On Moving to America

A Canadian's Reflections of Studying in the U.S.

I was born in Connecticut and lived there for 1.5 years and have proudly spend the remaining 18 years in Mississauga, Ontario. My opinions are entirely my own; your mileage (of living in America) may vary.

After Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the Supreme Court this month, I've had some time to reflect on a nation that is facing some incredible political issues. My Canadian friends and family ask me all the time about living in a red state and how it's different from the northern utopia. So, I decided to compile my opinions into a single article.

I'm not really qualified to talk about the state of the United States and its trajectory as a country. Instead, I hope to talk about my personal experiences living here.

Some things I actually like about living here:

  1. Food is actually pretty great. Barring specific ethnic foods, (i.e. shawarma) it’s really easy to find good cheap eats with some big portions. It is true that this is bad for the obesity problem in the states, but at the same time it makes being a student a lot easier.
  2. E-commerce is SO much better. Free shipping on practically everything you can find on Google, no more worrying about the “Canada tax“ that American retailers put on products and less tariffs/processing fees. Pretty great.
  3.  Philadelphia Police are very friendly. After so many stories about unjust police brutality, it was refreshing for me to have casual and lighthearted conversations with the Philly police.

Some small things I don’t like:

  1. No free health care sucks. Seriously, paying insurance to stay alive is a costly hassle. Not to mention that I should be getting free prescriptions if I still lived in Ontario.
  2. The money is confusing. Examining a wad of cash involves actually reading the value of the bill since all cash is the same colour/size here.

It’s Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I’m a student at the University of Pennsylvania, which is situated in Philadelphia.
The first thing that struck me when I reached Philadelphia was that (outside of the Penn bubble), the city is majority non-white. Since “white America“ is a common theme of non-American’s perception of the country, this was surprising.

Studying at Penn makes me feel a little isolated from the rest of the issues plaguing America. Ideologically, the school skews to the left and the Ivy League bubble surrounding the school often makes me forget about the income disparity in Philadelphia (although this is probably because the average Penn income is in such a high bracket). The only time the immersion is broken is when a homeless person will stumble onto campus, a very different look from the preppy student fashion.

Probably the most pivotal moment of living here was when the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl (my first football game). Storming the streets for the iconic riots wasn’t just exhilarating, it was kinda wholesome in a way. Ironically, it made me feel safe in America to be surrounded by people who agreed on the same thing: that Tom Brady sucks.

Missingsauga

I think of myself as a saugaman: a label for somebody that bleeds the classic Mississauga blue. Since Canada is vast and vibrant, it doesn’t have a singular Canadian identity; this enables the Mississauga culture very unique. Being situated so close to Toronto (the 5th largest city in North America) made it hard to establish a “Mississaguan identity” growing up. However, the city has seen incredible growth (with around 1 million residents) in recent years. The Mississauga skyline is always different whenever I go back home.

There’s definitely a culture to Mississauga that I don’t think I picked up on growing up there. The people are very friendly and everybody has an ethnic favourite food (biggest probably being bubble tea and shawarma). Sometimes it feels like a big city, but to me it’ll always be a feel like a small town (the last time I went to Square One was for two hours and I met 7 people from high school).

Probably the biggest difference I think about is the slang. As somebody working in natural language processing, I find it really fun to think about the general Toronto dialect and all the different mannerisms.


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