Ask most people at Lehigh, and they are from the New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania area. Ask me where I am from, and I start an elaborate story of growing up in New Hampshire and moving to Vermont after high school, where I now know nobody. This is a story that isn’t so common here at Lehigh.
I came to Lehigh knowing very few people, maybe one or two older kids that I had been scared of all of high school, in contrast to many other students here, who already had various friends from home or camp that they had known for years. While I often feel left out of the conversation when I don’t understand which towns are in New Jersey and which are on Long Island, I have learned to appreciate where I come from and the fact that my story is slightly more interesting and different than that of most people.
I know I’m obviously not from the farthest-away place, and that there are many other students that travel much farther to get here, and that I am not the most culturally or racially diverse, but I like the fact that I am somewhat unique.
My house is on about 40 acres of land with a large pasture, a riding ring and a six-stall barn, all things that are probably not typical for people growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey or Manhattan. I have pet goats, chickens, horses and, at one point, a donkey. My friends call me “farm girl” on a regular basis, and at first I fought it and said I didn’t live on a farm in an attempt to seem like everyone else. But over time, I have come to simply laugh about it and accept that yes, I am kind of a farm girl. I am unique.
People laugh when I say that I’ve never eaten at Wawa or Red Robin and that there isn’t a Starbucks anywhere near my town, or that, in order to get to the closest mall, I have to drive nearly two plus hours and that my car is constantly dirty from living on a dirt road. I obviously haven’t been completely isolated my whole life; we do have stores and regular shops just like any other town, but for some reason, when I say “Vermont,” people think there are no stores and that my town is tiny. When I say “farm,” people assume my dad is some sort of dairy farmer. The assumptions that people make just by me mentioning these two little words are often hilarious.
I think that this situation, being from somewhere different, has made me appreciative of where others are from and appreciative of people’s diversity on this campus and has taught me not to make assumptions about other people right away. I think it is interesting that I have become friends with people from so many different areas who are all completely different from me, and yet we can still get along so well. I’ve always lived in a pretty rural area, and it is so different to hear from people who have grown up in the city their whole lives. They are two different worlds, and we are all completely different people. I think that is what Lehigh has made me more aware of: the differences that we must appreciate in one another.
While Lehigh might not be known as the most diverse school, although we have just accepted our most diverse class so far, I think it is still important to appreciate the smallest differences in where people are from and how people ended up at Lehigh. It’s interesting to hear about where people are from, whether it is halfway around the world or just the next town over.
So yes, I am a farm girl, and this has helped me realize how important it is to be accepting of others and appreciate them for where they come from and who they are and to not to make arbitrary assumptions about others. This is something that often can be hard for people to learn and realize, but I think it is crucial in maintaining and promoting a positive and inclusive culture here at Lehigh University.