When I attended the Study Abroad agreement meeting in early February, I received a heavy warning about the difficulties of culture shock. “It’s one of the hardest things to adjust to when you travel,” they warned us in the presentation, and I scoffed at that. This was clearly meant for students going to London, Ecuador, and Madrid–not those visiting Laramie, Wyoming. How could you get culture shock from traveling within your own country?
As it turns out, you most certainly can. The geographical differences alone have been hard to get used to: distant mountain ranges, miles of stark, treeless prairie, and violent winds and thunderstorms make Wyoming feel like an alien world. I get out of breath hiking up even a small hill–my body is not acclimated to living at 7,000 feet above sea level. The towns here are just as spread out as the landscape. We often drive tens of miles from Laramie before we see what might as well be a ghost town, a far cry from the bustling, sardine-tin communities of the East Coast. It is truly a desolate place, and adapting to it has been harder than I expected.
People here seem like they live in near-isolation, especially those outside of bigger cities like Laramie and Casper. One of our lecturers mentioned that ranchers can put thousands of miles on their trucks every year with only leaving their ranch once or twice. It seems like a lonely existence–or it did, at least, until I attended the Laramie Jubilee Days last week. This huge, multi-day festival brings people from all around southern Wyoming to drink, dance, socialize, and celebrate Western culture. The locals are kind and friendly, and regional artists, musicians, and craftsmen display fantastic work that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Jubilee Days exhibited the rich cultural history and deep community ties that Wyoming has to offer, which completely changed my perspective on life here and made me feel a little more at home. I’m incredibly glad I was able to have that experience.