“You’re from California? Why did you come to Rochester?”

I ask everyone to please not ask me this anymore. I really hate that question.

Of course, all my friends back in Davis, Calif. weren’t terribly helpful either.

“Where is Rochester? Is that a SUNY school? Can I visit you? I’ve never been to New York City before! They have Republicans there!”

Everyone back home was convinced that I would freeze to death or be killed for food by starving people stuck in the snow – the whole Donner party tragedy happened about two hours from my house. Therefore, before I left for my grand adventures in Rochester, I received a windfall of long underwear, boots and scarves. I was very grateful that my friends cared enough to prevent me from falling victim to roving cannibals, but I was a little apprehensive about how living in the snow for the first time would be.

As a Californian in Rochester, I don’t feel particularly like an outsider. I’ve driven a car, eaten at IHOP – not so good – and I’ve watched America’s Next Top Model and Law & Order: SVU religiously. However, I quickly discovered my differences. I said, “whatever,” “like” and “totally” a lot more than anyone else. Also, I was shocked when

I found out that the dorms didn’t have air conditioning and, to top it off, I wore shorts.

I made an alarming discovery when I visited the mall – Hollister. I don’t have a Hollister near my house nor had I ever been to one, but after one tour of the store, I decided never to shop there. The store is nothing more than a giant California stereotype. I stared at the pictures on the wall of the white models in various states of undress running around with surfboards and was appalled. California has much more diversity than that – it’s one of my favorite aspects of my state.

I read the shirts advertising the La Jolla crab feed of 1986, the Lake Tahoe ski team and the Golita electrical company, which actually exists.

I wondered if the people milling about the store knew Hollister was actually a tiny little industrial town in central California and definitely not located on the coast. The crowning glory of the store, however, was the giant Californian flag hung above the cash registers. Of course it was nice to see the brown bear, but it was all so ridiculous. Oh, and one last thing, maybe they should lighten up and use some lights – one thing that California definitely has is sun.

Another California stereotype that hit me when I reached Rochester was “The O.C.” It was incredibly ironic that I seemed to be the only person on my hall who had never seen an episode before and I was from the state – still, it is six hours away from my home. When I finally watched a show, I was highly unimpressed.

Watching the trials and tribulations of rich white teenagers did not strike me as particularly earth-shattering. I also found the description of Chino hysterical because in reality, the town is not that ghetto. It’s just a working-class town that has the misfortune of being located near a fabulously wealthy area. By comparison it’s poor, but in reality, not really.

Then, wintercame, and the Californian inside me became even more obvious. When the first snow came, I was the only student running outside of my dorm excited to play in the snow and make snow angels – dirt angels just aren’t the same. However, winter was also a big learning time for me. For example, I learned that jumping in snow drifts with your tennis shoes on is not fun.

During high school, scarves were considered a cute accessory to pair with your mini-skirt and Ugg boots – as fashionable as they are back home – actually serve a realistic purpose here – keeping you warm. After the first blizzard hit – when it snows, it’s a blizzard in my eyes – and one bitter walk from Wilson Commons to my dorm room later, I cleverly realized that I could wrap my scarf around my face and it served me much better than being uselessly draped around my neck. My pride over my “intelligent” discovery was quickly squashed as I journeyed outside again and found that everybody else was already wearing scarves the intended way.

I made a similar discovery with a hat, which I bought because I thought it was cute, and which seemed to fit in with my new winter lifestyle. It made its debut on a particularly bitter and cold day in January.

As I walked along, I was surprised to realize that my ears were actually warm, and then it hit me, “Eureka!” The long flaps on either side of my hat were actually there for that purpose. My feelings of elation on making this discovery were short lived as I shared this news with my friend walking with me.

“Um, duh, why else would they be there? Decoration?”

Now, when I’m home for winter break, I scoff at the girl in front of me in line for wearing a ski jacket in 55-degree weather, or the lady riding a bike across the intersection wearing a wool hat and scarf while the sun is shining directly down on her.

Although I am now aware of the silliness of winter fashion when it’s warm, no matter how long I spend in Rochester, I will always be an In-N-Out-burger eatin’, flip-flop-wearing, liberal Californian for life.

Woo can be reached at mwoo@campustimes.org.

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