Moving from one place or culture to another can be a difficult transition: we are away from the family and friends who have always known us, everyday tasks can become our biggest challenges and it can be hard to find anything that feels comfortable or familiar. In this process, though, growth and vibrant life can also be found: we love and are loved by new friends, we are shaped by other perspectives and we understand there are depths to ourselves we could not otherwise have known.
Here, Brittney Swicionis who has made her home in Southeast Missouri from the south suburbs of Chicago shares about her native culture, her new culture and what she’s learned in the transition. Here’s to letting life be a process and all the things we learn along the way.
Hometown: Palos Hills, Illinois, the South Suburbs of Chicago
Moved to Cape Girardeau in 2014 to attend Southeast Missouri State University
What is something that surprised you about the new culture you are a part of?
Something that surprised me about the Cape Girardeau culture is how kind and warm-hearted everyone was. Looking back, I considered myself a tough cookie and not the friendliest 20-year-old at the time I moved down here. I was amazed at how approachable people were and that everyone had a story they were willing to tell. After a year of living here, I noticed a change in myself. My accent did not change, and I refused to convert to saying “y’all,” but I saw I was becoming a kinder adult, taking more risks and taking things a little slower and was truly being the best version of myself. I owe this to all the people I met that year and the years after that who were a part of the community and the university. I had professors who were my emergency contacts, mentors who saw endless potential in me and others who took me under their wing and poured a lot of love into me and my dreams. I can only hope to do that with another young professional that moves into the area with big dreams like I had and still have.
What is something you miss or are proud of about your native culture?
Coming from a larger city created me to be a mover and a shaker. What this means to me is that I am constantly on the go. I like to get ideas out in the open, always staying busy, acting fast on different opportunities and embracing competition — even if there is not one. I had my personal expectations to be like this because I felt that this is how I could be a big fish in a big pond while living in a larger city. When it comes to new ideas and progressing as an organization/business, there is always some sort of competition, whether it is increasing participation numbers, increasing revenue, assessing marketing techniques and staying up-to-date on trends in the industry. I am proud that Chicago does try to do things bigger and better; this is not a knock on things happening in this region. In a larger city, you just have to stay ahead of the game in so many different ways. This is one thing I am really proud about because it helped me conquer challenges as a young professional navigating the workforce.
What is a challenge of moving to a new culture? What is a joy of moving to a new culture?
When I originally moved here in August 2014, I went straight into having practices and workouts that I did not have a chance to really encounter culture shock the first three months I lived in the region. I just had a seamless move and really did not think much about different challenges I would face. Over time, I did notice that I had to be more patient, and that was a huge challenge for me. Whether it was depositing a check at the bank or driving down Broadway Street, I just had to learn how to be more patient with others and recognize that people and experiences entered my life for a reason. I allowed myself to make mistakes and learn more about myself and life during my time at the university and in the community because I was more patient with myself and others.
A joy of moving to a new culture is that I found happiness. I left everything I knew and moved to a city I had never seen before and had little to no information about. Through the years, I was able to create my own happiness and find like-minded individuals who wanted to contribute to that.
How do you incorporate elements of your native culture into your new culture?
An element that I brought is my work ethic and motivation to different organizations throughout the region. At a young age, I learned this from my parents — John and Deanna Swicionis — because I wanted to achieve my financial goals by being financially responsible as a young adult. I also wanted to be a leader, approachable and a familiar face in the community. Throughout the past five years, I feel that I was able to encourage others to take risks, keep an open mind and strive for greatness in and out of the workplace.