Growing Up In A Small Town Doesn't Mean Growing Up Sheltered
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My Small Town Upbringing Taught Me To Accept Everyone As They Are, Regardless Of Color Or Creed

We were all friends and it really didn't matter who identified as what or who was what color because we didn't see any of that, it just didn't matter.

Kids throwing up their graduation caps
Emily Montgomery

I know a lot of people say that once you go to college you'll never want to come back home. I thought I was going to be that person for sure, but I was wrong. It's common for people to get a little homesick while they're staying away at school, but the stigma that college makes you forget about where you come from still exists. I've always been one of those people that think, no matter what, you should NEVER forget about where you came from. Where you come from determines a lot about who you are as an individual and plays a part in where you may be now. Whether you're in school, in the workforce, or joined the military, it's crucial to remember your roots.

I come from a textbook definition smalltown, called Palmyra. When I say "textbook definition," I mean the everybody-knows-everybody kind of town where you are recognized as "So and so's son/daughter." Most of my family members went to my town's high school, so I was known in that school before I even went there. I graduated with less than 70 kids (yes, really) who I've pretty much gone to school with since I was in kindergarten. So, it's safe to say that my town is pretty small and my description of my town as being "textbook definition small town" is accurate.

When I came to Rutgers University, I knew it was big, but I did not let my "small-town mentality" get in the way of adapting to my new life here. In fact, I could not wait to come to Rutgers and start somewhere new. I could not wait to escape my town. I needed to get away. Everyone always told me that as soon as I went away to school, I would never want to come back. I surely thought the same way, but I can honestly say that those people and myself, were wrong. I have never appreciated being from Palmyra more than I do now.

Although I graduated with such a small amount of kids, a lot of us were like family. And because of that, none of us realized our differences. I'm not saying that we were all the same because that's far from the truth. However, because we were such a tight-knit class, we never really experienced any diversity issues. I'm sure a lot of people say the same about their town because everyone likes to look past the issues, but Palmyra really did not have any exclusivity. Even teachers from Palmyra would say all the time that the kids from Palmyra High School are just simply nice. We aimed to include everyone because each other was all that we had and it's pretty much all we knew.

We were all friends and it really didn't matter who identified as what or who was what color because we didn't see any of that, it just didn't matter.

We all realized that not many kids can say they know every single kid they graduated with, so we took our size, which many people would view as a downfall, and we ran with it… we made it something BIG.

You would think that coming from such a small town, you wouldn't experience any diversity. Comparably, you would think that going to such a big university, like Rutgers, you would experience diversity in all aspects of your education. Surprisingly enough, that's not true. It seems as though Rutgers tries almost too hard to push the diversity aspect that it just draws attention to the fact that many students at Rutgers come from many different races and ethnicities, which ultimately gives kids the incentive to break off into their familiar groups. We acknowledge the fact that physically we are diverse, but in actuality, the groups formed among the study body do not mingle.

A lot of kids that go to Rutgers are not used to being exposed to such diversity.

For example, many kids I have talked to at Rutgers came from schools where they graduated with hundreds and hundreds of kids and a lot of those kids experienced things that I could never relate to. I had one friend tell me that kids at his school used to have parties where only the white kids would go and other parties only the black kids would go because that's just how their school was. The black kids typically hung out with other black kids and the white kids typically hung out with other white kids. Or there are some kids here that I have talked to that said their school was predominately one thing or the other. In Palmyra, we're made up of everything. Not even race-wise, but with anything. We all just hung out together and no one seemed to think twice about it.

It's crazy to me that even with such small numbers, Palmyra kids were exposed to so much.

Most people, when I tell them my class size, react in almost a disgusted way, as if my town being small was a disadvantage. But, as I compare some of my experiences with others at Rutgers, it seems as though my small number has a lot more than other people's big numbers. This is not to say that Palmyra is better than anywhere else, but I feel as though being from a small town is looked down upon when it needs to be glorified for all that it is. With such small numbers, we managed to form a family that is not split apart by our obvious differences. Everyone found their niche and felt comfortable being in their own skin. Being at Rutgers, I recognize things about my personality and the way I view things that can be attributed back to my small town upbringing

Even though our numbers are small, our views aren't. So, to my palmyra fam, or any small town people who can relate, never forget your small town roots. You'll be thankful for them when you realize that big things can come in small packages. And, as cliche as it is to say, there really is no place like home.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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