My sweet sixteen was only months away when my family decided to move from Louisiana to Texas. Now for some people, this might not seem like a long adventurous journey. One might think that moving from just one state to another would not cause a person to experience culture shock, but I did.
In Louisiana, I lived in a hot, humid climate, and in many of the neighborhoods that I had lived in, my ethnicity, “Caucasian”, was considered a minority. Some of the places I lived where very violent and crime ridden. There were drivebys, drugs deals, and gangs. Not of of Lousiana is like that, but my family was very poor. Cheap housing for a family of eight usually lands you in a bad section of town. There were some things I loved about Louisana. I loved the smell of gumbo and the rain, the Mardi Gras celebrations with King Cake to eat, and the French classes that I had started taking in the fourth grade.
With all of that said, I was really nervous about moving to Texas. I had watched the Western movies with John Wayne, the people using horses for transportation, the mistreated Native Americans, and the tumble weed rolling across scenes with deserts and cacti. The only time I had been to Texas was when I was very little to visit my grandparents in Houston, but my parents told me Houston was more like Lousiana than the place we were going. So, I had no idea what to expect, but I was trying to remain openminded and hang on to the hope that I wouldn’t wake up in a cowboy movie.
I felt the U-haul lull to a stop. So, I rubbed my tired eyes and looked at the man pumping gas across from my dad. He was wearing a cowboy hat, a huge western belt buckle, and cowboy boots with spurs. The man was stroking his mustache that curled upward while pumping gas into his pick-up truck. I told my dad I wanted to go right back to Louisiana, but he assured me that not all people in Texas look like that. I noticed that in some places the signs were in both Spanish and English, and this was very foreign to me.
The second half of my first year in Texas, I finally entered a Texas public school in a rural town, and I was in complete shock. There were no French classes, but I had a choice between Spanish, American Sign Language, and Czech. I chose Spanish because I couldn’t understand what half of the students were saying. The kids in my school had never heard of many of my favorite foods, and they pronounced “Mardi Gras” as “Mardi Grass”. Everyone wanted to hear me talk, and I thought their deep country accents were hilarious even though they were the ones laughing at my accent. Even though it was a tiny school with a graduating class of less than fifty, my first friends were three foreign exchange students from Asia, a guy adopted from Brazil, and a Mexican guy.
I learned to enjoy my house surrounded by fifty acres of corn fields, authentic Mexican food, and the little country town. I made friends and discovered that no matter where you are from, we all share the same basic needs as humans. Even though I had just moved from one American state to another, I learned many things and had many of my prejudices and limited viewpoints melted away. In conclusion, you don’t have to travel to another country to experience the life changing benefits of going abroad. You might just have to travel across state lines and stay there a while.
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