By Kendall Post (Delta Psi, University of California, Santa Barbara)
I remember the day I received my Alpha Chi Omega chapter consultant assignment like it was yesterday. I can picture myself sitting on my lofted bed, overlooking the ocean in Santa Barbara, California, opening my MacBook and refreshing my email. At the top of my inbox, an email from Alpha Chi Omega appeared titled “Chapter Consultant Assignment.” I quickly opened it and read that I had received a resident assignment at Rutgers University working with the Theta Tau chapter in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
I remember thinking immediately that none of the clothes I had lived in during my sunny beach town college experience would cut it in an East Coast winter. I’d be trading my shorts, tank tops and rainbow flipflops for sweaters, parkas and snow boots. I had never been to New Jersey, only seen it from a distance when visiting a few of my friends in New York City during college. I had no idea how many secrets the Garden State held and all the things I would learn from my Jersey sisters.
Shortly after, I pulled up to the local post office to drop off a package with my friend’s toothbrush that she had left behind while visiting me the weekend before. Before going into the building, a GroupMe message popped up on myphone from my new project partner, Emily Callison (Delta Nu, Iowa State University). It read, “Sis I hope you like bagels and penne vodka pizza!!! SO EXCITED for this year – we’re gonna turn you into a real Jersey girl by May!” I remember thinking, Oh boy what have I gotten myself into, and quickly Googling what in the world penne vodka pizza was.
Now, nine months into my time as a chapter consultant, I can share with you some of the Jersey girl education I have received as a Theta Tau chapter consultant living and working in New Brunswick:
- The existence of Central New Jersey is highly up to debate. Northern and Southern New Jersey residents feel strongly that Central New Jersey does not exist. Those who self-identify as residing in Central NJ feel highly offended and will go to extreme lengths to defend their region.
- The tallest rollercoaster in the world is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey. Emily and I had the chance to ride it this fall during Theta Tau’s sisterhood retreat, and the photo really speaks for itself.
- Another topic highly debated by New Jerseyans is the name of a popular breakfast meat. New Jersey is known for its bagel breakfast sandwiches, the most popular consisting of egg, cheese and a salty smoked pork product known either as “Pork Roll” in South Jersey and Philadelphia or “Taylor Ham” in North Jersey.
- New Jersey city planners were big fans of jughandles. Very few left turns are allowed in NJ. Pretty much every time I drive on the highway I encounter multiple jughandle intersections. In fact, there are over 600 of them in the Garden State. A jughandle is a type of ramp that changes the way traffic turns left. Instead of a standard left turn being made from the left lane, left-turning traffic uses a ramp on the right side of the road which curves around in a big circle allowing you to make your turn.
- New Jersey is the diner capital of the U.S. There are more than 600 diners in the state of New Jersey, more than any other state. With its location between Philadelphia and New York as well as an early developed road network, New Jersey hosted many diners, which became the go-to place for people to get a good meal, especially while on the road.
- New Jersey beaches require beach tags. The tags serve as a user fee to help offset the local municipality’s cost of maintaining its beaches. Beach tags are required for all beachgoers ages 12 and older and are in effect from June through September.
- Penne vodka pizza really is the best. It consists of pizza dough covered in penne pasta, smothered in tomato vodka sauce and cheese. Every pizzeria makes it differently, but it is always delicious and something I truly never would have tried if it weren’t for my time working with the Theta Tau chapter.
Although the culture here in the Garden State is quite different than that of my home Golden State, I have found much to love in New Jersey’s charm. The sisters I have the pleasure to work with every day have taught me the things they love about their home and they have helped me feel more at home here on the opposite side of the country from my friends and family. Although I think it’s unlikely I will become a permanent Jersey resident, I am proud to have been let in on some of the secrets of this small but mighty state.