During my final semester here at USC (and as an undergraduate) I did a considerable amount of reflection on my time at USC. In that reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that carrying over my student club and organization involvement from my time at community college to USC resulted in a time of new growth, relationships, learning, and experience. Even amidst a virtual learning experience, I was able to keep pursuing my goals and forge new connections through involvement and leadership.
A community college is a two-year college where students complete their general education and lower division courses. Students have many options available to them as to where they can obtain an associates degree (two-year lower division degree), professional certificate, or other certification. Or, they can choose to transfer from their community college to a university – which was what I did in 2020. This was during the onset of Covid-19, which greatly impacted my educational experience.
Before the pandemic, I was determined to be involved as much as possible on my community college campus. I joined and led several clubs and student organizations, as well as joining a newly founded faculty committee on civic engagement. In this club, I was able to develop an internship program for student advocates. When the pandemic hit, it was during my last semester at my community college. I remember how faculty were unsure of the future of student clubs and organizations on campus continuing due to the pandemic, yet I was able to continue my involvement in these clubs remotely. I was even able to adjust my proposal for the student advocate internship program to a remote format accordingly. Though I have long been graduated from my community college, I continue to mentor students and work with faculty through this program.
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.
2020 started off great. I was looking forward to having an amazing year at USC and was excited about my classes. However, just around the time when spring break was starting, a global pandemic hit. I was excited about going on a trip with my friends, but instead of going to Mexico I packed my bags to go home. Little did I know, that was the end of my time at USC. Now much time has passed by, I have come to learn some things about myself.
Initially when I went home, I still had hope that I would be able to finish the rest of my sophomore year on campus. I thought that I was just enjoying an extended vacation back home, spending time with my family. However, as summer drew closer, every day grew to become the same. Time seemed to drag on and I could see no end to quarantine. In May, I decided to make a list of things I have always wanted to do, but never got the chance to do. Here are some of the activities that I embarked on in an attempt to try things that I never had the opportunity to before:
Since I had so much time on my hands at the start of quarantine, I knew that this was the time to get into the best shape of my life. I have always put off working out, using my busy schedule as a convenient excuse not to do it. I figured that making an effort to work out during quarantine would be a good way to improve my daily schedule. Studies have shown that working out increases dopamine release, which in turn can help increase our feelings of optimism. I started off with a few times a week and kept to a routine, focusing on how I felt after to help motivate me to keep going.
Finding a new hobby
At the start of quarantine, I didn’t have much to do and I felt constantly bored. I decided to go on Amazon and bought a paint by numbers. With some practice, I was able to create my own masterpiece, even with my limited artistic talent. I enjoyed spending hours on end painting and felt a sense of accomplishment afterwards. I now proudly own art that I created myself, and it is hanging on my wall.