Reprinted with permission from the author and The Odyssey Online.

Oliver And Saige Groom at the beach with lighthouse in background.Everyone has that one passion in their life. It’s that one passion that they start off enjoying as their own personal hobby that gradually becomes something so much more. Suddenly that passion becomes an instrument of ambition that we use to achieve our own path towards greatness.

For me, that passion has been my love for history. The wealth of knowledge I have gained from studying history has not only made me fully appreciate the lessons of the past, but also has opened my eyes to new horizons that have inspired me to take my passion farther, particularly in terms of writing and teaching.

Though I didn’t just want to pursue a general history degree. Over time, I developed a more specialized interest in the military. Over the past few years, my interest in military history has grown as I became more curious about the concept of warfare as well as how and why wars are fought. I have always had a strong appreciation for the veterans who risk life and limb for their country. Ultimately, it is because of all of these reasons that I have found my path into the future I believe I am destined to live.

What I never expected, however, was that my love for history would send me 1,200 miles away from my small town home in Upstate New York to a college in yet another small town located in northeast Oklahoma.

Without the all-knowing power of the internet, it is mind-boggling to wonder how international or out-of-state students manage to find a school like Rogers State University. It still baffles me to this day how it only took one Google search for “colleges with a bachelor’s degree in military history” to notice this small campus on the Hill. Aside from being the first thing to show up on the page, there was so much more to RSU that quickly grasped my full attention. The more I researched the school’s history, the more I grew to love it. As a history buff, it wasn’t difficult for me to take notice of RSU’s legendary backstory to when it was once the Oklahoma Military Academy.

When I made my first-ever visit to RSU almost two years ago, it became much clearer to me that my place was there once I met the faculty of the history department. Not only did I get to speak with some amazing professors and have the chance to listen to some interesting lectures in their classes, but I also became much more aware of their hospitality towards the students. For me, what ultimately set my heart on RSU was when the professors offered to take me to lunch, something that you very seldom experience when visiting colleges in New York. When I returned to the campus as a fully-enrolled student last summer, I kept with me the good impressions of life and culture in Oklahoma.

Though I am very open-minded when it comes to traveling, many of my past adventures have been to states along the East Coast, and on other occasions, to international hotspots such as Europe and New Zealand. Before I found RSU, Oklahoma was one of the last places that would have come to mind as I gradually lengthen the bucket list—not the least of my reasons being tornadoes! However, as I now prepare to move forward into my second year of college, I look back on the past two semesters with so much gratitude for the amazing friends I have made this year and some of the greatest experiences I have had because of these new, incredible people in my life. Before attending RSU, there was so much to Oklahoma I never fully realized and have never gotten the chance to discover in all my years of living in New York. The “Southern hospitality” that I had only heard about while in New York I got to experience firsthand, not just at RSU, but in the surrounding community. No matter where you went, there was always a friendly face to greet you and offer a helping hand.

The food was another sign of the cultural differences that separated New York from Oklahoma. The number of Sonics and Whataburgers I crossed paths with (and on many occasions partook of) was a given that I was not above the Mason-Dixon Line anymore. In many of my travels outside the RSU campus, going to these places was a first for me. The cuisine and customer-friendly atmosphere were nevertheless all the reason I needed to keep returning for more.

If there is anywhere in Claremore that has stood out the most to me, however, it would be Braums. To all out-of-state students who are interested in RSU but are new to Oklahoma, if you are a fan of good burgers and ice cream, look no further! Aside from the typical fast food joints, though, I experienced a fair share of originality with some of the other local restaurants. The Dot’s Café in Claremore was a definite must-have for me after my first encounter with their burgers. Popular resorts for Hispanic and barbecue food lovers, such as Mi Granja in Chouteau and J.L.’s in Pryor, are never in short supply. There are even a few notable ice cream places worth visiting; my personal favorite has been the Amish Cheese House in Pryor.

Though my passion for military history remains strong, unfortunately it isn’t strong enough to prevent tornadoes. The haphazard weather of Oklahoma was something I did take into account; nevertheless, it didn’t stop me from leaving the comfort of New York to follow my chosen career path. Fortunately, I learned really quickly how well-prepared Oklahomans can be when it comes to tornado warnings. Throughout my entire first year at RSU, I have already experienced two occasions of severe weather. The first took place during one of my weekly trips to Walmart and the second while I was on campus. As someone who grew up in an area where anything bigger than a thunderstorm rarely happens, I reacted to my first experience with tornadoes was received more by excitement than fear. Needless to say, I would not be writing this today had it not been for the top-notch display of concern and effort for people’s safety from both RSU and its neighboring communities.

Attending an out-of-state college can have its ups and downs. For myself, living thousands of miles away from my home and my family was definitely an emotional strain on me. Eventually, though, I managed to see past that obstacle as I made new friends and explored more of the community around me. Now here I am at the tail-end of my first year of college with so many stories to tell and so few regrets.

No matter where you come from, though, Oklahoma is worth the journey. Whatever interests you—whether it’s the food, the history, or the people—you will not find a state more unique than Oklahoma. If you are moving to Oklahoma primarily because you are enrolled in college, do not go just for the college. No matter what university you choose to attend, never pass up the opportunity to absorb the culture around you. There is a life beyond every campus that has yet to be lived.

To quote Mark Twain, “20 years from now you will more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Update Fall 2016:

Oliver and Siage Groom pose with in English department office.RSU students Saige Trimble, a liberal arts junior from Pryor, and Oliver Groom, a military history sophomore from Lyons, NY, made Friday a memorable one when they got married this morning during a small ceremony in the English and Humanities departmental office in Baird Hall.

Dr. Mary Mackie, head of the department, officiated the ceremony and faculty held a small reception afterwards for the couple, who are both student workers in the department.

Congratulations to Saige and Oliver! Your RSU family wishes you a happy life together.