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Justifying my choice

Justin Tardiff | Friday, October 3, 2003

I always have to defend myself when I discuss my choice college. Well, maybe not so much the college, as the name Saint Mary’s speaks for itself, but rather the demographic location of my choice of college.

When home in southern California, people always give me the “are-you-insane?” look when I tell them I attend school in Indiana. The contorted facial expressions are accompanied with some of naïve but truly sincere question such as “Do they have grocery stores out there?” or “Have you been cow tipping yet?” Hard-core Californians are more comfortable with crossing the boarder into Mexico than venturing past, say, Arizona.

While I reside here in South Bend the response is not much better. My freshman orientation counselor asked me point-blank exactly what I thought I was doing here. Close friends still find it hard to believe that I would leave the warm weather and Hollywood atmosphere of LA.

Really though, I don’t think my decision is all that irrational. Yes, yo-yoing across the country with giant pieces of luggage can be wearing at times. And I admit that I have suffered from a bit of culture shock here and there. But being a Californian in this college community has proved to be incredibly fun.

First, moving to the Midwest gave me an excuse to go shopping. With the assistance of my father’s credit card, I reconstructed my wardrobe top to bottom. I finally had an excuse to purchase those adorable scarves and hats that are always in the J. Crew catalogues. I went from not having a sweater to my name, to sweating onto my flight four layers thick because my mother and I could not zip my suitcase shut. I bought my first pair of boots, and much to my friends’ amusement, I wore them every day starting Oct. 1, just in case of a sudden snowstorm.

Further, coming to Indiana gave me the opportunity to be introduced to an array of mid-western novelties. I marvel at the enormous size of Meijer every time I enter the superstore. In my first few weeks at school, I ate more custard than was healthy and am still unable to describe exactly how it is different from ice cream. I took my first freezing dive into Lake Michigan and made my first attempt at water skiing.

The exchange has not been one sided. I was able to give my college friends their first taste of west coast life over spring break last March. I chauffeur them all around L.A. in my family’s Volkswagen van. We hit up every tourist destination from “The Tonight Show” to the Sunset Strip. My friends excitement made places I found all too familiar fun again.

So, next time you meet a student from California, don’t question their intelligence, just ask them if they have tried a custard cone yet.