?From the Great Lakes going down through Chicago, it seems to me that if you want to find America, that?s where it is.?

? American actor William H. Macy.

Fargo, North Dakota (Creative commons photo by Mike Kelley)

Macy was talking about his leading role in the Oscar-winning comedy/thriller Fargo, which takes place in the Midwest states of North Dakota and Minnesota.

Fargo, the biggest city in North Dakota and the film?s namesake, was the very place where I studied as an international exchange student for the past year. I used to complain about it being remote and boring, and it is, but now that I?m back at home, watching the movie Fargo makes me nostalgic for the city?s incomparable goodness.

If you?ve never seen the movie, it?s pretty dark, and often disturbing. But it also shows the love for this region by the filmmakers (Joel and Ethan Coen, who grew up in Minnesota) and the actors.  Both William H. Macy and I know the real Fargo that ever brightened our heart.

In this last post for the Student Union, I?d like to share some pictures with my dedicated audience to present my Fargo ? a marvelous land that most travelers to America will never know.


Fargo, like other parts of Midwest, has very huge plains all the way down to the skyline. And in the winter, these plains turn into sheets of snow and ice.

The plains of the midwest

I totally understand how Fargo writer/director Joel Coen described growing up in Minnesota.  In a documentary about the making of the film, he said, ?The real, strong memories I have from my childhood is my mother kicking me out of the house when it was 20 degrees below zero and then expecting me to horse around in this sort of blank, white landscape.?

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Frozen lake in North Dakota

As a matter of fact, numerous lakes on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota freeze completely, and you can walk, or even drive on them! These lakes, for sure, are part of this white landscape!

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Frozen lake in North Dakota

Nice People

Another thing that the actors and directors of Fargo talked about when they discussed making the movie was how nice the people are in this part of the country.

?It is called ?Minnesota Nice.? It is very true that it?s a very polite culture.? Joel Coen said. Macy agreed, Minnesota Nice? is that politeness that is bred in from childhood.?

I feel completely the same way. I?ve already described in previous posts the great generosity of my friend Maia Randklev and her parents and relatives.  They accepted me as part of their family for their Christmas celebrations, and even took me skiing a couple of times.

Dandan American family Christmas

Christmas stockings


Taking the plane to Los Angeles earlier this year for a spring break adventure, I didn?t expect I would feel right back home when I returned to Fargo. Nor did I imagine when I boarded an eastbound train to Washington, D.C. in June for my internship that Fargo would in my heart.

The picture of buffalo in the National Museum of the American Indian

But when I came across a buffalo, the symbol of North Dakota, in the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C., I burst into tears. I kept missing Fargo all through my travels in D.C., Boston, New York City, and now all the way in China!  The city is already part of me!

An American professor once told me about her experience as a young woman when she spent time in Turkey. She recalled that she missed home when being in Turkey but, similar to me, she turned to miss Turkey very much when resettling down in America.

It might be that people tend to miss something when they are far away from it, but I prefer to think in another way: Turkey and Fargo are the places where we spent the most formative time of our life. They have been permanent landmarks of our greatest enthusiasm that should be treasured forever.

So it?s time to end up this article? Oh, no, I should have kept in mind that the article this time would be the one to end my one-year exploration of writing with VOA?s Student Union. But I hope I will come back and share some of my experiences back in China later this summer.  Anyway, here at this temporary transit station, please allow me to give my most sincere thanks to the Student Union, the most splendid stage and the most dedicated friend I?ve ever met. Without her hand-in-hand guidance and step-by-step encouragement, I could never go this far. Thank you, my dearest Union and dearest boss Jessica <3

[See all of Dandan's previous posts about studying in North Dakota and life as a Chinese student in America]