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Looking at the Beauty of America Beyond LA and New York

Back and energized from an amazing fall break! With a busy college term and constant assignments all leading up to midterms, it was great to finally get a break. Although the vacation was short, it was a much-needed time to rest and get away from the routine of books and college activities. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to truly interact with an American family and walked away renewed, physically and in my perspective.

I visited the home of my friend, Cody, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Throughout that five days, I enjoyed a visit to Dollywood (a theme park by country singer Dolly Parton) and to Ober Gatlinburg (a hilltop resort), but more importantly I enjoyed the hospitality of Cody's family.

As an international student, the five days in Gatlinburg allowed me to learn and experience new things about the day-to-day life of an American family. Through conversations, I learned a whole new side of the American image, different from those portrayed on TV or in the movies, and different from the things we've explored in college thus far.

I learned more about Southern hospitality, a term commonly used in this area. In the South, people generally address an older person or even a peer as "Yes, Sir!" or "Yes, Ma'am!" and hold the door open for the person entering behind them. It is also not unusual for a random stranger to start a conversation with you by asking, "How was your day?" or "How are you doing?"

I have visited Times Square, New York, but Gatlinburg yielded a different kind of admiration and astonishment. In general, people in the New York were mostly on the go whereas people in Gatlinburg appreciate the journey as they go along. I'm definitely not comparing New York and Gatlinburg, but merely realizing the vast diversity of the different states in America - from customs to environment - was amazing.

The world views America from its two extremes, literally. America is mostly seen as California and New York, and everything else is in-between. Ask a random foreigner and most can hardly name states in the central part of the United States.

As an international student, I would love to visit new places and more states, while I have the chance of being here. I would love to explore and see America. I would love to visit the Midwest and other Southern states! There is so much more I can learn, to look beyond the bright lights and see the beauty of America as a whole; from within and without.