By Linda Nguyen
We’re not in Kansas anymore. Or New York City, or Chicago, or San Diego, or Minneapolis. We’re in Waco.
For the 2012-2013 school year, 862 non-Texans make up 26.5 percent of the Baylor freshman class.
Many freshmen come from big cities and other parts of the country that require them to adjust to Texas and Waco, along with transitioning from high school to college.
South Holland, Ill., freshman Jade Orr said coming to Waco and to Baylor was very different from her home close to Chicago.
Orr said her experience at the Richland Mall showed how different Waco is from her hometown.
“When I first got here, I was like, ‘We have to go to the mall’ and we get to the mall and there’s one floor and I’ve never been to a one-floor mall,” Orr said. “All the malls downtown were 10 to 12 floors.”
Orr said there are fewer restaurants and shops close to where she lives than at home.
“I’m used to a wide variety of restaurants nearby,” Orr said.
Orr said she likes Waco even though it is different from her hometown.
“The environment is so nice,” Orr said. “Big cities are fast-paced. Even if you know someone, you don’t stop and talk. Here, you stop and talk if you see someone. I hear that I talk slower now because apparently people talk slower in the south.”
Pleasantville, N.Y., freshman Alta Maartens said her transition to Waco from her hometown near New York City was a significant culture difference.
“It’s definitely been different,” Maartens said. “I live near New York City so I’m used to the fast-pace environment and cold weather. I’m loving the fact that it’s still so warm and everyone is so friendly and warm.”
“Just the way people speak — everyone says ‘y’all’ here and people open doors for you all the time down here, and it’s something I never really experienced in New York,” Maartens said.
Maartens said growing up in the city has helped her transition into college.
“I think, in the city, you’re used to doing things on your own, being independent, so it helps in that sense,” Maartens said. “You know you’re going to be okay if you need to figure something out on your own.”
Maartens said she has enjoyed the hospitality people have offered since she got here.
She said living in the city did not prepare her for the community and hospitality she found at Baylor.
“I was ready to figure things out on my own, but especially at the beginning of the year with move in and everything, everyone was so helpful,” Maartens said. “All the people I’ve talked to, they’re willing to guide you.”
San Diego, Calif., freshman Claire Pacelli said she has had a very positive experience at Baylor, but it’s different from California.
“I really love the people and the positive atmosphere of the school,” Pacelli said. “Everyone here’s so friendly. The hardest thing is the heat and the weather, but I’m getting used to it.”
Pacelli said she’s learned to enjoy being away from the city.
“I’ve learned how to relax more and live at a slower pace of life,” Pacelli said. “I kind of just stopped taking things for granted and appreciate the little things in life.”
North Oaks, Minn., freshman Rob McNeil said his Baylor experience has been fantastic.
“It’s pretty much the greatest experience of my life,” McNeil said. “It’s been incredible.”
McNeil, who lives outside of Minneapolis, said being in Waco hasn’t been drastically different because he’s been on campus so much.
“It’s different because there’s always something going on in Minneapolis and somewhere to go,” McNeil said. “In Waco you can still find it, but you have to look harder.”
McNeil said being in a smaller city has brought him out of his comfort zone and helped him connect to other people.
McNeil said his road trip to Dallas with his friends was one example of how different Waco is from his hometown.
“When we went to Dallas, it was an adventure, a road trip,” McNeil said. “Back home, it’s not a big deal to go into the city, but here, it’s an adventure. On the way back, we pulled over and watched the stars in the back of a pick up and it was so cool because I had never done anything like that back at home.”