By Shenandoah Lush, The Whetstone
“So where are you from?”
“Woah—Like Alaska Alaska?”
“Wait, so how did you end up at Wesley?”
“Is it always dark up there?”
“Uh, sort of.”
Being from Alaska is the college equivalent of saying you’ve bungee-jumped off Niagara Falls, or that you’ve eaten snails at the top of the Eiffel Tower—it’s not unheard of, but it sure is unusual.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew this moment explaining myself would eventually come. Generations of Alaskans from the small town of Homer have passed on tales of first encounters with “The Lower Forty-Eighters.”
Geographically speaking, there are distinct differences between the Alaskan terrain and the Delaware landscape. Consistent sea-level living, warm sandy beaches, hot spring days and a plethora of thriving marshes differ from elevated towns, cool, rocky beaches, and swampy “spring” (we don’t have an official spring—it is just ‘wet-snow’ season) weeks.
On the East Coast, there is a distinct culture whose presence is incredibly strong to those of us who did not grow up here. Every day I feel subtle culture shocks. Since moving here in January, I have been nudged into the Dover experience, and am beginning to understand what it means to live on the East Coast.
Starting with the cult-like allegiance to the convenience store giant known as Wawa. What is there to say? The coffee, the sandwiches, the affordable variety of snacks and beverages—all I know for sure is that I can never go back. Wawa is a sanctuary of pure nirvana and without a doubt, I will remember its impact on my newfound cravings for quesadillas as long as I live.
Freeways, however, I will not. In all my years of driving, I have never encountered a road that possessed more than two lanes. Driving from Wesley to Philadelphia may seem like a nonchalant journey to many of you, but my experience still has me shook. For starters, there are a lot of cars driving at once – an absurd amount, really. To add to the confusion, there are upwards of four lanes to drive on. And then there are the exits, which lead to miniature freeways, which in turn lead to suburban towns, whose roads all eventually lead right back to the initial freeway I’m traveling on.
In Alaska, I drive forty miles per hour on two-lane roads, and have to only be aware of the occasional moose or sheet of black ice. Here, I am required to drive eighty miles per hour with fifty other cars and pray that Google Maps has my back as I try merging into a lane for the first time. Ultimately, my experience turned out to be an unpleasant immersion into the fast-paced habits of the East Coast. My deduction: Thank goodness for Greyhound buses.
My hometown of Homer, Alaska, has 4,000 people, while Wesley College has approximately 1,500 enrolled students. That means I interact with the equivalent of about a third of the people that live in my hometown. Honestly, however, I love the diversity, culture, and buzz so many different people can bring to one area.
Living here for the past four months has allowed me to explore a new portion of American life. The connections I have made, the experiences I have had, and the places I have been able to go since moving to Dover have already filled me with a growing sense of community and connection.
I’m thankful to the friends from far and near who have made my transition from Alaska a smooth one. Wesley, as quirky it is, has been instrumental in helping this rural Alaskan gal transition into the urban life of the East Coast.
Mountains or marshes, I am excited for what comes next.