June 13, 2016 was as surreal a day as any could get. On that day, I was informed that I’d be placed in Fargo, North Dakota for five whole months. North Dakota? The 4th least populated state in the U.S.? Frigid North Dakota? The only time I had heard about Fargo was through the 1996 movie of the same name (drop everything and watch it now!), but those were the first thoughts that went through my mind. Then I realized something: Fargo, the small college town, was smack in the middle of the United States of America. I always dreamed about road tripping through fields of corn and rows of skyscrapers, through small border towns and historic cities, and by being placed in Fargo, my dreams were one step away from being answered.
As soon as I landed in Fargo, I went about making the best use of orientation week, and towards its end, I had built friendships with a group of international students. To top it all off, my roommate Alex was super friendly and welcoming. Come the weekend of September 5 (my birthday), I found myself 4 hours away from Fargo, in Minneapolis. A beautiful city that combines colonial architecture with modern skyscrapers, it was the perfect first destination.
A couple of weekends later, we found ourselves on a 10-hour drive through rural Minnesota and Wisconsin on the way to Chicago. Starting from the Navy Pier, we made our way to downtown Chicago, passing the famous Bean for a couple of pictures on the way. Being an avid reader, I made sure we stopped at the infamous Chicago Tribune building, which lies as a testament to Chicago’s rich history. Around the time we were there, the Cubs had just won their first World Series since 1908 and the atmosphere was electric!
With a short break for midterms and the Global UGRAD End of Program Workshop, we next decided to spend Thanksgiving in Denver, Colorado. On the way there, we encountered the most incredible wildlife imaginable, ranging from herds of bison to mountain goats. With winter being well and truly underway, snow-capped mountains lined the highway left and right. In Colorado, we spent some time hiking the Evergreen forests and before we left we even managed to soak in some Christmas decorations. On our way back to Fargo, we decided to take a pit stop in Mount Rushmore via Wyoming.
All in all, if I had one piece of advice for any Global UGRADs yet to embark on their journey, it’s simply: travel and discover as much as you possibly can. The only way to soak in the true American culture is to be exposed to all its different forms, from North to South Dakota, Minnesota to Wisconsin, Wisconsin to Nebraska, and Colorado to Montana. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Written by Hussam Shehab (Lebanon), Global UGRAD 2016-17 at North Dakota State University