True Life: PA to NJ Culture Shock

*This is an assignment for my feature writing class–essentially a third-person feature on myself, which was both difficult and highly amusing at times to write.*

At first glance, no one would suspect her to be a geographical interloper. With a notebook-ridden satchel perpetually glued to her side, spectacles perched on a suspiciously pale bridge of the nose and stubborn curls moussed into submission, the ex-Biology major fades neatly into the college’s studious population.

Yet underneath the façade, Jessica Corry is a veritable anomaly. She holds absolutely no opinion on the geographic controversy tearing apart north, south and central Jersey. The sun is the only free tanning special she has redeemed. Behind the wheel, she actively avoids circles, obeys the speed limit as if it were God’s command and though fist pumping remains an elusive skill never quite mastered, pumping her own gas is the norm.

In reply to the standard query, “What exit?” the shy nineteen-year old’s answer is often greeted with gasps of fascination. Indeed, Jessica Corry is a Pennsylvanian amidst multitudes of Garden Staters and that equates to nearly alien status at The College of New Jersey.

Home is suburban Chester County, nestled betwixt sprawling Amish farmland to the west and hordes of encroaching developments and shopping centers to the east. Though a native of Pennsylvania, Corry admits to having a soft spot for her adopted state. It did indeed spawn quite a few of her favorite people: Judy Blume, Bruce Springsteen and her very own mother.

In addition to holiday and birthday excursions across the border to visit with maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, her most treasured New Jersey tradition is the annual week down the shore. When August rolls around, Corry and her tragically carsick younger sister are crammed between boogie boards and suitcases on the way to Ocean City, with its “lazy beach days, Laura’s Fudge and nights at Wonderland Pier.”

Thanks to maternal ties solidified by a steady summer relationship, it is no wonder the student journalist chose to return to the motherland for her collegiate experience. “Some might call New Jersey the armpit of the country,” said Corry. “Certainly it has its downfalls but I prefer to think of it as the big toe: not the most attractive feature but absolutely necessary for balance.” Ignoring the dismayed cries of homebody classmates forever destined to remain in Pennsylvania, Corry followed her own valedictory advice in taking the road less traveled. Late in August of 2008, she once again crammed herself and a slightly less tragically carsick sister between endless crates, this time to venture across the border toward independence.

Flash forward two years and Corry has adapted remarkably well to Jersey living. “When I first found out my roommate was from Pennsylvania, I was frightened,” explained Allie Eich, best friend and bottom bunk-bed inhabitant. “Strangely enough, we get along quite well despite her inability to pronounce words, drive a car or fist pump.” Yet Corry’s Pennsylvania roots have led to some unfortunate occurrences. Rumor has it that her lack of childhood exposure to factory fumes resulted in her nasty encounter with swine flu despite a hypochondriatic addiction to hand sanitizer, all to the amusement of her immune, New Jersey-bred suitemates.

Nevertheless, Corry says she is grateful for New Jersey’s generosity. “Without the Garden State, I would not have a mother, three of my closest friends, a college education, fond memories of the shore or a superiority complex when it comes to pumping gas,” she said with a laugh. “Though the decision is years away, the possibility exists that I may cross the Delaware permanently and finally call myself a true New Jerseyan.”

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