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A Love Letter to New Jersey

When I was in high school, New Jersey was the place that everyone sought to leave.

Students committed to schools across the country, seeking to get out of “Dirty Jersey.” Even I could not wait to attend college out of state. I remember as I packed up my parents car, full of excitement for a new start and stories of my former high school classmates adventuring throughout Florida, I was ready more than ever to experience something new.

By the end of my freshman year of college, I realized truly how much I appreciated where I grew up. As I drove through the backroads of my town when I returned for summer break, surrounded by farmland, horses and herds of deer, I realized Jersey wasn’t so “dirty” after all.

New Jersey is where my roots were first planted, and will remain. No matter where I move next or where my next adventure takes me, I’ll always think about the way the ocean smelled on an August evening as I watched the sun set into the veil of nighttime. It would appear again soon enough, shining its lights on farms full of Jersey tomatoes and corn— the same corn my mom would have me husk on my deck after a long day swimming in my pool.

When I would take trips to visit my friends on Long Island, I would catch myself ordering a “pork roll, egg and cheese,” for breakfast, knowing fully well I couldn’t get one there.

Living out of state for a period of time has also taught me a number of lessons. I have learned that pumping one’s own gas is not as scary as some may think, that taking the train into New York City on a Tuesday afternoon is the epitome of what spontaneity is all about and that I have dreams of getting a masters degree in a European country after studying in Spain for four months.

A Sunset at the Jersey Shore

For as big as my dreams and aspirations are, however, they all sprouted in my home state. A state where I was encouraged to pursue goals of any kind. A state where a day at the Jersey Shore meant trying ice cream flavors that were different than just chocolate and vanilla and motivating myself to jump into the oceans waves, ignoring what could potentially be lurking farther out.

Now, as I watch childhood friends move to different states to escape the “bubble” they were “stuck in”, I realize that it is in fact not a bubble you can pop and forget ever existed. For me, the grass I stand upon in the garden state is my foundation, with the aromas of pork roll sandwiches, Jersey Shore days and quiet nights by a fire pit decorating it with memories, triumphs and failures.

But most importantly, New Jersey is my home.

As I seek out my new adventures in countries far away from this state, I know I will always keep coming back home—because I could never truly be far from home for too long.

Love Always,

Nicole Iuzzolino

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