Stranger in a Strange Land


A Midwesterner in New England.


October 3rd.

On this day in the world:

  • The day of Germany’s Reunification
  • Iraq’s Independence Day

On this day for me:

  • My old friend’s birthday
  • Got a paper due tomorrow
  • I should really be writing this article

On this day in New England:


There are very few things in the world as stressful as the first round of midterms, as confusing as the weather in Boston each day, or as difficult as being a Chicago Bears fan in New England. It’s not just the Bears, either – the Minnesota Vikings have the best record in football, the Lions are playing well, but we are well and often reminded that none have won four Super Bowls. Nor do these teams have Tom Brady.

I am very new to Boston, New England, and the East Coast in general. I come from the friendly suburbs of the Midwest; we wait patiently to cross the street, have to travel an hour to reach the nearest metropolitan city, and don’t even offer Latin, much less have a Latin school. Telling people I’m from Chicago gets me a nod of approval, but the subsequent explanation of my (1 hour out of the city) suburban lifestyle quickly brings about skepticism of whether I’m actually just hiding a farm life existence entirely.

Of course, however – even if the drivers in Boston aren’t – the people, the school and the city are welcoming, friendly, and definitely non-lethal. The difference in culture is not one that clashes or creates tension, but instead allows outsiders to taste and even join the sense of pride that holds Boston together. After only one month here, these cultural peculiarities feel familiar, and I find myself feeling both lucky and proud to call Harvard, Cambridge, and New England my new home.

The distinctions in culture described above are funnier than worrisome, more peculiar than uncomfortable, and more enjoyable than threatening. The perceptions, or misconceptions, that define a Midwesterner’s fears before even arriving, however, are an interesting enigma definitely worth exploring.  I asked my friends and roommates, and scoured the Internet to see just what these worries were. Of course, I stumbled upon the haven for the highly ambitious, sometimes immature, but oftentimes highly representative forum that is College Confidential. A Midwesterner, in a post from almost a decade ago asks if the discrepancy between the two cultures is because “people in [Northeast] colleges are rich white people?” Another poster, much more recently, claims that “the general perception of Midwesterners is that we’re super nice…are east coasters actually rude and snobbish?”  Many such posts, filled with anxious youth, unsure of their potential place in the Northeast, littered similar forums.

Questions such as these deviate from the acute nuances described earlier; instead, the real roots of such concerns appear to arise from perceived inherent socio-economic differences. I’ll be honest, I had the some of the same thoughts; it’s what makes us want to change the way we dress, act, speak, and perceive others. In my head, the transition from my hometown to the Northeast was of great magnitude and the thought of finding my place in such a society was troubling at the very least.

From my time at Harvard, it quickly became apparent that I was definitely not alone in my thoughts. Instead, I was one of many to find such fears easily, unconsciously slip away, and to wake up one day feeling completely at home. Within the first few weeks it was clear that though there are significant cultural differences, the most common conflict I would face was trying to explain why Tom Brady was definitely cheating.

I could wake up tomorrow freezing. Or sweating. Or probably both, I really don’t know.  I do know, however, that I’ll wake up in a community and city that is so proud of its unique culture. As a suburban Midwest kid, I never imagined finding a new home so naturally, being welcomed so warmly, and rediscovering myself in a new world. Our mini-Chicago meet-ups here may feel like coming home, but it’s a home within a home.

Tushar Dwivedi ’20 ( can’t wait to see the day that the Bears beat the Pats. Suck it, Tom Brady.