Concordia was never part of my “plan.”
Then again, I never really had a plan. As a California native, I just wanted to go someplace new. Concordia was a recommendation from a friend combined with a thirst to experience life outside the bubble, albeit beautiful bubble, of Southern California life – the only life (and climate) I’d ever known.
Before you ask, yes, the winter was harsh and no, I am not crazy. Let me tell you why: Concordia is filled with great students and great professors. Midwest culture is one of the friendliest and kindest in the world. Also, hotdish is pretty good and that potluck standard marshmallow-y fruit salad is even better.
Midwest culture is one of the friendliest and kindest in the world. – Marisa Jackels
For someone that chose to leave a warm coastal city for Concordia and was excited to experience something new, I was disheartened by the amount of skepticism I got from people about that choice. And it wasn’t just people; it was the locals. It was those, I later realized, who had been trained to see their city as a place to leave, a place that had nothing going for it, just another “middle of nowhere.”
I, on the other hand, saw all the gems about Fargo-Moorhead. I had the best boba drinks in the world at Teaberry. I walked to Spicy Pie and relished their crispy crust. I soaked in Shakey Mondays and marveled at the first snowfall.
Of course, I did miss much about California: the beautiful weather, the ocean nearby, my family. But I have never regretted that decision to move to the “Great White North” and become a Cobber. It challenged me and it enriched me and, most of all, I made great friends from all over the world. (I also feel that after braving Fargo winters I can now live pretty much anywhere.)
Still, I never would have guessed that I would be writing this in a house just a few minutes away from my alma mater. When I graduated and bid au revoir to my friends, to DS, to Hoyum and Brown and all the memories etched into the walls and sidewalks of that campus, I thought it was for good. I went to live in France and then California, never thinking I’d be back.
All that changed when I got a phone call from a fellow Cobber, Matt Gantz. A local organization was looking for a writer, he said. I was longing to write. So, off I flew, to a new part of Fargo, to be a writer for a group called Emerging Prairie.
Little did I know I was joining a group that was making waves in the community and has not stopped doing so since I arrived. Emerging Prairie is a nonprofit organization with a mission to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem. My role as lead writer was to do what I’d dreamt of doing my whole life: tell people’s stories. In this case, the stories of tech-based entrepreneurs.
There is much I could say about the world of tech and the fascinating future all around us – a future of autonomous cars, 3D printed bones, virtual money, sewage pipe drones.
But beyond the tech, beyond the stories, beyond even Fargo, the true pulse of Emerging Prairie is one that is applicable to anyone. It doesn't matter if you're a student, a worker or president of the United States. It is wrapped in three simple words: Count yourself in.
Count yourself in. – Marisa Jackels
For me, it means this: You hold the power to start things – to start a company, to start a meetup group, to start a website. You hold the ability to give value – hosting a party, making art, introducing one person to another. You hold the responsibility to speak up in your community and make change when it is needed – practicing inclusivity, welcoming diversity, always putting others before yourself.
As a scared teenager on the brink of adulthood, when I asked about college and life I often heard: “It’s what you make of it.”
I now see there is truth to that. I see, here in Fargo-Moorhead, how a community is made up of individuals choosing to be engaged, and choosing to care about each other. I see how change happens when you leap over the guardrails of life and do something unexpected – like move to a place with cold winters and hotdish.
It takes courage to make these leaps, and it is scary. But Concordia, Emerging Prairie, California and Fargo have taught me that with every leap, however frightening, life opens up. It becomes even more full, and even more beautiful, than ever before.
The choice is yours.
So no, Concordia was never part of my plan. Fargo was never part of my plan. But I'm so glad that when the moment came to take the leap – I jumped.
Video by Evan Balko
Marisa Jackels '14 is a freelance writer from Thousand Oaks, Calif.