Author: Leah Glowacki
Oxy students reputably overcome racial, socioeconomic and religious differences, among others, and live in a diverse and cooperative community. A divider many students are unable to dissolve, however, is that which separates those students from the East Coast with locals who claim that the West is best. The students who may be most aware of these geographically cultural differences are the first-years. Freshmen are still new enough to Oxy that they can look at it in the context of a larger world, and they also have gone through the college process recently enough that they are aware of the differences between East and West Coast schools.
As they imagine life on the East and West coasts, individuals commonly envision extreme differences in natives’ attitudes and temperament. Typically, westerners conjure images of free-spirited, granola-eating, slow-moving, relaxed hippies. Conversely, east coasters are considered fashion-conscious, Coney-dog-loving, always on the go, competitive, country-club members.
Tyler Barhydt (first-year) was born and raised in Connecticut, where he experienced a self-proclaimed standard East Coast childhood. “In the summers on the East Coast we would spend our days at the country club. I had swim practice, tennis practice, and then a round of golf. Weekends were comprised of sailing and various swim meets and tennis matches,” he said. Though this is obviously an exaggeration of the stereotypical East Coast lifestyle, Barhydt’s account certainly exemplifies some of the stigmas attached to life in the Northeast.
The largest differences Barhydt notes between the people he grew up with and those he’s met since moving to California are driven by diverging approaches to life. “On the East Coast it’s a lot more of an intense mentality. People are go, go, go all the time. It’s more of a work hard, play hard feeling, whereas on the West Coast people are generally more relaxed. It’s work hard and just kind of chill out,” Barhydt said. East Coasters are commonly regarded as more uptight and more on the go.
Lindsey Streeter (first-year), a California native, comes to similar conclusions regarding perceived differences between people living at opposite ends of the country. “It feels like there is a more laid back environment [in the West Coast]. It’s not as uptight.” Streeter attributes many of her experiences at Occidental to these behavioral variations. She pictures an absence of spirit in student life at an East Coast college. “It would be a lot more uptight and students are a lot more competitive with one another and they are a lot more into their looks in the East Coast. You can’t just walk around in sports clothes like we do at Oxy,” she said.
Many students agree that the laid-back lifestyle associated with the West Coast is also evident at Oxy. Alex Osborne (first-year) sought change and hoped to avoid cut-throat competition when he decided to attend college thousands of miles away from his home in Rye, NY. “I thought college would be such a big transition. I just really wanted to experience such a different culture. I’ve lived in New York my whole life, I just wanted to experience something new.” Each year, more and more students from New York are coming to Oxy. The growing number of Manhattanites may be a result of Oxy’s bicoastal campaigning, or students may simply be looking for a change of pace from the Big Apple. The two groups are both represented on Oxy’s campus, and although their lifestyles are different, East coasters and West coasters are not segregated.
Jacob Copithorne, (first-year) believes that colleges on the West Coast maintain enthusiasm but avoid extreme anxiety, as opposed to the schools back east. “It’s definitely more laid back, it’s more competitive back east, but the difference is overrated. It’s not as different as it’s supposed to be,” she said. However, Copithorne believes that there are many more factors that play a part in the school atmosphere, other than what coast it’s on. “The size of the school, the kinds of friends you make, specific things like that have more to do with how you like a school than what coast it’s on,” he said.In addition to the absence of anxious students, Oxy also lacks homogeneity. Like its laid back atmosphere, Oxy’s cultured, diverse student body may reflect its West Coast location. Many students agree that the greatest benefit about living in the West Coast is being able to experience diversity and the open-mindedness it generates. Los Angeles is specifically recognized as one of the most diverse cities in the country and Oxy students are fortunate enough to live in the middle of it.
Carrie Bantz (first-year) believes that widespread open-mindedness is unique to the West Coast. Bantz appreciated growing up in Oakland, California because she views it as a non-judgmental, cultured community. “Being able to experience cultural diversity and having the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people without stigma behind it is the reason I love living in California,” she said.
Alex Budig (first-year) grew up in California and believes that the West Coast’s progressive energy is connected to its diversity. “The East Coast is really focused on their nostalgia and their prestigious past. It’s the future. Cities on the East Coast are known for historic value. Cities on the West Coast have cultural or technological value in terms of development,” he said. Budig appreciates development and diversity. “In general, my life has had a level of spontaneity that I have only been able to get away with by virtue of growing up and living on the West Coast,” he said.
According to East Coast advocates, what their coast may lack in diversity, it makes up for in community cohesion, a focus on family, and its closeness to the country’s significant cities. Though Elizabeth Cutler (senior) welcomes the West Coast’s care free spirit, as a child she loved living in an East Coast suburb. “It was a really great place to grow up, [it was] a nice community,” she said. Having New York City in her backyard made for memorable family outings and school field trips.
Barhydt similarly enjoyed life on the other side of the country. Though West Coast natives favor their effortless approach to fashion, Barhydt and other East Coast residents take pleasure in appearing put together. “I think there is a greater sense of family and community, and appearance in the East Coast which I think is better than the lack there of in the West Coast,” Barhydt said. He also defends the superiority of an East Coast education. “The East Coast has a better [sic] education system whereas the West Coast is more relaxed and fun,” Barhydt said.
Beyond classic disparities between individuals’ attitudes and populations’ lifestyles, there are also obvious differences in the regions’ popular culture. The music genre Stupid Dumb and the Hyphy Movement, for instance, is all the rage in Northern California but largely unknown in the East, where, unlike in the West, country music is common.
Though differences between the coasts are undeniable and evident in debates among students supportive of their hometowns, they do not create a negative divide in Oxy’s community. Instead, Easterners embrace In-and-Out, and natives plan road trips involving pit stops at White Castle to visit friends on the East Coast. Whether students come from the bustling vertical city of New York or the spacious streets of L.A., cultures combine on Oxy’s campus. Students who have transitioned from living on the East Coast seem to have adapted to the California way of life. Although stereotypes do have some validity, they are often exaggerated; student trends mix together. Perhaps the diversity some individuals attribute to the school’s location is really a result of the mixing of students with different opinions, perspectives and attitudes, from both coasts of the country.
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