Prior to this experience, this Texas girl had never spent any significant time in the Midwest. As I packed I had many burning questions running through my head: how cold will it get in November? Will there be any edible Mexican food? Will my fellow students tease me about my Texas accent?
And then there was the really big question: Will my brain really be able to contain three weeks of deep thoughts about museums and history?
Now that we’re 2/3 of the way through, I can answer some of these questions:
- It is pretty chilly in Indiana, but the five coats that I brought (yes, five–I drove mainly so I had fewer packing decisions) seem to be doing the trick.
- There is edible Mexican food, though I’m also pretty sure one of my first meals when I get home will be Mexican.
- My roommate has a more pronounced Illinois accent than my Texas one, so I’m safe there.
- And my brain is pretty full.
The culture shock during this experience hasn’t been the giant hamburger patty or the corn fields or the fact that the trees actually change color here, but rather being surrounded by people passionate about museums almost 24/7.
The first week, when all we really knew about each other was our work, work was about all we talked about. We’ve shared victories and defeats, funny stories, and done some problem solving, both in and out of the classroom. In my social circle at home, I sometimes struggle to explain what it is I do and why I care so much. And when I do attempt to tell work stories, I have to be careful because there are many friends who just aren’t interested in my life at the museum. Because we have so many other shared interests, this isn’t a big deal, but it is strange right now to be talking about work most of the time.
My other shock is more about my institution, rather than myself. I always knew Dallas Heritage Village (www.DallasHeritageVillage.org) was pretty special–after all, why else would I spend 9 years there? But in these continuing conversations, I’m starting to realize that there are some truly unique projects happening at DHV, and these projects might provide some useful lessons for other history museums.
I suspect that when I head home in a week, I’ll have one more culture shock when I’m no longer surrounded by these great minds. But at least these new colleagues will only be a phone call or email away.