For those of you who don’t know, I’m from Maine. I’ve worked in a small shop in a harbor town for about three summers now. It only took me a month to find out how little people actually know about my beloved state. I’ve been asked many-a-time if moose are real animals, if all Mainers live off of lobster and I’ve had to reassure people that we do, in fact, have indoor plumbing.
This kind of thing can be expected from tourists, though. They don’t need to know anything about where they are visiting; they just want to have a good time. So when I came to college, full of bright, young, eager students, I was a bit shocked to find out that a good amount of the students I talked to have a similar mindset about the state tucked up in the corner. It seemed that some of my classmates were under the impression that everyone from Maine was either a hippie or a hick, that we don’t get new music or movies until many months after everybody else and that every resident knows each other.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I could use this fact to have a little fun with my peers. Within several weeks, I had convinced a handful of people that Maine had only gotten the show ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air” a year ago. Not only that, but after the initial airing, Will Smith had become so popular that his new song ‘Summertime” was at the top of the charts for several weeks. I also pretended to be shocked when New York State didn’t have a ‘Wholios,” a supposed fast food place that only served organic foods from local farms, and I was completely straight-faced when I told a girl that I had never actually seen a McDonalds before.
I can’t blame my fellow classmates for believing some of this stuff, though. If you’ve never been there, then of course you won’t know what it’s like. I like being from a state that doesn’t allow billboards on the highway in order to not clutter our beautiful landscape. I enjoy having the ocean, forest and mountains at my disposal. If you’ve never been there, then of course you won’t know what it’s like.
Frankly, I’m proud to be from a place where the worst stereotype someone can come up with for me is that I only shower once a week. I’d rather be tagged as that than being from somewhere that’s known for malls, hair gel and pollution (sorry Jersey).
But that’s exactly the point. Stereotypes are rarely the whole story or the true one. I’ve been to New Jersey, and parts of it are actually pretty. We have an ideal opportunity in college to do away with the preconceived notions of other places and people that we have.
We attend a university that makes a genuine effort at creating a diverse student population.
It accepts kids from all places and backgrounds so that we can learn from each other outside the classroom. So, when you meet someone from somewhere new, maybe you can try and get to know them and where they are from. You may be surprised that it’s not all that different from where you’re from.
Cummings is a member of the class of 2011.