From Soko to Sodak

Julia DeCook

If Journey could re-write “Don’t Stop Believing,” I’d like to request they do it about me.

Just a Korean/White girl, living in a lonely apartment, she took the midnight plane going NOWHERE.

That nowhere to me was South Dakota.

People always ask me why I chose a barren wasteland (my dad didn’t even know where South Dakota was) after having grown up and lived in Korea for basically my entire life.

Frankly, I don’t even really know. I applied to transfer schools twice (U of M in Minneapolis and then University of Chicago) but remained here. Why? Why did I decide to stay in a place that was completely different than what I was used to?

Because I adapt and overcome like my daddy taught me, that’s why.

I’m not going to lie. The first time I stepped off the plane my thoughts were similar to Ron Burgundy’s in the bear pit: “I immediately regret this decision.” Now it’s the second half of my junior year and I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed being in South Dakota. I never knew that jackalopes weren’t real and that buffalo still roamed the plains. I didn’t know that “ditch hunting” (which is totally a precursor to serial killers) and country music were so … prevalent.

I was also completely unprepared for the hell that is winter here.

Growing up I had always heard of the prairie (Little House on the Prairie) but never associated it with any place or anywhere. To me, it was like a distant land with strange people and creatures and nightmarish situations.

I had also grown up watching movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and reading books like the Lovely Bones and was convinced that only people who were psychopathic killers would willingly live next to cornfields. And use the corpses of their prey as fertilizer…but I digress.

This perception, however, was quickly proven wrong. I have met some incredible people here and not all people who live next to cornfields are looking to turn my skin into a lamp shade. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I lived my entire life in asphalt jungles and now have lived in a part of the country where I thought their only export was Christmas trees (don’t ask, I don’t even know what my logic was).

I have learned how to appreciate the “Americana” lifestyle that was so often portrayed in movies and books about the prairie land and the farm. It’s different. It’s endearing.

Of course, I had lived in Texas for about a year of my life, but that was in San Antonio, the suburbs. It was nothing like the life here is for a lot of people. I couldn’t even fathom the prospect of a town only having 200 people. Now I know that exists and people are valedictorians of a class of … 12.

So to all of the people in South Dakota who are imports like me, I salute you and I salute us as a whole for staying despite being somewhat traumatized upon arrival. And to all the South Dakotans who I’ve offended, remember that I come from a life that is completely different from yours.

I am willing to learn … but that doesn’t mean that I’ll stay.