as soon as possible to grab bagels at a local spot, Fratelli’s Bagels, before heading to the train station back to the city. We all grabbed a generous extra amount of bagels to eat throughout the day and to take back to Los Angeles. The train ride took a while but it was fun being around good company, eating delicious bagels in a completely new environment. We only had one goal to accomplish in the city before hitting the airport, which was to get a very essential meal of Korean Barbeque.
When we arrived at Let’s Meat, the KBBQ restaurant we had been looking forward to eating at, they allowed us to leave our luggage in an open space near the front and told us they would look over it. Throughout the meal, the service kept getting better as our table always had meat and appetizers filling our plates as quickly as we could eat. The food tasted great, and it wasn’t served frozen as some KBBQ places serve it, which was a big plus. After only eating bagels up to this point in the day, we made sure to get our money’s worth before hopping back on the metro for Newark International. After eating, we checked the navigation to the airport and we were scheduled to arrive roughly 20-25 minutes before our flight. We weren’t too concerned but we knew that we had to move with urgency.
Back in April 2021, I was a high school senior still deciding where to go to college. At that point, I was pretty committed on attending USC, but I wanted to visit my other potential options so I could be 100% sure in my decision. One of the other colleges that I was considering attending was UC Berkeley, so I decided to take a day to visit their campus.
I left on the first flight out of LAX one morning and was planning to catch the red eye out of SFO on the way back. I spent the whole day exploring Berkeley and San Francisco; my day was filled with eating amazing food and desserts. I was thoroughly enjoying my day, exploring campus and enjoying the nice weather. That is, I was enjoying myself until it was time to go back. I constantly checked my phone the whole evening to ensure I had enough time to make it back to my flight, but honestly, I was too lenient with myself. By the time I was on the bus back to SFO, I realized about fifty minutes before my flight that the only way I had a remote chance to make it was with an uber. So, I got off the bus at the first top I could and called an Uber. I rushed to the airport, and arrived about five minutes before my flight was set to depart. However, when I got there the receptionist told me my flight had departed about ten minutes ago. I was stunned because I thought I had already checked in for the flight, but the receptionist insisted I hadn’t. There wasn’t anything I could do about the situation, so my only option was to catch the next flight in the morning. I paid the rescheduling fee and prepared for my night at the airport.
As I walked through the terminal, I noticed that many shops and restaurants were already closed. I knew that I would have to get as many essential items as I could before the rest of the airport closed for the night. The first thing I did was get food and drinks so I wouldn’t be stranded without something to snack on. I decided on getting a sandwich from Starbucks for dinner. I also got water and a Naked smoothie drink to make sure I stayed hydrated for the night. If you ever have to stay at the airport overnight or for a long period of time, I highly recommend stocking up on food and drinks for the night because it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. I would hate to be hungry or dehydrated while waiting uncomfortably for my flight all night. The second thing I did was get toiletries, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste. After these two steps, I found a nice place to sit down that was near an outlet to charge my devices. The rest of my night was filled with watching a show called The League, and numerous poor attempts to get some sleep. If I was put in another situation that required me to spend the night at the airport, I would’ve invested in some melatonin or a sleep aid if the airport shops had it.
Whenever I tell people that I’m from North Dakota, I usually get a ton of questions. “Woah! What do people do for fun there?” or “Where even is that?” are the most typical ones. I was born and raised in Fargo, a town in North Dakota less than 4 hours away from the Canadian border. A few years ago, my family moved to the West Coast. After living here for a while, I’ve noticed there are many differences between the two regions, and so I’ve come to understand why people who aren’t from the Midwest might have so many questions about it. I’ve broken these differences down into 5 categories here in order to highlight what life is like living in the Midwest!
Weather: The most obvious difference between the Midwest and the West Coast is the weather. Most places in the Midwest have four seasons, with winters that are harsh and cold, and summers that are milder and warmer. However, no matter where you live in the Midwest you are pretty much guaranteed to get snow. In Fargo, there’s always snow on the ground throughout the winter months. One year, I remember it snowing as late as May and as early as October. Temperatures also regularly reach sub-zero, and even into the -20s in Fahrenheit sometimes in January. In the summers, temperatures would generally stay in the 80s and low 90s, never really reaching over 100F.
Food: In terms of food, places in the Midwest don’t have quite as much variety as the West Coast, as the population sizes tend to not be quite as large. When I lived in Fargo, there were only 2-3 options for things like sushi or Chinese food. People there tend to eat home cooked meals; casseroles and hot dishes are a Midwestern staple. At potlucks or holiday parties, there are sometimes traditional foods served. Due to North Dakota’s large Norwegian population, lefse, a type of flatbread, is a food I saw at most celebrations. I even helped my friend’s family prepare it one year for their Thanksgiving dinner.
Activities: Many midwestern families have “lake homes” which they visit on the weekends. People enjoy going fishing, having cookouts, or having bonfires. During the winter months, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are quite popular. Ice hockey is also a sport that some children play growing up. For some families, Sundays and Wednesdays are considered “church day” and “church night.” Many businesses, particularly local ones, close on Sundays. When I was in school growing up, we would usually not have after school activities on Wednesdays.
People: “Midwest nice” is a common term used to describe midwestern people. People are generally very friendly and neighborly. During the winter, it’s not uncommon to see neighbors shoveling each other’s driveways or helping each out out with various things, and at public places such as the grocery store, people will frequently stop to chat with each other. Since living on the West Coast, I have noticed that people still have a friendly demeanor but aren’t quite as talkative as the people in the Midwest.
Transportation/lifestyle: Cars are the main method of transportation throughout the Midwest, as there are not a lot of established large public transportation systems. Walking and biking aren’t popular options due to the harsh winters. The age to obtain a license varies by State, but it is generally lower than in other regions of the country. In North Dakota, you can obtain a learner’s permit at age 14, and a license at age 15. The age for getting a job is also 14, though there are child labor laws in place to protect those under 16.
Whether or not you ever live in the Midwest, I think it definitely worth visiting at least once, especially during the winter. The weather is pretty much like how it is in the movies: freezing cold, but magical. Just make sure to dress warm and you will get to enjoy experiencing some home cooked Midwestern food and friendly people!
Tara is a freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering on the pre-med track. She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and Las Vegas, Nevada. She speaks English, Thai, and elementary level Spanish. Tara is involved in Taekwondo Club at USC. In her free time, she likes to solve Rubik’s cubes, play guitar and ukulele, and play with her dog, Tofu. Tara also loves traveling and learning about different cultures, especially through food! One of her favorite things about living in LA is the large amount of food options available; she is always willing to give great restaurant recommendations.
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