During my freshman year of college, I went to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif. Living in Orange County, So-Cal is no joke and it costs your daddy's fortune (or at least mine), so I returned to be a fiscally responsible adult.
One gem I took with me from the O.C. was my dear friend, Rebekah. Granted, I didn't actually take her with me, but our friendship lasted the test of a year's time and she made it here this weekend for Labor Day.
It's not as if Tennessee is on the other side of the world, but it is insanely far from Southern California; to be exact, Knoxville and Mission Viejo are 2,188 miles apart.
It's far enough, and if you're Rebekah Owen, you've grown up in Orange County your whole 21 years of life and the farthest east you've been is Utah.
For Rebekah, Tennessee might as well be a different country.
"The big things," she said, "were the little things."
Starting on the shallow side of life, Rebekah thought the style of clothing had a wider variety, especially in sporty outfits.
She also said it was easy to pick out the frat boys due to the khaki pants and button downs, but I think we already knew that.
She assumed the hipsters here were more authentic.
"In Cali," she explained, "everyone dresses up in hipster-style all the time yet don't follow the lifestyle."
Everyone, she repeated, everyone has a southern accent. Even the ones with mild accents still say "y'all" frequently.
The automobile life isn't as hectic in Tennessee, according to Rebekah: "People aren't trying to be crazy drivers. People move out of the way for you instead of passing you."
When I asked her how she imagined southerners might act before finding out herself, she proclaimed, "Well, I pretty much expected everyone to be just like Julie (yours truly); down to earth, excited, happy-go-lucky."
She concluded her preconceived notion was spot on.
"It was clear that everyone is confident in themselves," Rebekah said. "People are willing to bring their unique personalities to the table."
Rebekah thinks that her Cali-cohorts are always aware of their own 'cool factor' and put others down on the daily.
"In California, people try so hard to stand out from the crowd and prove they're 'individuals,'" Rebekah said.
"In Tennessee, people's individuality creates unity."
After a while, Rebekah gave up asking me, "Do you know them? Everyone acts like they're friends, and like they actually care."
I'm not sure if we do, but it's still a sweet idea.
Rebekah's first day here, she was studiously doing her homework in one of our solemn library cubicles.
All of the sudden, a student behind her starts freaking out and comes running up to Rebekah, exclaiming, "Come here! Look at this bug!"
Apparently, a house centipede had made its home in an outlet in one of our UT cubbies. The student told Rebekah, "I just had to share that with somebody."
This exchange symbolizes the time Rebekah had in Tennessee. She says personally she would have discreetly made her way to another cubicle without attracting any attention to herself.
Rebekah felt everyone tried to involve her; when I had work on Saturday, three different people got her cell phone number so that she might have someone with whom to attend the game.
Strangers rushed at her with connections.
Like the house centipede, although in a foreign environment, she found her own outlet in our home sweet home.
Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.