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January 23, 2013
College Voices
The Real World - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

Anyone who knows me remotely well can attest to the fact that I am very serious about my food. I’m not a food snob or anything—I just really like food. Particularly good food. Particularly good, foreign food. Cooking is a hobby—or it was, anyway, before I left home and had to cook for myself for real. Half of the reason I was so excited to move into an apartment-style dorm was the fact that I’d get to cook for myself. To put this idiosyncrasy of mine into perspective, I shall illustrate with this example: over Christmas break, my mom and I went to a thrift store and bought a crockpot that has so far enabled me to make delicious hot chocolate, roast beef, and some excellent soups – foods of the gods in single-digit-degrees Provo. I’m pretty sure I was more excited about that old little crockpot than about my Christmas gifts.

Because Utah is in America, I didn’t really think that grocery shopping might be any different here than it is in Virginia. However, since moving to Provo, I have made the very startling discovery that not everyone in America eats the same things. The first week I was here, I made shepherd’s pie, something I thought was pretty universal, and found that a couple of my roommates had never heard of it before. They aren’t the only ones who’ve had weird food experiences here at BYU; I’ve had my share as well. For one thing, people here seem to be under the strange impression that carbonated drinks are called pop, not soda; for another, they like to put bacon in places where it shouldn’t be – in potato soup, for example, or in the calzones in the dining hall. And I won’t even mention the bacon-topped maple doughnuts.

The thing is, even though I figured I was very culturally seasoned, coming from the DC area where there is a whole mix of different nationalities (and foods), I still find myself experiencing new things culturally – with Utah and its winter frigidity, Utah grocery stores and their frustrating dearth of normal ravioli, and with people I meet here who hail from Utah to Idaho to California to whole other countries.

It can get easy for some people to become statist and believe that the state they come from is the best (obviously, such people have never been to Virginia). Anyone who is homesick will probably tend to bestow their place of origin with any and all virtues in comparison to where they are now. I'm no exception. But I still find it interesting to talk to people about their childhoods, the family traditions they grew up with, and the places they came from. It’s making me take into account something I already knew, but never seriously considered: that there is still so much diversity wherever you go, even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface (and believe me, here in Provo, it doesn’t much look like it at all).

It’s one of the better parts of my learning to live in the real world – of making decisions for myself, and, more importantly, learning things for myself, meeting new people for myself and judging for myself what to think of them.

Being in college doesn’t always feel like living in the real world, the adult world. Sometimes it does – especially when I meet and make friends with students who look my age but are married, or are married and expecting a baby, or are married and have little kids. I really start feeling like an adult then. But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the real world; it feels like I live in Happy Mormon Dream Land, in a bubble and separated from all that goes on outside.

My mom and dad always used to tell me that college is freedom, and they were right about that. For one thing, there is so much less drama than there was in high school; it’s absolutely glorious. For another, when and where you go to class is entirely up to you. You can schedule all your classes in the afternoon and not have to wake up until twelve; you can hand yourself a four-day weekend every week if you schedule your classes just right; and most of the time, the professors don’t really care whether you come to class or do your homework. I could fly off and spend two days in Disney World for all they care. It is freedom at its absolute finest.

Maybe the real world doesn’t always involve quite this much freedom; but there's no mistaking that it does involve the responsibility that comes with that freedom, which I’m learning more and more means less insisting that things be your way and more compromise and adaptation.

Which, in my case, means learning to cook without getting stuff from international supermarkets or having certain special ingredients that my mom’s brother brings her from Italy; it means accepting that if I buy a food-something from the Creamery, it’ll probably have some unnecessary bacon lurking in it somewhere; and it means listening to others sometimes instead of always thinking that the way I do things is the only right way.

I'm not always very good at this, at any of it; but being at BYU is giving me plenty of practice, and I'm learning to do it unconsciously. Because in the end, it will be being able to see the good things in an unfamiliar place that will be my greatest strength. Especially in the real world.

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