Think everyone at Wesleyan is from NYC or LA? You're almost right. But here, students from underrepresented states speak their experiences.

This year, the University boasted its highest percentage of international students that the school has seen in recent years: 11 percent of the Class of 2019 calls a country outside of the United States home.

Within the U.S., however, the vast majorityofstudentshailfromtheMid-Atlantic region, New England, and the West Coast. Nineteen percent of the Class of 2019 comes from New England, a staggering 35 percent is from the Mid-Atlantic region, and 19 percent comes from California, Oregon, and Washington.

But what about the rest of the country? And what about studentsfromunderrepresented regions such as the Midwest and the South?  In the class of 2019, there is a lower percentage of students from the Midwest and the South than from foreign countries.  Seven percent of the class comes from the South, and a mere six percent comes from the Midwest.

Alison Denzer-King ’16 spoke of the transition between her home state and the University. Denzer-King, who hails from Georgia, often finds herself acutely aware of the way she portrays her home state.

“I feel as though I always have to be a perfect representation of both places,” Denzer-King wrote in an email to The Argus.  “There are definitely huge stereotypes (some deserved, some not) about Southerners, and for many people at Wes, I’m one of a very few Southerners they’ve ever met.”

Because of that, Denzer-King explained that she feels an obligation to make the South’s virtues known.

“Whatever I say or feel about the South has much more of an impact, which puts a lot of responsibility on me,” she wrote. “I left Georgia because I wanted to get away from some elements of the typical Southern stereotype, and I wanted to be able to come here and vent about them, but now that I’m here, I feel a responsibility to represent the good things all the time, because where else will people encounter them?”

Siri McGuire ’17 grew up on a ranch in Kansas. She also noted many differences between her home state and the University, ones that might be derived from the lay of the land.

“Differences in politics, religion, and diversity are the big/obvious ones,” McGuire wrote in an email to the Argus. “But I think a lot of the other differences between the two places come from the fact that there are a lot more people living here in a much smaller space than at home. It affects the way people interact with people they don’t know, how open they are to those people, the way people talk with one another, how they drive, etc.”

Still, however, McGuire noted a fundamental similarity between rural Kansas and the University.

“People care for each other and their community in both places, but in very different ways,” she wrote.

Michael Henderson ’19 is another Georgia native. He, too, pointed out a difference between the culture at home and at school.

“The community is different here because people are more active in the community and in school and are willing to help anyone,” Henderson wrote in an email to The Argus.

Returning home for the breaks and transitioning back after spending time at the University comes with its own set of challenges. Denzer-King is one of the few people from her hometown to have left the area for college.

“Because of the HOPE scholarship—a fund set up by the Georgia state government that uses uncollected lottery winnings to fund the full college tuition of any Georgia state high school graduate with a 3.0 GPA or above if he or she attends a Georgia public college—very, very few of my peers left Georgia,” she wrote. “Of those who did, most stayed within a two or three hour radius by car.”

Because she is an anomaly in her community, Denzer-King thinks of herself as a cultural ambassador.

“I end up being a representative of the North, even though Wesleyan is a very small, very specific sample of the North, and so I feel as though I can never say anything bad about it, either,” she wrote. “Whatever I say about either place ends up forming a significant portion of people’s view of two very different, multifaceted, fantastic, and flawed communities, and that can become very uncomfortable.”

McGuire also spoke of the difficulties of returning to Kansas for the breaks, especially since her family has since moved away from her hometown.

“Because my parents moved to New Mexico after I graduated from high school, I usually go there one to two times a year for breaks instead of Kansas,” McGuire wrote.  “Sometimes, on longer breaks, I’ll have the time to drive from New Mexico to Kansas to visit my sister and her family in my hometown, but I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like.”

The serenity of home stands in stark contrast to the more obvious excitement of college, and it’s a contrast that McGuire embraces.

“Though there are less concerts/events/happenings at home in general, it’s always nice to transition back into a quieter life, and be around my family and our animals,” she wrote.

Henderson pointed out a simple yet critical difference between his state and Connecticut.

“The hardest part of the transition was possibly the weather,” he wrote, also noting that the drive up to the University was a difficult component of adjusting.

Ronald Kelly ’19 is from a small town in South Carolina. He noted that the differences between his home state and the University, many of them cultural, have been shocking, yet crucial to his understanding of the world.

“There’s a definite culture shock; coming from a place where gay teachers are known, but not spoken of, where people are still proud of their ‘War of Northern Aggression,’ to one where there are classes on queer theory, was a pretty eye-opening experience,” he wrote in a message to The Argus. “It’s the difference between indifferent tolerance and active acceptance.”

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