I have known I wanted to attend college on the West Coast since I was old enough to understand that I could keep learning after high school.
Even though I am technically a West Coast native being born in Seattle, I have lived in Western Massachusetts for the last 20 years. I appreciated the proximity to my extended family growing up, but starting as early as middle school I began yearning to move out here.
The differences between coasts were noticeable even when I first started coming out here for weeklong vacations or long weekends of college visits.
I noticed right off the bat that whenever I went to a new West Coast city, I never felt overwhelmed. Places like Seattle and Portland seemed so much easier to live in, or even just visit, compared to New York City or Washington D.C.
Also, the stereotype that the East Coast is all about hustle and bustle and the West Coast is more laid back seemed to hold up pretty well when I started visiting places up and down the coast. I think it still does.
That’s not to say that people do not get as much done out here than back east. It’s just that people here are, for lack of a better term, a lot nicer about the way they go about doing what they need to do and interacting with the people around them.
I definitely feel more at home out here because of that mentality, even if some of it is imagined.
My biggest realization my freshman year, though, was that there are far more noticeable differences and necessary adjustments to make when living here long-term. Some of those differences between the East and West coasts seem small but really add up, especially when you are a new student on your own for the first time.
When I first landed in Spokane, there were not a lot of restaurants or stores that I was terribly familiar with. The fall semester of my freshman year was my first four-month Dunkin’ drought. I also had to replace the familiar Stop & Shop with Safeway and found myself making late-night runs to Shari’s on weekends, which I had never heard of before.
Besides the demeanor and store differences, I think the biggest real ‘culture shock’ for me moving to the West Coast was the language that people use. I did, and still do, find these differences fascinating.
In Mass., we use the word “wicked”’ as a synonym for “very.” As in, “you’re wicked smart,” or “that was wicked funny.” It became overwhelmingly apparent that people here do not share our affinity for the word.
The word ‘wicked’ gave me a full-blown existential crisis during my first year. I was getting called out left and right for using the word in class or in social settings, and my self-consciousness led me to say it even more, which created some very funny situations.
But there was definitely a point when I felt the need to go back and correct myself even though the sentence made perfect grammatical sense. Those days are long gone, but it was an adjustment period for sure.
Also, I once referred to a traffic circle as a rotary, and my friends reacted as if I had stolen candy from a small child.
The last big thing I noticed when switching coasts was the Spokane-area accent, and how apparently different that is from the way I talk. I once had a friend tell me that my Boston accent was thicker than Matt Damon’s in “Good Will Hunting,” even though I literally grew up as far as you can possibly be from Boston while still being from Massachusetts.
I also once had a professor whose Spokane accent was so noticeable, from my perspective, that I was genuinely convinced that she thought my name was “Degg-ny.”
I am aware that none of these are super life-changing. But again, when I moved here at first it still felt like a lot to take in. Even though these are not objectively good or bad changes, they still caused me to adjust and do a bit of self-reflection. (Yes, the word ‘wicked’ is that important to me.)
With all of these changes that moving to the West Coast has brought, and possibly even because of these changes, I love the West Coast more than anything in this world. I love the vibes, the food, the nature and the people I have met here.
My move to the West Coast is a perfect example of the idea that change is good. In this case, change is great. Change is fantastic. Change is the best thing that ever happened to me.