I feel like a Tusconan!

Some of my goals for this semester were to make lifetime friends in another area of the United States, learn more about the cultural differences between Kansas and Arizona, experience learning in a larger classroom setting, and to just have fun. I definitely accomplished all of these goals. I will admit that it did take me a while to step out of my shell and interact with more than just one or two people. After I put in the effort to make the most out of my time here, it was amazing. I started going to various events in Tucson, museums, school events, etc. My only regret with this is that I wished I would have jumped in sooner. I definitely feel like I missed out on some of the exciting stuff at the beginning of the year. But, I still have next semester! I am more than ready to dive back in and immerse myself into everything. My main goal for next semester is to just do more with sightseeing and be more involved on campus. I want to go visit other parts of Arizona and find other cultures and landmarks. I want to join all of the little clubs that are advertised at the club fair. I want to do more.

Overall, there really weren’t any cultural gaps that I had to try and close. Staying in the United States eliminated the issue of a language barrier or major cultural barriers. Instead, I had to focus on quickly adjusting to a completely different lifestyle. It was a change moving from a town with 25,000 people to a city with over 500,000 people and an even bigger change going to a school with over 40,000 people. My smallest class this semester had 95 people in it, which is bigger than any class I ever took at Emporia. I was even in a class with 580 people in it, which put me at the challenge of finding a decent seat in a large lecture hall. This was only one of my minor challenges.

I really didn’t think that living in a different part of the U.S would change any of my opinions and attitudes that much, but it definitely has. I used to have the constant urge to move as far away from home as possible. Now, I understand more of what that is like. I didn’t think I would miss home that much, but I do. I love being in Tucson, but it definitely made me realize how much I loved having my family just a few hours away. One of my other thoughts that changed is that people who live in bigger cities aren’t always nice. The people here are not as friendly as Kansans, but I have met some of the sweetest people at random restaurants and stores. It mostly just helped me remember that people are people, no matter where you are.

Before studying abroad, I think every college student should know before studying abroad is that your time will only be as good as you make it. I remember being told this at the study abroad meeting in Emporia, but I kind of just brushed it off. Like I said before, when I started going to all of the events and sights my experience got so much better. So, instead of taking a nap or just hanging out in your room when you have a chance, get out there and do everything. If you don’t, you will regret it.

My study abroad experience will help me in my future career because I now have the experience of moving somewhere completely different and starting over in a sense. I moved to a school that is 18 hours from home. I had no friends. I knew none of my classmates or professors, and didn’t really know what is was going to be like learning in such a big environment. So, I can now apply this toward my future career because I proved to myself that new and different can be a good thing. Honestly, it can be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.

How has my study abroad experience changed me?

Studying abroad made me realize that I want to travel and experience more in this world!

-Madison, Arizona

Helping the Tucson Strays

I had trouble deciding what volunteering experience I wanted to do while I was in Arizona. There are many different opportunities available, but it was challenging to find one that could work around my schedule. I landed on volunteering for the Human Society of Southern Arizona. I connected with the organization because they bring a few dogs to our campus every other week for students to pet in between classes. After visiting their event a few times, I asked the organization if I could help. I don’t plan on working with animals in my future, but I did work with them all through high school and really wanted to get involved again.

I am passionate about this cause owing to my love of animals, but I have also witnessed a rampant homeless animal problem in Tucson. I have learned through my work with the organization that this is attributable to the housing burst, the Native American reservations, and issues with poverty in the city. I have many at home and have missed them a lot during my exchange program. As I cannot be with my own pets, it has been gratifying to help other animals that do not have a home. I am grateful to be a part of an organization doing their part with this problem by finding permanent homes for these animals.

I would consider myself an insider to the organization. They are very kind and accepting people. I also felt like the experiences I had from volunteering and working at a veterinarian clinic in high school gave me an advantage over other volunteers.

I’m not entirely sure how I influenced the organization, but I feel like my leadership skills and experience played a major role in the tasks that they allowed me to do.

-Madison, Arizona

Arizona Culture From My Perspective

The culture in Arizona is significantly different from the culture in Kansas. I didn’t think it would be that different, but it is. The culture isn’t extremely different from being at home because it doesn’t just focus on one culture. Instead, it is a mixture of many different cultures. But, certain cultures are more prevalent in Arizona compared to Kansas. Arizona’s culture mostly consists of Native American, Hispanic, and Spanish colonial history.

A few examples of my host culture that are distant from my own are the gorgeous Catholic missions that are here in Tucson. The one that I drive by regularly and toured is the San Xavier Mission and I have never seen anything like it. It was built in 1797 and is still used for services. Another example of my host culture that is distant from my own is the amount of food trucks, truck vendors, and swap meets. On nearly every corner and empty lot, you can find a Sonoran hot dog truck or someone selling random goods. This seemed really different to me because I think I have seen two food trucks the entire time I have lived in Kansas. Day of the Dead is also largely celebrated here in Arizona, at an event called the “All Souls Procession”. I didn’t even really understand what was all involved with this event until I attended it. It was an amazing opportunity for me to learn more about the celebration.

There are also aspects of my host culture that are very similar to my own because I am still in the United States. Arizona is largely an agrarian society having many ranches and farms, like Kansas. Another simple example would be that there is no language barrier and that my wardrobe from Kansas fits in with Arizona’s just as easily.

I really haven’t had any huge or alarming reactions to the aspects that are distant to my own culture. I really enjoy learning more and experiencing each of the new things that I find different. I have toured a few different museums and have been to different events. Overall though, I haven’t had to make any major adjustments in order to fit in. People don’t even realize that I am not from here unless I tell them. I have gone to a few cultural events to try and understand the culture more though. I went to a festival called “Tucson Meet Yourself”. At this festival, I got to learn about all of the different cultural groups that are here in Tucson. I also got to ask them questions about their culture and try many different foods. I also went to the “All Souls Procession” that I discussed earlier.

The cultural iceberg explores more of culture than just looking at the observable behaviors. Instead it looks at the core values of the culture, like what is good or bad or what is right and wrong. I chose to analyze the Hispanic culture using this iceberg model. Some of the core values of the Spanish culture are that they value the group and not the individual. They often look at their family as being as their own identity. Their families are also stratified on generational hierarchy. So, the oldest male holds the highest power. These are some of the most prevalent values of the Hispanic culture that I found and have witnessed since I have been here.

-Madison Livengood, NSE Exchange Student, Arizona

Kansan in the Southwest

When I first left Emporia State this semester, I wasn’t quite sure what my experience would be like since I was staying in the United States. Also, people typically do not think of this as “studying abroad”. But, my experience in the Southwest has definitely been different from the Midwest. I did not realize the differences until I moved here.

The funniest misconception of Kansans that I have found while being here is that we all farm, ride horses, and have seen tornadoes. Although this is true for some people in Kansas, it definitely does not define us and it is not what I thought people would think. Honestly, their response was really outlandish to me. It shocked me because I have never farmed and have only seen one tornado in my entire life.

When I think of being a Kansan, I really don’t think of myself being too different from other people in the U.S.  I have always thought that Midwesterners are friendlier, but that was the only quality that I thought would be different. People in Arizona are still polite and generally nice, but they are not always the friendliest in places like grocery stores or gas stations. Instead of having a five minute conversation with a random stranger, interaction with others is pretty limited.

I think many of these misconceptions may come from the way media represents Kansas. The first that comes to mind are movies that are set in the Midwest, such as Twister. Also, people here always ask me about The Wizard of Oz, which does not surprise me because it is a classic movie with a story line in Kansas. Of course these movies are entertaining and fun, but they don’t accurately showcase how great Kansas really is.

Despite what many Arizonans think Kansas is like, the Midwest definitely offers certain qualities that the Southwest does not. Kansas is not densely populated, so people are not packed together tightly. This is great because I have never fought large amounts of traffic or have dealt with the “big city” qualities that I deal with now. Also, people in Kansas are more kind and honest when you go anywhere. Honestly, Kansas just feels very different compared to the Southwest.

-Madison, Arizona

NSE: A New Experience

Hi, I’m Madison Livengood.  I am a full time student at Emporia State University. Currently, I am a sophomore majoring in chemistry at the University of Arizona with the National Student Exchange Program.  I was born and raised in Salina, KS but would travel to Arizona several times a year to visit with family.  I fell in love with Tucson on those trips, so when the opportunity to study in Arizona became available I applied right away.  I am loving every minute of my experience.  Studying in a new place definitely presents challenges, but the experience has been completely worth it.

The first question my colleagues and professors ask me when I tell them I am an exchange student is, “what led you to come here and study?” To be completely honest, I never thought I would study abroad because it was a little too far out of my comfort level to leave my friends and family for so long. I also found that the studying in another country would be cost prohibitive for me.  I discovered NSE at an activities fair my freshmen year at ESU.  The program has allowed me to study in a completely different and new environment without feeling too different from my normal life. It also has been great as far as the cost because it wasn’t that expensive to fly here and my expenses are similar to the ones I have had in the last couple of years.  I decided to study in Arizona because it has always been one of the schools I dreamed of going to and I have an aunt and uncle that live here. Having family in the same city has been amazing because they are always there if I need anything.

Besides visiting national landmarks and hiking various trails, I hope to become more independent from my study abroad experience. Moving to another state and being away from my grandparents and siblings has definitely been a challenge, but learning to cope with this has definitely made me more self-reliant. I also hoped that I would gain the confidence to study in a different country eventually.

The biggest fear I had with my study abroad experience was leaving my friends and not being able to make any new ones. I was concerned about my class sizes as it seemed easier to make friends in a smaller classroom setting. I did have trouble making friends the first month of school. Being in classes with over 500 people was a little overwhelming, making me even shyer than I already am. Eventually, I made more of an effort to talk to others and engage in activities and clubs on campus. I now have many friends, making my study abroad experience much more enjoyable. I even joined a sport that I have never done before, which has forced me to meet lots of new people.

So far, my experience is going very well, but I have felt very lonely at times and missed home more than ever. I never thought I would miss home that much, but I do every now and then. I see my friends posting pictures and updates on social media about things they are doing in Emporia and I instantly start to miss home. I have definitely had a few melt downs and wanted to fly home the next day. To cope with this, I just remind myself that I chose to study abroad and that I am going to make the most out of my experience. I then try go to local events, museums, and fun activities on campus to remind myself that I came to Arizona to gain a different experience.

-Madison, Arizona