As much as I admire Kayla Simon’s piece, “UNL’s out-of-state students struggle,” I have to politely disagree. When I moved to Lincoln I was prepared for a culture shock. I must have missed it. I’m East Coast born and bred, raised in Connecticut and attended undergrad in Vermont.
Maybe it’s because I am a graduate student here at UNL that I haven’t been exposed to the freshman boys being insensitive to ethnicity or women. But I question whether that is a Lincoln, Neb., experience or a large state university experience (see 14 examples of racist parties on Huffpost), maybe even cultural experience.
As for Lincoln-the-spring-semester-ghost-town, between Morrill Hall, Mueller Planetarium, the state capitol tour (this may sound lame, but it was freakin’ awesome), the Zoo Bar (OK, I guess you have to be 21–I’ll leave bars and the many wonderful breweries out), Sheldon Museum of Art as well as dozens of other galleries (from painting, to sculpture, photography, performance art, First Fridays), the Lied Center, The Ross, numerous beautiful parks (Pioneer, Antelope, Holmes Lake, Wilderness, just to name a few), the Children’s Zoo, Sunken Gardens, various cute coffee shops, as well as a plethora of cuisine choices (Thai, African, Mexican, Vegetarian Mexican, BBQ [we are in Nebraska], Italian, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Indian, you get the point), an incredible dairy store, the miles of biking or walking paths and the variety of speakers UNL brings in (Temple Grandin, Barry Lopez) that when my mom came to visit there wasn’t enough time to take her to the places I wanted to – and I didn’t even mention the word football yet.
I agree with Kayla’s dad, Lincoln is like “a simpler time.” People are friendly; they stop if you need help, they smile when you’re passing by, hold doors, let you cross the road and ask how you are doing for no reason (do I know you?…). I enjoy the communal feeling and spectacle of red on gamedays (which I think happens at most universities for various sports), and the pride people have for their home state. I’m living here, too, and although it may not be my home state, I want to feel proud that I chose to live here too (and if people were embarrassed rather than proud, then I’m probably in the wrong place). I haven’t encountered a “cult personality” (or maybe we have different definitions), although some intense die-hard fans, but everyone has been very friendly and genuinely inclusive (while at some point asking me what brought me to Nebraska). Lincoln has small-town charm for a decently sized city. And yes, you can visit feed-lots, test tractors, artificially inseminate a cow, but along with that experience you can go to one of the many farmers markets, natural food stores, attend a community event such as Ignite Lincoln or Conservation Jam, or garden in a Community Crops plot, and that is something I can be proud of.
Compared to Omaha, Lincoln has 152,000 fewer people, meaning less crime, less traffic, and oh – a lower STD rate. So maybe there is more nightlife (and nine more Wal-Marts) in Omaha, as it is a bigger city, but I’ll choose Lincoln any day of the week.
Again, Kayla’s article was respectable in that she pressed some boundaries and made people reflect on other’s experiences. And maybe that’s what she was trying to do – provoke a student to speak up about their time at UNL (which I also admire). So I did, because I just haven’t had the same out-of-state experience and don’t agree with some of the broader statements (“And I don’t know if I’ll ever really be part of it. That really goes for all students who aren’t from Nebraska”). Albeit, I can agree with her opinion that Runzas are just expensive Hot Pockets – but hey, Hot Pockets are delicious and it’s a bonus when you don’t have to push the buttons on the microwave.
Emma M. Brinley
Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit