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A West Coast perspective of Iowa

BY GUEST COLUMN | MAY 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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At the beginning of college, one of the first questions people ask is, 'So, where are you from?'

I grew up in Santa Monica, Calif., a beach suburb of Los Angeles. Most days were in the 60s or 70s because the ocean keeps the weather temperate. Snow was something that I had seen a few times before coming to Iowa City, and once when I was 10, snow fell at home. I was so excited that I just ran outside and started taking pictures.

It is true that I have seen some celebrities; as a kid I went trick-or-treating at Tom Hanks' house, and Christina Schwarzenegger is my age (and having met her, I can attest that she is a complete brat).

Then my peers usually ask me, "Why Iowa?" I chose to make UI my home because it has the No. 1 writing program in America. I chose it because I needed to separate from my parents and leave La-La land. I also chose it, and this is a huge reason, because of the budget crisis in California, which has raised the price of tuition.

I often think of what my California friends who stayed in state have gone through compared with what I've gone through. The state of California has no money, and in the past three years, tuition has gone up 75 percent.

My friend who is living at home and going to UCLA is paying more than I am for out-of-state tuition to go here. Further, because of the budget crisis, the state of California is giving out no scholarships, only IOUs, which the colleges do not accept. Because of all this, there have been riots at many of the college campuses. Recently, students at Santa Monica College were pepper-sprayed by the police for peacefully protesting a raise from $50 a class to a $150. And this is junior college.

Even beyond the money problems, getting into decent California colleges is arduous. The system wants you to apply to at least six schools. The state colleges that are easier to get into are not prestigious. To get into Berkeley or UCLA, you have to have at least a 4.0 GPA and have taken many AP classes.

On the other hand, getting into UI is simple. It accepts anybody with over a 3.0 GPA, and many people I have met never took an AP class. A lot of people only applied to the University of Iowa because they knew that they could get in. I was surprised, and it showed me how different Iowa is from California. 

The LA attitude is similar to the NYC one. We are the second-largest city in America and just don't have time for pleasantries. On the UI campus, numerous people have asked me if I was angry just when I was stating my opinion. If I were mad, you would know.

In contrast to the segment of life that I have seen and that I react to, I find Midwesterners to have a friendly exterior but to be rather passive-aggressive. I've met many people (especially in my freshman dorm) who would smile then wait until a person left and say how much they hated them.

I also assess a more traditional outlook from the people in Iowa than from the people in California. It should not be a surprise, then, that settling down is not every girl's No. 1 priority.

When I was in high school, I only had about three conversations about whether or not I wanted to have children and the chats were, "So, do you want to have kids?" It's not that girls in California don't eventually want to have kids, it's just that we have other things that we want to do first.

The Iowan attitude towards babies is very different. My freshman year of college, I met many girls that wanted to discuss their future procreation. These girls would not simply say, "Do you want to have kids?" but would ask, "What are the names of your children going to be?" "How many do you want?" "Boys or girls?" and "Do you want to have a C-section, epidural, or a natural home birth?" I was shocked about being continually asked this and showed me the different priorities in Iowa.

When I go home, which isn't that often, it always takes me three days to adjust to being back. Coming to Iowa has opened my eyes to the life beyond Rodeo Drive. Some people go to Spain or Italy to experience a different culture; I went to Iowa.

Kelsey Berryman
UI student


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