International Student Appreciation Week 1: Michael Locatelli Toronto, Canada

By: Michael Locatelli, For The Clock

I moved to the United States for the first time when I was nineteen years old. The coach of the hockey team I was playing for found a small two-bedroom apartment in Billerica, MA for myself and one of my teammates. It was my first experience being totally alone, away from authority and rules. The apartment was brutal, we had no furniture except for a fold out beer-pong table that we used for eating meals, and a couple of air mattresses that we slept on. No sofa’s, no televisions, no dressers for our clothes; just a kitchen, and basic necessities we found at the local K-Mart.

My roommate, Jake, was from Minnetonka, MN and he grew up inside this profoundly unique American culture. However, this was my first experience living in a foreign land. I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and while many people think our cultures and ways of life are almost identical, they couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, we have the same suburbs, strip malls, and inner cities, however it was the differences I found in American culture, and in American ways of life, that prompted me to stay here for college with hopes of spending the rest of my life south of my homeland’s borders. Don’t get me wrong, I love Canada and I am beyond proud of where I am from. However, as I lived through that year in Massachusetts, I found myself falling in love with the emphasis on personal freedom in US culture.

In Canada, and other countries, which have greater socialist tendencies, there is less valueplaced in personal accountability and freedom. Instead, it is placed on the community, the thought process regarding law and freedom becomes about society at large, as opposed to a more scoped perspective which is found here in the United States. This way of life spoke to me, yet I couldn’t find the words to explain the specifics of what I enjoyed so much about being here to my friends and family back home. I finally found those words when I moved to New Hampshire and enrolled at Plymouth State. The motto “Live Free or Die” were those words I was looking for. This motto used to seem quite extreme to me, yet after experiencing what “Live Free or Die” truly meant, I became enamored with New England and American culture.

It is a safe assumption to make that an emphasis on personal freedom creates a divided society, and while this is true in some cases, it is not true for all. What I found here at Plymouth State was a community founded in freedom and inclusivity. It is the epitome of what I believe to be the meaning of “Live Free or Die”. Most of the people I have met here want to have fun, they want to learn, and they want to be a part of something larger than themselves. Yet, there is such a focus on the individual, whether as a student or a student-athlete, everything seems to come back to this idea of personal freedom and belonging. I am blessed to have found such a beautiful culture outside of my own, and I will be forever grateful that I am able to experience this profoundly unique culture every day of my life.