I transferred to Samford my sophomore year, unsure what to expect. I didn’t know anyone, and it was just me and my mom in Birmingham. I had a lot of misconceptions and fears about the South as someone who lived their entire childhood in Cleveland, Ohio.
What I learned is this: We are never quite as different as we think we are. People sometimes feel more comfortable splitting ourselves into groups, finding those we are most similar to and just sticking with them. However, there is beauty in diversity. Embracing our differences is just as important as embracing our similarities.
One of the first cultural differences I noticed is that the South has a very different definition of politeness than what I grew up with. Around here, everyone seems to say “hello” or “good morning” regardless of if they know you or not. People will stop and hold the door for you, letting you pass before they follow behind you.
Someone recently asked me, “Is it true that in the North nobody holds doors for anyone?” They asked me about the challenges of snow and why everyone seemed to ignore each other inside an elevator.
“No,” I told them, “That’s not true. We just do it differently.” Back home, when someone opened a door for you, they would walk through first and hold it behind themselves, and there was never a widespread distinction between which gender could open the door for the other gender.
The pandemic might have taken away my opportunity to study abroad in London. As an English major, I thought studying at the Daniel House would be a spiritual transformation as I immersed myself in a culture entirely different from my own. Somehow, I still feel like I got to study abroad. I may not have left the country, but our nation is a collection of regions and states that are each unique and special.
The culture of Birmingham is very different from the culture of Seattle, where I was born. And Seattle is very different from Cleveland, where I grew up.
I have learned that Samford has a culture of blue skies and occasional tornadoes, and I have learned to love it in ways I never expected. Unlike back home, the sky is almost consistently brilliantly blue. You can actually see the stars most nights! The birds, squirrels, and butterflies seem to stay year round. The professors here support their students as individuals with names and stories. The students here embrace the fullness of life with both arms open.
I will miss the blue skies. I will not miss the tornadoes.
Samford is resilient and I believe it will withstand the tornadoes to come. I believe Samford will continue to grow and evolve to include a more diverse community so that we can come to understand that we are not as different as we think we are.
Thank you to Katy Beth for inviting me to become a contributing writer in 2020. It’s been a delightfully wild ride, and you changed my life forever.
Thank you to the many professors that supported and guided me through life’s many curveballs. It was your job to teach me the subject of your class, but you took it upon yourselves to also teach me how to live a life I can be proud of.
Thank you to Melissa, Anna, and Hailey. I couldn’t have made it this far without you.