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NYC->SCE

The summer before I left for Penn State, my father, a lover of Ben Franklin and pithy aphorisms, reminded me of one of Aesop’s Fables—“The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.” In this fable, the Town Mouse, a cosmopolitan rodent, visits his country bumpkin cousin in the boonies. The Town Mouse turns up his nose at the Country Mouse’s simple dinner, and suggests they dine in the city instead. Although the city fare is sumptuous, the cousins’ meal is continually interrupted by potential predators, which renders them unable to concentrate on eating. The Country Mouse then returns to his pastoral domain, preferring safety and comfort to the opulence of the city. “You will get more work done in Pennsylvania,” Dad said, in case I had missed the point.

After living in New York City for six years, moving to State College was an adjustment. But many have been positive: in the land of small victories, over the past year and a half, I have re-learned life skills such as driving and cooking that had atrophied due to lack of use. And rural Pennsylvania has its own charms: the last eighteen months have brought new experiences, such as attending a college football game, joining a CSA, and going to Punxsutawney to see a certain groundhog.

Furthermore, State College has more culture than most give it credit for. I have a working theory that there is at least one good version of almost any dining experience you’d desire. And the town’s quirks are fun to discover—the best cocktails are found in a fusion Japanese/Chinese restaurant, while the best pasta is tucked away in a to-go shop hidden by a parking garage. In addition, the State Theatre screens independent films and mini film festivals, sometimes for free; the Bryce Jordan Center plays host to shows big and small (Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, and Tiesto in just the next month); and the university offers a constant rotation of renowned speakers and events.

But most importantly, Dad was right—I can’t imagine being able to do the same amount of sustained intellectual work in the city. In my opinion, the lifestyle shift (from working professional to graduate student) is more marked than the geographical move. Returning to school is a challenge, but one well worth taking up. While I definitely miss aspects of New York, State College is infinitely better suited to my new life as a graduate student—this town mouse is totally a converted country mouse. And New York is always only a Megabus away.