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What To Do When You Meet A Columbia Student From South Dakota

Staff Writer Jane Walsh shares what to do if approached by a wild South Dakotan.

According to what most people are very quick to tell me, I’m probably the first person from South Dakota you’ve met here.

When we struck up a conversation, you assumed that I was from New York or New Jersey or California because everyone else you’ve talked to today is. After all, I look like a fairly average Columbia University student: bags under my eyes, only a vague notion of how to make friends, and I’m clutching “The Odyssey” like a security blanket. After a few minutes of talk, a lull arrives in the conversation. Why not ask, you think, why not ask where I hail from? It’s a very simple question. But as I reveal my answer, a rush of adrenaline surges through your body. You raise your eyebrows in surprise as your brain hurriedly scrolls through a map of the United States. Just where IS South Dakota? The most vital functions in your body start to go kuput as they’re overloaded with nearly unprocessable information. What do people do there? Most importantly, what phenomenal circumstances occurred to get someone from there to Columbia University?

Let me be the first to tell you that you are not alone. One in forty Columbians will, at one point in their education, accidentally stumble into conversation with one of us, and it’s a daunting experience for nearly everyone. To make this easier, I’ve compiled a quick and comprehensive guide on what to do when you meet a Columbia student from South Dakota.

You may be wondering how to safely approach one of us. I can’t blame you; new experiences can be overwhelming and no one wakes up in the morning wanting to get bitten that day. Slowly walk towards the South Dakotan, eyes to the floor, treading with only the daintiest of steps. Prior to this, you should have poured about a cup of canned corn into your open hands; now, sprinkle this on the floor by our feet and softly cluck your tongue against the roof of your mouth to show that you mean no harm. Careful. We spook easy. Once we’ve acknowledged your existence with a soft “yeehaw,” just say hi! Or, if you want to make us feel at home, raise two fingers from the steering wheel of your tractor, nod your head ever so slightly, and say “howdy” (I think I saw a meme about this once, so credits to that author I guess). Now that you’ve gained our trust, you may begin by striking up a conversation, but don’t talk so goldarn fast or we’ll quickly get lost. The only reason we were accepted to Columbia University is because y’all’s promotional pamphlets were missing a state. We really shouldn’t be here. Hell, we’re barely literate.

At this point, I’m sure you have a lot of questions about what life is like in God’s favorite fly-over state. After all, why else would you approach a flighty, rugrat-looking kid who smells faintly of soybean dust if not to get answers to urgent questions? To save both you and I some time, here are the answers to a few of the most pressing.

Yes, we have running water in SD, a lot of it, but our anatomy resembles that of a camel’s, so we only need to hydrate every couple of weeks. This comes in handy since it’s terribly easy to get lost in the fields and fields of endless corn. Children are only presumed dead when they don’t turn up after one full cycle of the moon. SD also has internet access. Here’s a fun little fact: the top three Google searches for South Dakotans are “garrison keillor still around,” “what to do for rattlesnake bite” and “am i gay?” It may also interest you to know that those big wooly mammals that we put on all our postcards are called bison and not buffalo. In a few years, this distinction will not matter because they will all be dead, and this is thanks to my ancestors, who hunted them into extinction. I’m sorry.

If you know what to listen for, there is an SD accent. Want to hear what it sounds like? Watch the movie Fargo or talk to me the night before an essay is due and listen to it slowly develop as I get more and more stressed out. And of course it is true that South Dakotans hate North Dakotans. Even though SD is the Canada of the United States, ND gets the honor of holding hands geographically with the great maple syrup nation, and for this we are eternally bitter. Fuck North Dakota. Seriously, fuck them.

Winters are very cold in SD. That’s why we get skittish around ice. If you happen to have ice in your possession, please approach slowly with the aforementioned ice in full view.

Yes, I do know the SD guy in SEAS. We’re drinking buddies.

No, I’ve never seen Dances With Wolves. I don’t know anything about it except what I can deduce from a movie poster hanging up in a local bagel shop. I could be entirely wrong, but it looks like it absolutely fucking sucks. That’s just one lowly prairie gal’s opinion.

Speaking of prairie gals, SD women are the best around. Generations of living in Little-House-on-the-Prairie-like living conditions means that natural selection has gifted us survivors with sturdy bones, and we can bear you many a child. In fact, people from the prairie are magnificent at sex. This is because there’s nothing to do in the praire except fuck each other or develop a crippling meth addiction. Other than having an insane sexual or narcotic experience, the only other reason you’d visit SD is because your parents want to see Mount Rushmore. I’ve been to Mount Rushmore exactly once in my life, and, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. Heard George Washington was going to be there, but all I saw was a big stone dude who vaguely resembles what Michael Madson would have looked like if he’d aged better.

This can be a lot to remember, but, in all actuality, it’s very unlikely that you will ever have to put these skills to the test. That being said, if you see me around campus, say hello. And if you know of another person from my state, please tell me. I’m so goddamn lonely. I only wrote this as a cry for help.

Objectively, New York is a better place than South Dakota. However, if you ever come visit us, remember to look up at the sky. At night, you can see every star. So suck on that.

Some Park in South Dakota via Wikimedia

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