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Moving to the East Coast was a pretty big deal for me, especially because I’ve spent about the last half of my life in the Southwest desert area of El Paso, Texas. People usually spend a good chunk of their lives growing up in one general area, so many times they don’t notice the small things that are unique to their area. I’ve been a military kid since the day I was born, so moving around is a norm for my family. But the last nine years of my life were pretty stationary, and I grew to calling El Paso my home, as it’s the longest place I’ve ever lived. When moving to Virginia, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, and it’s taken me quite some time (still getting there) to get used to how different it is. Because I’m so used to the characteristics of living in the Southwest, there were a lot of things I’ve noticed that are so different here in the East Coast! Here is a list of just a few of the things I’ve noticed.

1. You can finally watch the NYC New Year Countdown in real time.

Sounds so simple right? But it makes the biggest difference when for the past nine years you’ve had to pre-record the famous New Year’s Countdown in NYC just to watch it two hours later.

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2. You can literally smell the ocean water in the air when the wind blows.

East Coast winds smell so much different. Weird thing to say, but it’s so true. Whenever it’s windy over here in Virginia, the FIRST thing I smell is the saltiness of the ocean – even if I’m not by the beach. The smell is definitely more obvious to non-natives, so I’ve noticed my nose catches onto it a lot easier than people who’ve lived here their whole lives. Desert winds will have you shielding your eyes from the sand and they smell, well…like dirt, in a quite literal sense. A huge characteristic of El Paso weather is the unique smell it has right after it rains. There’s this overwhelming yet extremely relaxing and comforting smell of wet dirt (which sounds so unappealing, I know. But it’s one of those things where when you smell it, you’ll understand). It literally just smells like earth, and something about that is super comforting.

3. Everyone looks at you weird when your first instinct before you step in the grass is to check it for “stickers.”

Yup, the dreaded stickers. And no, these aren’t the cute adhesive labels that you put on the back of your laptop or car. These sneaky things will have you screaming in pain if you step on them. Anyone who grew up in El Paso or any of the surrounding areas will immediately know what you’re talking about when you complain about stickers – and they’ll be cringing just thinking about the times they’ve accidentally stepped into a whole bush of them because I guarantee you it’s happened to us all over there. Once you’ve had to dodge these suckers every time you leave the house, it’s subconsciously ingrained in you to check any patches of grass for them before stepping on it – and even then, you still tread cautiously.

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4. You have no idea what to do when you wake up and there’s snow everywhere and your car is full of frost.

My first winter here was almost like a culture shock for me because I’ve never had to deal with this much snow or frost (none for that matter) in El Paso before. All of my driving lessons were in El Paso; I learned to drive and got my first car there, so naturally I never had to encounter frost or snow on my car before. The only fan setting I ever had to use in El Paso was cold air on full blast. So, one cold winter day, I woke up to go to school and noticed my whole car window covered in frost and the inside was all foggy – I couldn’t see anything. I literally panicked because I had no idea how to get rid of the icy frost so that I could get to class on time. I eventually learned that, lo and behold: there’s a magical defrost button. Since then I’ve learned the ropes a little better and no longer panic when I see a huge layer of frost covering my windows.

5. You find out that going to the beach isn’t just a vacation thing.

This was surprisingly one of the biggest things for me to get used to. I never even realized how much people go to the beach here, and it never crossed my mind to just chill at one whenever there’s free time. I was so used to the idea that going to the beach was a vacation thing, because that’s the only time I’ve ever gone to one. Before moving here I’ve never even been to a beach with friends before (which is like a huge thing people do here). When I moved here I had friends inviting me to go to the beach between classes and on the weekends and in my head, I was like, “Omg this is a thing now.” Because I only went to the beach during vacations before moving here, I was never really a beach person. But I slowly realized that the beach can be fun, especially when you go with friends!

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Moving to the East Coast has been an adventure and continues to be as I learn even more about the area and the new culture around me. Virginia is such a different area from where I’m used to living but, just like any other place, it has its own uniqueness to it and there’s so many positive things about living here. I’ve always seen every move in my life as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person and moving to the East Coast has given me so many new experiences and adventures that I couldn’t have experienced anywhere else. And though my heart and home will always be in El Paso, the East Coast has managed to find its way into my heart, too.

Nina is a senior at Christopher Newport University pursuing her BA in English with a concentration in writing. She has a passion for writing and helping others as much as she can, and hopes to work for an organization that will help make a difference in people's lives. In her free time, Nina enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, and taking long naps.
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