“Are you gonna bring a cowboy home?” and “You better invest in some boots!” were just some of the ways my friends and family teased me after I committed to Rice. I knew moving from my New York City suburb to Houston would be a culture change, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. My knowledge of Texas stemmed only from stereotypes of Southern hospitality, fried food and thick accents sprinkled with lots of “y’all”s. Yet, upon my first six months of living at Rice, I found that these were just exaggerations, especially in a diverse, urban city like Houston. However, there are some notable lifestyle differences that have rubbed off on me from living 1,600 miles away from home. I’ll never forget my New York roots, but I can justly say that the South has shaped me in ways that New York could never have. From how I dress to how I talk, here are some of the ways I assimilated to my new Southern life.


ATHLEISURE

Coming from a high school full of skimpy tops and exposed pierced belly buttons, I was surprised to be surrounded by tiny girls wearing XL T-shirts. Texas fashion is much more laid back, and I now find myself throwing on athletic shorts, big T-shirts and my Adidas on a day-to-day basis. By contrast, in high school I would typically wear jeans, heeled booties and a nice top, further accessorized with a collection of rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. I still dress up for class occasionally, but for the most part, Texas emphasizes comfort, and I’m here for it.

Illustration by Areli Navarro Magallon


‘HEY Y’ALL!’

For my entire 18 years, I’ve been a huge advocate for “you guys”; it’s casual and gets the job of addressing a group done. This all changed when I was exposed to the linguistic wonder that is “y’all.” Never before have I used a word that is so smooth and just rolls off the tip of the tongue. “Y’all” has infiltrated my speech, making its way into practically every one of my sentences. It’s just so damn efficient that I can’t help it — sorry, New York!


LESS IS MORE

I can confidently say that I wore makeup every single day of high school. Nowadays, you can find me on my way to my 9 a.m. bare-faced with a messy bun. Hardly anyone at Rice wears makeup everyday, let alone a full face, influencing me to ditch my routine on early mornings or busy workdays. This switch to a more natural approach has not only made me more confident in my own skin, but also more appreciative of the times when I do put on makeup.


BIRK INVASION

Back in New York, I was surrounded by Timberlands and Uggs. At the end of my senior year, I knew about two people who owned Birkenstocks (and they were made fun of for their choice in footwear). Little did I know that every single person at Rice would own a pair of Birks. And not only do they wear them everyday, they wear them with socks — a fashion crime for sure up North. This is one trend that I haven’t quite hopped on yet, and I’m not sure I ever will. However, I might be coming around to the idea of jandals. I do wear flip-flops 90 percent of the time, so that’s a step in the right direction, I guess.


QUESO?

Okay, but seriously, what is with Texans’ obsession with queso? Before Rice, I only knew queso as the Spanish word for “cheese” and vaguely as that dip in a jar that you buy at the supermarket and microwave. Now I can’t go to a restaurant without seeing it on the menu or visit a Rice event where it isn’t the main attraction. From what I collected in the past six months, it is, in fact, possible to prepare melted cheese differently — nothing gets a Texan more heated than bad queso. Honestly, I’m not mad at the trend because it does taste pretty good, although I don’t quite understand the mania. That being said, my day does instantly brighten when I discover the servery has queso.