What It's Like Being a Southerner in a Northern School

Moving hours away to go to college is normal for most eighteen-year olds, but for me it was the opposite. I am from a very small town in Arkansas. A town so small that most people have never heard of it, and probably never will. People from my town rarely leave, so deciding to go seven hours away for college was like being a fan of Alabama’s football team. (another thing we never do in Arkansas)

When I first decided to attend Purdue University, the decision got mixed reactions. Most people were happy for me, but they were confused. You see, I have lived in the South my entire life, and so have two-thirds of my town’s population. The furthest north I had ever been was Kentucky, which isn’t saying much. The only things I knew about Northerners is they talk funny and they don’t have sweet tea, so moving there for the next four years was going to take some adjusting.

I have now been attending college for half a year, and I have had many unique experiences due to me being from the South. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. The North has absolutely no sweet tea.

PSA to all northerners: the lack of sweet tea is alarming and not okay. This is probably the biggest thing I have had to overcome since moving up here. Being the true southerner that I am, sweet tea is practically running through my veins. When the only place I can get good sweet tea is McDonald’s, we have a problem.

2. The weather is no joke.


This is something I was not prepared for. I come from a place that completely shuts down when we get an inch of snow. Southerners are not equipped to deal with temperatures colder than 40 degrees, so going to a school that still makes you go to class when the wind chill is -30 is a bit different.


3. No one can understand what I say.

It never once occurred to me that people wouldn’t be able to understand me. I have spent my whole life believing I didn’t have an accent, which apparently is not true. I think I can collectively speak for all Southerners when I say that we have always thought that people from the North talk weird. (mostly because they don’t have a “Southern drawl”) Imagine my surprise coming to college and now becoming the one who talks weird. My friends like to joke that it is like I am from a different country, and they’re right.

4. There is nothing quite like Southern food.

I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to the South for taking your food for granted. Don’t get me wrong, the North has been so good to me while I have been here, but I truly miss Southern food. No one understands what fried chicken is supposed to look like, or that sweet tea is its own food group. I vividly remember one of the first times I ate in the dining court and they were serving Cajun food. I was so excited because that is the food of my people but imagine my confusion when I see they put fried okra, a food that is not Cajun, as a side. If you don’t see the error in this decision, you are probably from the North.


5. Despite everything, the North is a special place.

The South will always have a special place in my heart. It's where I was raised and was taught all the Southern mannerisms that I will carry with me until the day I die. However, there are things that we don’t get right in the South that the North does. It has been really exciting for me to attend Purdue, because there is a sense of acceptance for people of all cultures and ideas.

This is something I wasn’t familiar with, but I have grown to love. I have learned so much about the world since being here, and I give all my gratitude to the North.