Melissa Rochfort writes of her exchange to Rutgers University in New Jersey USA, where she found a place very different to what you see on TV.
“In one of my first New Jersey history classes at Rutgers University, the professor made a point that really stuck with me – that New Jersey’s identity was shaped not by things the state itself offered, but how the surrounding states (namely New York and Pennsylvannia) defined New Jersey.
After my experience on exchange I feel like New Jerseyans need to give themselves more credit, and that people should look for the real New Jersey — the New Jersey I came to love only days after landing there — rather than basing their ideas on the Jersey Shore and the Sopranos.
New Jersey is diverse in both the people that inhabit it and its geographic features. The people were warm and welcoming – not brash and rude as so often told through stereotypes.
There is the saying that New Jersey is the ‘armpit of America’, yet there are acres and acres of crisp country air and flat green fields when travelling through Southern New Jersey. The weather went from blistering heat to full-blown blizzards. And this is barely scratching the surface.
My time in New Jersey showed me how diverse the state was in terms of its people, its culture, its weather, its geography – everything. For one of the smallest states in the U.S., it certainly holds a lot, and holds its own, against the other 49 states.”