Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Making Friends in the USA Part 1

With this post I would like to continue my account of my student exchange to the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire in the USA. In the inaugural episode of this series, I wrote about my first impressions of American college life and my experiences during International Orientation Week. The whole post covered the events between the dates: 27th August 2012 to 31st August, Monday to Friday. For this episode, I would like to explore what happened next; how I navigated my first week of classes and how by the end of that first week I had somehow, against all odds, secured a solid social foundation- and a friendship that would come to define my life for the next 5 years.

Everything changed during those few months I spent studying in the USA. My life developed a new pattern thereafter. My writing changed. I was exposed to new places, thoughts and experiences. It’s quite incredible when you look at how it all started. A big part of my motivation for studying in the USA was that I was failing socially in the UK. Things weren’t turning out the way I wanted them, and after chasing the dream of going to university to study creative writing since I was 12, I was finally there, and I needed a new dream. In the UK school technically ends during the year one turns 16, and you are presented with several options. A bunch of people went to colleges to pursue more focused, singular studies or training, others opted for apprenticeships in their chosen trade, and some jumped straight into the world of work without a second thought. A good number stayed at school to complete a two year academic program that would prepare them for university. I did this- but I switched schools. I chose to study at a place called City of Bristol College for two years where I pursued qualifications in English, Film Studies, Philosophy and Politics. From an academic viewpoint, it was a resounding success. It was the first time in my life I actually felt smart and passionate. Socially however, it was a disaster. I didn’t know how to make new friends, and for those two years I spent every break I had hiding in the library. Talking to people gave me serious anxiety. I remember once, I was in English class and we were studying Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The prettiest girl in the class asked me what the word “malice” meant, and even though I knew, I blushed as red as a plum tomato and with a trembling voice apologized for not knowing. Yikes. I figured university was the answer to my problems. But if anything things got even worse. I was told to expect the time of my life, and was assured by many that I would flourish in such a setting. What actually happened was that I became aware for the first time that I was suffering from clinical depression. It offended my sense of masculine pride that I could be so weak. I struggled to make friends with the people in my classes and the folks on my floor. Even when others tried to include me, I didn’t know how to include myself. It’s hard to explain, but for whatever reason things weren’t clicking. I spent the entire first year hiding in my room. I didn’t go out drinking or partying once. I tried to during my first week, but given that I had no kind of photo ID, I was asked by the bouncer to kindly piss off. The more time I spent in my room, the more paranoid I became that people must resent me for it. The incident that stands out to me most was my first night back after Christmas break. I was watching a film on my laptop when I heard voices outside my door. I heard a girl say “Is HE back yet?”

I knew she meant me. A few seconds later, a daring hand pushed open my door. My door was unlocked. It flung open and I heard the group shrieking with laughter and running down the hall, as though they expected a ghoul to come out and gobble them up. At the time this gave me very serious anxiety- the kind of rising heat that one feels in their chest, taking hold of one’s breathing. You can feel every breath and every heartbeat. According to science, my body was entering fight or flight mode. Later I calmed down, and decided the time had come for me to give in and get my ass over to student counselling. In many ways it was a defeat. But I would lie awake at night, having internalized everything for 3 years, having never told a soul, and my heart would feel so strained and tight. I swear I was scared to look down for fear of seeing it beating through my chest. My counselor was called Katie and I saw her once or twice a week for the duration of my 3 years in Winchester. I told her that I had gone weeks without uttering a word, and fearing that I would suffer some kind of permanent damage to my speech, I said that I just needed to come in and practice physically speaking for an hour. So that’s what I did. I was terrified of eating alone in the cafeteria, so every day I requested a takeaway box and hurried home to my apartment, where I enjoyed my food with an episode of The Sopranos.

It’s at this point that I feel the necessary context has been laid down for the events of my second week in Eau Claire. We’re going to start on Saturday, September 1st 2012. I was fully prepared to spend another year hiding in my room, or the library, or somewhere I could get away with eating alone. I should also point out that these were the days when my eating problems were at their absolute worst. Back then I struggled to eat in public whether I was with friends or not. I often left meals unfinished unless I was completely alone, and my biggest fear of the cafeteria was that I would puke and all the friendship groups would turn around and stare at me. It sort of happened once- I got so anxious I coughed up my food back onto my plate, but no one really noticed. So when I reached Eau Claire, I started taking my food back to my room in Towers North where I would eat at my desk. One time during International Orientation the cafeteria was closed and I walked to Shopko and bought a rotisserie chicken. It was the weekend after International Orientation, either the Saturday or the Sunday that ushered in the month of September, that for some goddam crazy reason I decided I would try to eat alone at the Hilltop Café- the big cafeteria of upper campus. It was a lot different to the cafeteria back in Winchester. Back there you had 3 or 4 choices of British cuisine, and though the standard of the food was actually pretty good, the prices were near extortionate. We had a set budget of 50 quid a week for food that was deliberately too little for what we needed. In the US however- the land of plenty- not only was the selection of food much wider but we could eat all that we wanted for free. We could eat there 25 times a day if we pleased. They even had sections devoted to exotic cuisines, like that Wok place. Anyway, I braved the cafeteria alone and instantly regretted it. It was prime eating time in the evening and the place was absolutely packed. All the American freshmen and sophomores were here now, and their loud voices and broad shoulders left little room. I eventually got a plate of food, and stared at the sea of tables with their wild and hooting patrons and felt a kind of nausea. Somehow I discovered a free table in the corner of the room, and ate facing the wall, with my back to the noise.

But that behavior just ain’t gonna fly in the Midwest. Before I knew it, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a massive American was standing behind me. Despite being shaped like an NFL linebacker, the guy spoke gently. He asked if I wanted to sit with him and his friends. I obliged. I quickly discovered that I was quite fascinating to the natives. My accent alone commanded interest. I could have talked for an hour about oven mitts and they would have listened. They seemed like a typical group of lads, with interests in sports and chasing skirts and good ol’ fashioned bro’s bro’s banter. I didn’t speak too much. I was shy but they seemed to accept that. They just talked as they usually would, including me here and there. Afterwards they invited me to go bowling with them downstairs. I discovered then that it was an American custom to give a high five or to bump fists after every bowl, even if it was a gutter-ball (which in my case, it often was). On the lane next to us were three Swedish exchange students that I recognized from International Orientation. One of them was perhaps the most blonde and beautiful girl I have ever seen. The guys started to admire her from afar, and I informed them she was Swedish. She was, however, guarded by two guys the size of refrigerators. They honestly made the Americans I was with look small. The guys struck up a conversation with these Swedes, each of them doing their best to court the girl, even though she was spoken for by a guy who looked like he might well have been the actor behind Colossus from Deadpool. I remember with amusement how, after they left, one of guys confided to us “O man, I just wanna undo that zip…” referring to the girl’s blouse, which had a zip right at the cleavage. It seemed like there would be no end to the adventures an American campus would provide, and we were just guys being guys. I was very much taken in by their wild enthusiasm. I felt like I was part of one of the typical groups of bro’s you might see in the American movies. After bowling we went back to their floor in Towers South where we watched an episode of a show they called How I Met Your Mother with some of their female friends. When I decided to go, everyone said goodbye and smiled, and as I waited in the elevator, I heard one of them say “He was a really nice guy”.

It was a very positive experience for me, but I still didn’t have a social foundation. I didn’t possess the know-how to go about finding that group again, or indeed an idea of what I would say if I did. Despite their affability, my mind seemed programmed to interpret it as a one-time thing. I expected nothing more. I just didn’t have the confidence or the skills necessary to seek them out and reacquaint myself with them. But don’t worry; this story has a happy ending…

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My First Week of College in the USA

One thing I wish I had done during my student exchange 5 years ago is maintain a blog, or at least a journal of some kind. I guess I was too busy living life to report on it- which is better than vice versa- but I have always been interested in doing both. My friends know me as someone that loves perusing old photos or discussing old memories, and I often find myself possessed with a fervent zeal to immortalize even the smallest memory, to lock it down and carve it into a mosaic.

The reason I wish I had kept a better record of my 5-month stay in the United States is because it was such a pivotal period of my life. Everything seemed to change then from thereafter; not in a dramatic way- but when I follow the proverbial threads of my life, I often find that the biggest and messiest knot is situated in that time period: early-August to December 23rd of 2012. The whole concept of The Butterfly Effect (the notion that a single butterfly beating its wings can cause a tsunami halfway across the world) freaks me out. I don’t like thinking about it, because I have fallen in love so many times at the behest of something far-off and paper-thin. Without that one decision to aggressively pursue my application to study abroad, things could have been a lot different. I’m not just talking about the fact that I’ve got to try some cultural things- eating s’mores and shooting guns- but the big stuff. The friends I am living with right now, whom I have visited for the last four years in a row, were made on the UW-Eau Claire campus. We have become family. You’ll see my goofy mug in family photo albums depicting weddings, high school graduations, vacations. All that opened up to me because of a damned butterfly.

I’ll cut the sappy shit before it starts to test your barf-reflex. What I’m introducing, in this post, is a series of retrospective personal essays that will be detailing my time spent at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire during the fall semester of 2012. I’ve wanted to write this for a long time, and I feel like I’m making up for not blogging about it at the time. The intent of this series is to detail as much as I can in the way of sights, sounds, smells, so as to provide a veritable window through which the reader may gaze into my past. I will make sure to keep everything relevant and interesting to what might be called “overarching themes” like culture shock, the contrast between an American campus and a British one, an examination of the local region of Eau Claire versus an interpretation of the city as a microcosm of the United States as a whole, and also- for those readers interested in things like mental health- a log of how my stay on an American campus affected things like my social anxiety and tested my interpersonal skills yadda yadda. Ok? Ok. Let’s do this.

Close your eyes. You’re a tall (6”4), skinny, uncoordinated- but if I may say strikingly handsome- British male of 19 years. Hear the sound of the car door shutting. My host mom has dropped me off outside of a huge dormitory building, “Towers North”. You’re standing with all your luggage- hauled all the way across the ocean to Atlanta, Georgia and driven via Elvis Week to Eau Claire, WI.

At this stage of the journey, I was alone for the first time. Now I had to make good on my ability to survive on my own. It was this moment- the first instance of “fish out of water”- that I had long thought about since my application had been accepted. So we have to go back further into the memory. I applied for the exchange program in the fall of 2011, having only been at the University of Winchester a few weeks. I didn’t think I would be accepted. I knew that as many as 70 people were applying, of which about 15 or so would be successful. It seems strange now to think that I applied to study abroad so soon in my academic career- when just the concept of university and living away from home was new in and of itself. But the rules were plain. The exchange had to be for the first half of your second year only, and in the UK an arts degree is strictly 3-years. We don’t have situations, like in the US, where you might stay for 4 or even 5 years, and things are measured in numbers of classes or credits. But that’s a post for another time.

I made the interview stage and the guy asked me why I ought to be given this opportunity. I straight-up told him that I didn’t have any travel experience, or any kind of independent experiences to speak of. I said I hoped that the exchange was a chance to force me out of my comfort zone and to transform me into a different person- a more resourceful person- by the end of it. “Ah,” the interviewer said, with a trace of a Welsh accent, “so you want to become more worldly?”

He seemed to dig it. I didn’t think I had done very well, and I even- in my panic- ended up using a pretentious word like “deontological” for how I hoped the exchange would go. Surely no one who talked like that ought to be representing the university? Well, a month later an email told me I got it. I had applied to study at the University of Southern Maine, on the basis that they had the most comprehensible website, I wanted to be near big cities and action, and I figured they had the best opportunities for creative writing. It’s information in my memory like that that freaks me out when thinking about the butterfly effect. Somewhere down the line, at the right time, in the right space, a butterfly beat its wings, and the resulting soundwave pushed me in the direction of Wisconsin rather than the state I asked for. I’m glad it did.

I remember the morning I found out- I had poetry class. I was walking down the hill from where I was living, St Elizabeth’s, to the poetry building, which I believe was called Medecroft Annex or something like that. I suddenly blurted out that I had gotten the place in the program to the guys either side of me. One of them, a fellow poet who lived on my floor in the dorms, reassured me that I would be ok. I remember little details like that, because at the time I was shitting myself.

Fast forward 7 months and I’m standing in the shadow of Towers North with all my bags and reminding myself “you’ll be ok”. The first person I spoke to- the first person I even saw- turned out to be my peer guide for International Orientation. We’ll call him Andrew. At the time I remember thinking that Andrew looked stereotypically American; he greeted me with a huge grin and large hands. I figured him for the jock type, as they call it in the movies. It turns out he was into sports, and as he helped me get my bags inside the lobby he took note of my Chelsea t-shirt and asked what I thought about the Blues signing Eden Hazard that summer. I decided then that I liked this guy. I appreciated the way he seemed to sense my shyness and offer reassurance throughout that first week.

The second person I met turned out to be one of the best friends I’d make that semester. He was the R.A (Resident Assistant) and he was an exchange student himself, from Ipoh, Malaysia. I’m committed to using pseudonyms for this blog, and given that my friend was a fluent speaker of Tamil, we’ll just go ahead and call him Akbar- after the most badass Mughal Emperor. I remember being very keen to make friends with Akbar from the outset. At the time I saw him as an authority figure rather than a fellow student, and I zoned in on him as someone who could redress all my grievances. He commented in the elevator that he was a Liverpool fan, and had just got back from visiting the UK, where he had taken a tour of Anfield. I remember telling him that I could have easily mistaken him for being British- his English was as good as mine, and he even used what I considered to be British slang terms that I didn’t think existed outside of the Isle. I made sure to let him know that I would be seeing him around, before rejoining Andrew outside, whose booming voice was gathering the rest of the exchange students.

We were a helluva melting pot. I knew I had been joined by about 6 other British students from Winchester, but they were literally nowhere to be seen. I was the only European, as far as I could tell, around. I remember being extremely anxious that day because I discovered (too late) that the cargo shorts I was wearing really needed a belt to stay up. They took us all over lower campus, where the administrative buildings were located. That week it reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit and I was sweating my balls off as we were shepherded from place to place, all the while with my hands in my pockets to support my loose shorts. It was a long week and I didn’t really care for the activities, but I knew that (mostly) they were necessary. I’ve always had a very short attention span. I get impatient easily when it comes to bureaucratic stuff. I get bored and I moan. I remember Andrew coming over as I rushed to set up my BluGold (college email) account, and he said “Don’t worry Mike, we’re gonna get you out of here”. God bless that chap, I thought. Some empathy.

The university gave us long talks in which they informed us of what to expect from American culture. They told us that we weren’t to fire any guns or have any pictures of us holding guns, or we would get in trouble. I did both anyway. They told us what to do if we saw a bear or a moose wandering around campus. The most I ever saw was a deer, and nowhere near the centralized areas. And then they told us about Wisconsinites themselves, and what to expect in a social situation. One thing that always stuck in my memory was their warning that Wisconsinites often remarked “How’s it going?” as an alternative to saying “Hello” and that they were never actually interested in how one was doing. I decided to put this into practice throughout the semester, and every damn time I said “How’s it going”- even when I walked briskly past someone- the person would always stop and tell me how they were doing, before asking me the same question.

The week ended with a scavenger hunt, which was okay except it was swelteringly hot outside and after walking several blocks I found that I just couldn’t be arsed anymore. We ate at a place called the Smiling Moose Deli. There were four of us- a Ukrainian girl, a Mexican guy, a Chinese guy, and me- that were being shown around by this girl that was a real sweetheart. It was a long-ass day; Friday 31st August, 2012, and I was distinctly aware that whilst I was “fannying about” as we say back home, all day Towers North was filling up with freshmen. These were the Americans, the folks I would be living with. I reminded myself that as much of a fish out of water as I was, I still had a year of student living under my belt, whereas these rowdy lads and lasses were experiencing college for the first time. They didn’t seem nervous though- Americans never do.

I’ve had long discussions with my now-roommate on how shyness exists in the U.S, and apparently it does, but it’s subtle. The Midwesterners have a culture that is friendly and- by British standards at least- very straightforward. They are well accustomed to social situations and know how to hide shyness when the time comes. At some point or another, all Americans have been on stage, so to speak. Their unique brand of humor so often lends itself to theatrics.

I was more nervous than anyone else there- or so I told myself. What I should have told myself is that people are icebergs- most of who they are remains underwater, unseen. You reveal to people only what you want, and it’s not so easy to separate an introvert from an extrovert as you might think. I am quite sure now that I did not appear as nervous as I thought I was. The fact that I was British gave me a social edge, as Akbar pointed out encouragingly. I was a novelty. Every word I said was given special attention. I got back to Towers just in time for Akbar to tell me I was late and that the rest of the floor, including my roommate, had already met each other. The entire building, joined by the residents of Towers south, which may have been a thousand people, were all sat outside on the grass waiting for the R.As to do a little presentation. On the way there Akbar told me how everyone on the floor- including the females- were obsessed with meeting me, and had apparently gone on a hunt to look for me. Now I was worried about being a massive disappointment. They were probably hoping for a Charlie Hunnam or an Andrew Lincoln type- someone with a voice as rich as a cheesecake and who possessed a roguish, Byronic charm that was at once debonair and yet free-spirited and with a thirst for wild adventures. Little did they know they were getting an accident-prone goofball with skinny thighs and a large Adam’s Apple. Yep, I was the living manifestation of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, right down to my vulnerability for jump-scares at the slightest oriole-fart. Only my time was spent less on smoking weed and making a citizen’s arrest than it was writing self-insert Star Wars fan-fiction.

Things went well though. Akbar led me over to where the boys of our floor were sitting at the edge of the grass. Much as I had when I met Andrew, I ended up categorizing everyone into stereotypes at the first instant. I think that it is a natural process however. You can’t know someone in any great detail at first sight, so the brain is tempted to turn to the stereotypes of our culture, which are always based in some truth- even if only superficially. All them turned around at once, and seemed to say in unison “Hi!”. Hardly able to deal with so many faces, I remember my mind’s eye reducing them to a single archetype- all of them, in that very moment, were pale-skinned, athletically-built, with close-cropped, sandy hair and pale-colored eyes. Akbar warned us that we had to clap and hoot for him when it was his turn on stage. Everyone seemed to like Akbar, and the lads were pleased they had an R.A that they could joke around with, and perhaps not be punished by with too much sadism.

After the show was over, we discovered that the cafeteria was closed, so Akbar led me and most of the guys of fourth floor over to the local Wendy’s for dinner. To those of my readers based in the UK, Wendy’s is a fast food chain that is basically identical to McDonalds, the creepy clown replaced with an even creepier design of a ginger, freckle-faced girl straight out of a 19th century Bavarian wood carving. There are a million fast food chains, from Krystal’s to Whataburger, to Church’s, that never made it to the UK. I got a shake, fries and we sat around the small restaurant sparsely. We shared our last names, the ethnicities behind them, and then started talking about slang. I remember the guys being in fits of laughter as I told them that “spunk” in the UK was slang for semen. At one point, without saying anything, one of the guys stood up and left. The would-be ringleader of our floor told me “He just dipped”.

“Beg your pardon?” I said.

The guy informed me that “dipped” was slang for leaving the area. I have always remembered that with fondness, though I have yet to incorporate it into my evolving lexicon. Things got better once the Americans arrived. These were the people I would attempt to be friends with. After living throughout International Orientation week with scarcely a soul in the building save for me and Akbar, suddenly the place was alive with howls of laughter down the corridor, the sound of rap music reverberating through the walls, and the freshmen girls, playing volleyball below, waiting we hoped, for some guys to join them.

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I hope you enjoyed reading! I will be continuing this series with more accounts of my student exchange.

My Top Five Small Towns in Wisconsin

Throughout my travels in Wisconsin- from my student exchange in the fall of 2012 to the back to back legendary summers of 2014 and 2015- I have been lucky enough to see what might be referred to as the “essence” of the Badger State. And that, I believe, is comprised of its small towns. I am especially interested in those little microcosms of yesteryear, and the way in which these towns formed. The movement and placement of people is traced back to Wisco’s oldest industries- namely logging, the manufacture of paper, dairy farming, and the harvesting of cranberries- but also the state’s long history as a place of recreational activities. So I have decided to make a little list- a list of five small towns that have made a particular impression on me. They are communities from all corners of the state that for one reason or another I have found interesting.

#1 Cedarburg, WI – 2012

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Founded: 1844

Population: 11,400 approx

County: Ozaukee

Trivia: Cedarburg has the oldest covered bridge in Wisco!

Located in Ozaukee County in southeastern WI, this town is perhaps the prettiest on our list. I visited this place in 2012 whilst taking a road trip with my family from Atlanta, GA to Eau Claire, WI. We found that we preferred the pace and scenery of these small towns to the big cities, and opted to see what Cedarburg had to offer, instead of spending our day heading into Milwaukee. Cedarburg has a dreamlike, picturesque quality to it, like the dying dream of a soldier far from home. To me it represents the rural idyll of the American Midwest. It’s the kind of town replicated in miniature railroad sets.

The town boasts a beautiful mill situated on Cedar Creek, a winery, and several art galleries. The streets feature an array of houses that date back to the late 19th century. Therefore, it is no surprise that Cedarburg is a popular tourist destination, and a great stop for a weekend’s drive in the countryside.

#2 Alma, WI – 2012

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Founded: 1868

Population: 770 approx

County: Buffalo

Trivia: Alma is named after the Battle of Alma in the Crimean War! (Alma is a river in Crimea)

I visited Alma in 2012 and I think it is quite a unique and atypical Wisconsin town. It’s absolutely tiny and sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. The land in this part of Wisco is different to the rest of the state, and during our time there we observed bright marshes and high, rocky bluffs thick with trees. Alma is located right next to the Lock and Dam No. 4 of the Mississippi River and you can watch the towboats going through the dam with their cargo. The Lock is also a notable nesting ground for bald eagles, which are among the most magnificent native animals I have observed in the wild. Buena Vista Park is a great place for a picnic, and provides visitors with an opportunity to photograph the Lock and riverboats below. Another strange feature of this town is the Castlerock Museum- which is home to a collection of Roman weapons and armor.

#3 Tomahawk, WI – 2014

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Founded: 1886

Population: 3350 approx

County: Lincoln

Trivia: The Kwahamot Water Ski Club is based here, and they put on a fine show for the locals every summer!

I first went to Tomawhawk in the summer of 2014, during my stay at my friend’s family cabin, which is located about a half hour’s drive away at the scenic Seven Island Lake. Once there we got ready for the aforementioned water ski show. It was still light in the evening, and “the kids” and I headed on over to the local Dairy Queen where we shared a massive cup of Gatorade with multiple straws. We all joked about how “trash” we were, with one lass declaring herself “Duchess Dumpster”. The water skiing was a nice, relaxing way to spend the evening.

Tomahawk is situated at the confluence of three rivers- the Somo, Tomahawk and Wisconsin rivers- that damming has joined together to form Lake Mohawksin. The area was originally inhabited by the Ojibwe peoples, before the postbellum logging boom brought about the founding of the town by American business interests. It’s a lovely place to visit if you are staying Up North during the hot Wisconsin summers, and caters to the cabin folks with some impressive bait shops.

#4 Fish Creek – 2015

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Founding: 1857

Population: 990 approx

County: Door

Trivia: Fish Creek is home to one of the last remaining clockmakers in Wisco!

I checked out Fish Creek two years ago whilst on a day trip to Door County with some folks I consider family. As we drove down the hillside we had a lush view of crystal-blue waters of Lake Superior. We grabbed lunch at an awesome pizza place called Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza and Grille- which to this day is the finest ‘Zza I have had outside of Italy.

Fish Creek is very much a community based on tourism. I imagine it would be a completely strange and quiet place outside of the summer months. The town is full of these amazing antique stores and art galleries. The day we went, we visited second-hand bookstores, antique stores, confectioneries, designer clothing stores, local ice cream shops, a hats & caps store and much more. For a long time I examined a collection of fringed leather jackets worthy of a Hell’s Angel. The town is a favorite place of artists and craftsmen alike, and is home to the Peninsula School of the Arts. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough!

#5 Oneida – 2015

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Founding: 1903

Population: 4000 approx

County: Outagamie

Trivia: The largest ethnicity of Oneida is listed as Iroquois, with 56%. The Oneida nation were originally one of the Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee) Confederacy’s six nations, which also included the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora tribes, who banded together to dominate the fur trade in the Ohio Valley.

Oneida- both the name of the town and the Indian Reservation, whose names are derived from the Oneida tribe of Native Americans (who in fact are from Upstate New York, but had been displaced)- has served as the boyhood home of my best friend. It proved to be an interesting community, and one that I feel is wholly different from any of the other towns on this list. I had no idea, prior to visiting, what life on an Indian Reservation would look like. For some reason I always imagined adobe houses, abandoned gas stations, and chain-link fences halfway fallen down. I imagined something barren where nothing grew, something that reflected the poverty of Native Americans and the gradual erosion of their way of life. But of course, not every reservation is the same, and as far as I know the idea of adobe houses in Wisconsin is a quite ridiculous idea.

In June of 2015, my buddy’s mom made us an absolutely massive feast of crispy bacon, chocolate pancakes, and fresh strawberries. A bunch of us then walked Riley (a Brittany Spaniel) and Trout (a pug) in the warm Midwest sunshine. The geography of the reservation included much farmland, and we passed by large barns and pastures that grew soy beans. The houses were modest and clean suburban houses, all with huge yards, complete with American flags and Golden Retrievers.

Through the center of the Reservation runs what one of my buds described to me once as being her favorite river, a little stream called Duck Creek. For those-like her- who are interested in the language, culture and history of the Oneida tribe, the town offers a little museum/cultural center that provides fun information!