In New York City, the lights always are bright, the car horns always are honking, the people always are shuffling and nobody is sleeping.
In Amarillo, the lights aren’t 24/7 at Christmastime, car horns are rude, the people wave at everyone they see and everyone likes their sleep.
Needless to say, Amarillo is a stark contrast to the Big Apple. Nursing major David Mendez experienced the contrast personally in March 2012, when he moved to Amarillo after being a born-and-raised New Yorker for almost 21 years.
“One of the most difficult things is trying to blend in and not be such a New Yorker,” Mendez said. “Here in Amarillo, money isn’t everything, but in New York, money is always a big stress.”
Mendez moved to Amarillo with his mother so the two could be closer to her family, so he could attend Amarillo College’s renowned nursing program and so he could have a new experience away from the big city.
While he spent much time in New York City for school and attended State University of New York in Potsdam, he lived in the East Hamptons with his immediate family during much of his non-school time. Mendez currently lives with his aunt, Debbie Ellison, who watched Mendez make the big move to Amarillo in March.
“Moving to Texas was scary for David,” Ellison said. “He didn’t really want to leave because he didn’t know what to expect here. All of his friends and schooling were in New York, but after moving here he started going to school, making friends, and of course we have family here, so it helped him to open up a little bit more once he got used to the environment.”
Ellison said Mendez was popular at his private school in New York, which made his transition more difficult because he didn’t know anyone aside from family in Texas.
“At his old school everybody knew David, but when he moved here, it was no longer about everyone knowing him,” Ellison said. “He’s no longer on a pedestal. He’s come through quite well, and I’m very surprised by how he’s transitioning.”
Mendez certainly dealt with culture shock upon arrival in Amarillo, mainly because of the social interactions.
“I’m not used to walking down the street having everyone say ‘hi’ to me,” Mendez said. “Texan culture is very conservative. When you’re in New York City, you don’t feel like people are staring or judging, because everyone has their own thing. Here, you have to follow a norm.”
Mendez not only had difficulty transitioning into Texan culture, but he had to deal with the shocking Texas weather as well.
“I’m still not used to the way it feels, like I’m in a desert,” Mendez said. “That’s the biggest difference to me. I’m used to being in a wooded area or in the city. It’s weird coming from a place with lots of trees and water to an arid climate.”
Even though Amarillo has brought steep changes for Mendez, he points out the positives in his move.
“My favorite part of moving here is Texas hospitality,” he said. “People are a lot nicer here than they were in New York.
“Amarillo College is also great. The price of AC is very reasonable, because my previous college in New York was $9,000 per semester. I’m paying out-of-state, and it’s still nowhere near that. AC gives you a great deal for your education.”
A classmate of Mendez last semester, early childhood development major Caitlyn Bainum, watched him settle into his new town.
“Before I knew he was from New York, I already assumed he wasn’t from Amarillo because he had a personality unlike most people from here,” Bainum said.
She observed that he made a great transition in the classroom, where he quickly made friends with many of the students in Lynae Jacob’s Interpersonal Communications class.
“He was funny, and with him you could say anything on your mind because he is a type of person who speaks his mind,” Bainum said.
“He would tell stories about his life and job in New York, and it was interesting learning things about his life.”
Mendez plans either to continue pursuing his nursing degree or to attend a fashion school if he is accepted. Either way, he appreciates his time in Amarillo surrounded by family and new friends, and he brings his New York City spunk with him everywhere he goes.