One year ago today, I arrived in Milwaukee, WI, to live at Kenilworth Square Apartments as part of my being a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The catch is that I’m still considered a ‘non-resident.’ I use that term because my license plates and driver’s license are still with Massachusetts. From the beginning, I was never certain of my future out here. Even still today, it is uncertain. Despite how closely I follow politics in this state, and many things I’ve been a part of in the last twelve months, it has never been necessary to change things over.
At the time of this writing, I am still working on piecing together the video that is the eighteen-hour drive from Shrewsbury to Milwaukee over two days. YouTube won’t allow me to upload such a long video to my channel, so I will likely get creative and just create one that represents the drive.
To say that I have undergone a transformation is an understatement. My social skills have increased from what they were even a few year ago, and in the last year, I have made great strides in accepting social invitations, making friends, asking for help, being more expressive in all respects, and have done a reasonable job of adapting to the Wisconsin culture.
Moving to Wisconsin also marked a few firsts for me:
- Joined my first social media movement – #NeverTrump
- Formally joined a political organization (Young Americans for Liberty) and made my political leans a part of my identity.
- Attended activism training on behalf of the Leadership Institute. Between that and the Democratic Debate protest, those were the first forms of activism I took part of.
- Attended my first political conference (Wisconsin State Convention by Young Americans for Liberty).
- Was inducted into an honor society, complete with a Facebook stream of it.
- Saw a GPA higher than 3.0 for the first time as a college student.
- Became the vice president of a student organization unrelated to politics (National Alliance on Mental Illness @ UWM).
- Lived within a major city and made public transportation my primary mode of it. I have found that riding buses isn’t as bad as some make it out to be.
- Went from being an eight-minute bus ride from school to being an hour drive to school. I also went from living in a large city to a smaller one.
The few times that I’ve had to call back to a Massachusetts business, the accent feels slightly foreign. I’ve now become more accustomed to the behaviors and culture of Wisconsin. Having freeway speeds of 70MPH in some areas has been beneficial to me. Knowing that the cost of living is slightly less expensive out here is nice. I have noticed that Wisconsinites do have a great appreciation for traditional and family values. I see more Green Bay Packer license plates out here than I ever saw Redsox license plates back east. When I do convert my license plates over, it’ll be nice not to have to deal with inspection stickers or excise taxes.
While there is some merit in having inspection stickers, I have noticed that for the most part, the majority of vehicle owners out here seem to have the discipline of making sure their car is in proper working order. After all, part of vehicle ownership is routine maintenance and fixing problems that might be occurring. I have noticed that many drivers out here drive older, used vehicles. Whether it’s to keep their insurance rates down, or because they don’t need a brand-new vehicle, is uncertain. Toll roads don’t exist in Wisconsin, but there aren’t as many interstates overall. As of this article, there have been proposals to install a toll road on County roads are designated with two letters, local roads are called ‘highways,’ and interstates are called ‘freeways.’ What New Englanders know as ‘rotaries,’ midwesterners know as ’roundabouts.’ In Milwaukee, on-ramps are metered with stoplights to reduce congestion.
While it’s an unpopular topic among many, another thing to get used to is civilian firearm ownership. It’s not uncommon for someone to carry one in public, though the vast majority I’ve seen do it in concealment. Gun shows are common out here, retail stores for it are common, and it’s so prevalent where businesses have to alert the general public when they don’t want armed patronage. It’s an unpopular move to make, but many will do it for their own reasons. At the time of this reading, I have been to a few gun ranges, fired a few handguns, and am looking forward to the day when I purchase my first. It has not been a huge priority, but it’s among my future purchases.
One of the reasons I chose Wisconsin from the beginning was the politically active nature of the state. People are not afraid to share their opinions, they’re not afraid to take a position, and they aren’t afraid to express themselves. Many citizens out here are somehow politically involved, even if just performing activism.
Many people ask me if I intend to return to Massachusetts permanently. My immediate answer is “no” because of how much I like it out here. Being a student, it’s impossible to know where I will land employment. It is fairly safe to say that my primary goal is to keep things out here.