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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Out-of-state students: A midwest perspective of the PNW

I was told you can tell the difference between a Washingtonian and an out-of-stater by whether they carry an umbrella or not. After being here for nearly four years, I’ve been told mixed things about the truth behind that, but as someone from the Midwest I can tell you there are many differences that set out-of-staters apart.

I moved from my hometown of St. Peters, Missouri, a small suburb outside St. Louis, to Seattle in January of 2014. I had graduated high school and just completed my first semester at the local community college when we decided to move.

A few days before leaving Missouri // Photo from Tyler Morris

We loaded a moving truck and my crappy Mustang with boxes and drove nine states until we reached the Emerald City. To this day, Seattle is the biggest city I’ve ever been to. Seeing the skyline for the first time from Interstate 5 was a little intimidating for a guy who’s lived most his life in a small Midwestern town. I really had no expectations going in.

Immediately, I realized I had taken the sun for granted. I’d never seen so many days of rain in my life. When I started taking college courses, I had a psych professor suggest I get a bright lamp and turn it on a few times a day to keep from feeling depressed. The trade off is that I’ve barely had to deal with snow. The rain isn’t so bad.

The Seahawks had won their first Super Bowl when I arrived. I come from a baseball town,  and football isn’t nearly as huge. It’s not odd to me to have an entire city be so dedicated to a sports team. We St. Louisans label October, “Red October” when the Cardinals make their way into the MLB playoffs, but what is odd is the shared love of the team. Take a walk into downtown Seattle any time of day, shout the word “Sea,” and almost immediately it will be met with someone yelling back “Hawks.” I have never seen total strangers share something like that.

Reaching the city // Photo by Tyler Morris

Those things were fairly easy to overcome. You get use to the rain and the funny looks when you wear a Cardinals hat. One thing that has proven the hardest is making friends. I had heard about the concept of the “Seattle Freeze” and how the Northwest is a hard place to meet people.  In my experience it does exist, however, Bellingham is different. Perhaps it’s students coming from many different places or the mentality of a college campus, but Bellingham has proven to be slightly more friendly than Seattle.

I grew up in small town and could have stayed there the rest of my life but would’ve never been content.

Tyler Morris

 In the Midwest, when you walk down a sideway and pass a stranger, typically there’s some exchange, whether it’s a simple hello or head nod. That’s not to say that sort of thing doesn’t happen here in the upper left, but the instances are few and far between. Generally, I feel people here are far more introverted and you have to try and be a little more outgoing with the people you meet.

I love the Northwest. It’s a great place live. The thing to take away from all this is, getting out of your comfort zone. I grew up in small town and could have stayed there the rest of my life but would’ve never been content. For some that’s okay, but I knew I wanted to feel out of place, to put myself where I’d never been before. That’s the most exciting thing about it.


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