What is it really like to live in small town Pennsylvania?
I spent the past four years in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I often visited Hershey ("The sweetest place on earth") and Harrisburg. I am currently being a typical TCK and spending the summer traveling through other places I've called home before, before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the fall to work on my Master's and Educational Specialist degrees in School Psychology at Temple University!
So, what is it really like to live in small town Pennsylvania, from the perspective of a Desi, Muslim international student?
1. It's diverse-ish.
If you are not Caucasian or African American, you may find yourself being the only person from _____. Or, if you're lucky, you may be able to find a small community of people either from the same country as you, or from the same geographic background ("South Asia" in general, "Middle East" in general, "North Africa" in general, etc). Likely, you'll be able to find a restaurant from your geographic background either in your town, or a few towns over. If not, most likely you can in one of the bigger cities such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. You won't be the only minority, but you may have some trouble finding a larger community from your background in these small towns. Take advantage of that: befriend folks from different backgrounds than your own! This will help you have a better understanding of them, and them of you. It'll make the world a better place, one friendship at a time.
2. People are friendly!
I'm a brown, Muslim, hijabi woman. Arguably one of the most hated groups of people in the United States at the moment. Nevertheless, people (apart from a few anomalies) are really friendly! You may receive some curious stares and odd questions ("Do you ride camels to school in Saudi Arabia?" umm of course!), and unfortunately sometimes some racist remarks, but honestly... for the most part, people are very, very friendly, welcoming and nice!
3. There isn't much to do.
There isn't much to do in these small towns... But then again, there is always something going on nearby. If you live in Carlisle, you can go to a cool concert down in Hershey, for example. Or to Hershey Park. Or Chocolate World. If you're looking to go a bit farther, the big cities like Philadelphia, New York, D.C., and so forth are just a train journey away. You get to have a nice, cozy home with the whole world at your backyard.
4. You need to be able to drive.
The public transportation is seriously lacking. Seriously. You'll need a car to be able to get to the train stations, bus stops, and so forth. It will be really convenient if you have a car for daily things like grocery shopping too. If you're in a bigger city, it's not as bad, but small town Pennsylvania... You also will probably have trouble finding a cab unless you call one.
5. It's beautiful.
You get to have a nice, cozy home with the whole world at your backyard. Literally. You live in a beautifully mountainous, green place with all the major cities near by. It's kind of the best of both worlds.