“Don’t Cry for Me, Minnesota”: A Farewell to My Home State – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

“Don’t Cry for Me, Minnesota”: A Farewell to My Home State – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


My college graduation coincided with the exciting news that I received a teaching assistantship in Zhuhai, China, for the 2015-2016 academic year. I was not only happy to actually have employment (at least in the short-term), but I looked forward to living and working abroad and learning more about Zhuhai, the Guangdong Province, and China as a whole.


However, this sense of excitement has a flipside: given that I will be in Zhuhai for ten months, it made me reevaluate my love for my own “homeland”: Minnesota, USA. Strangely enough, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about embracing my American identity. I admire many aspects of the USA, such as its can-do pioneering spirit, and try to realize the freedoms and privileges that I received (and receive) solely based on my American citizenship. However, due to the USA’s controversial history (especially its maltreatment of Native Americans, African Americans, and other frequently marginalized groups) and stereotypes that emphasize “American exceptionalism”, I am sometimes wary of being considered an arrogant, ignorant, and hypocritical person due to my nationality.


My relationship with my home state, Minnesota, is much more loving and uncomplicated than the one with my home country. I feel that, for better or for worse, Minnesota is often portrayed as a much more polite, modest, hard-working, and friendlier microcosm of the USA. Since I feel that these traits better reflect my personality, and I have noticed that many of my family, friends, and coworkers possess these characteristics as well, I am much more accepting towards my Minnesotan-ness. Furthermore, my upbringing and life experiences highlighted the beauty of life in Minnesota. In school, we learned about the rich indigenous cultures and traditions of the Dakota and Ojibwe. My own family heritage consists of Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish immigrants who came to Minnesota and toiled hard to build better lives for themselves; these groups, and others, have made Minnesota an intriguing blend of cultural diversity. I grew up surrounded by lush pine forests, rocky cliffs, and the sparkling blue waters of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and lived to the rhythm of trains and ore carriers hauling off iron ore on Lake Superior. For these reasons and so many more, I recognize how much Minnesota has shaped my personality, values, and overall being, and this has given me a deep love for my home state.


Despite my Minnesotan patriotism, I’ve also been born with a great sense of curiosity and interest in other cultures and sense of wanderlust. Thus, I feel that it is time to move on and explore the rest of our great big Earth. As I approach my Zhuhai journey and the opportunity to adopt a Guangdong-ian/ Chinese spirit, it feels a tad bittersweet to leave behind my dear state. I will miss Minnesota and everything that I associate with it: agates, Judy Garland, Prince, Trampled By Turtles, Peanuts, highly literate cities, the Aerial Lift Bridge, Split Rock Lighthouse, Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox, the world’s largest ball of twine, wild rice, lefse, injera…the list goes on and on (though I won’t miss its long, Arctic winters). However, I will find new opportunities and passions in Zhuhai, China, and beyond, and while I will always be a Minnesotan at heart, I can’t wait to see how these traveling experiences contribute to the mosaic of my personality.


Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under Marin Ekstrom, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

43 responses to ““Don’t Cry for Me, Minnesota”: A Farewell to My Home State – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Martti Maunula

      Congratulations on the job! I can relate to this, but on a much smaller scale. I lived in Canada for most of my childhood before coming to the United States to finish up my high school. I remember when I first arrived there were many stereotypes of what a Canadian was and how they were supposed to act, everyone thought I would say “eh” and I don’t. Many others expected me to be a huge hockey nut which I also am not. It’s interesting to see more in how we are different from what is generally accepted from our home countries rather than how we are all the same.

  1. Holly Kampa

    First off I want to congratulate you on this wonderful opportunity in Zhuhai, how exciting! I’ve never personally traveled abroad, but I can imagine how exciting and nerve wracking it is at the same time. The US tends to get a good and bad rep. There are many stigmas that label our country as “privledged” or “better than everyone else.” However I agree the Minnesota has a better image. When I talk to others who live out of state, they can’t believe how nice Minnesotans are. The “Minnesota Nice” saying reveals itself as true. Thinking about if I could live anywhere else I honestly can’t see myself uprooting. Yes the winters are brutal at times, but like you said MN has many beautiful aspects. Congrats once again!

  2. Jenna Algoo

    Much congrats are in order Marin! I hope your journey is incredible. The way you write about Minnesota would, I’m sure, make most people from Minnesota warm and fuzzy about our home state. I very much so see where you’re coming from with the “idea” of the United States and how people perceive them. It is a tiring idea to constantly reassure against. Have a wonderful time and I can’t wait to read more from you.

  3. Emily Ciernia

    I think that it is so cool that you have the opportunity to teach abroad for so long, congratulations! I have never been to Zhuhai, but I can only imagine how different it will be compared to Minnesota. I, like you, have lived in Minnesota my entire life and have truly grown to appreciate it for shaping who I am today (despite the long, horrible winters). I think that traveling abroad will be so rewarding because you get to experience a different way of life, and it might even make you appreciate the Minnesota life even more. I am sure it will be the trip of a lifetime! Thank you for sharing, Marin!

  4. McKenzie Ketcher

    I can also agree with you that stereotypes can be harmful. Even though America does have some negative stereotypes, there are also many positive ones! My advice is: don’t let all the negative stop you from realizing all the good things about America :’) China will be beautiful, and I am very envious that you get to spend a part of your life, not only learning about different cultures, but first hand getting to experiencing it yourself. It truly is a blessing. Enjoy!

  5. Matt Breeze

    Looking forward to going abroad while at the same time appreciating your homeland is very cool! Minnesota pride is not the same as many other states, like Texas for example, but having pride in your home state is wonderful! The stereotypes of the greater U.S. are evident in Minnesota, but the idea of Minnesota nice is a lovely idea that seems to hold true. Have fun abroad and spread the word about the greatness of Minnesota!

  6. Roman Schnobrich

    Great article! I enjoyed your bit that described what Minnesota has to offer and its uniquenesses. Also happy to read that you’re into the local music scene– I feel that our generation overlooks the great musicians that come from Minnesota. Hopefully there will be a lake near where your job is, I imagine that would help you adjust. The negative stereotypes of the U.S. can be defeated with positive ones, as long as we keep creating them!

  7. Molly Enich

    Congratulations on this new stage of your life! Its always exciting to leave home, but once you are gone you appreciate things you’ve taken for granted all your life. The lifestyle, attitudes, and norms of Minnesota are truly their own. What I’ve noticed from traveling is that “Minnesota nice” is definitely real! In the Midwest, we have a much slower pace of life than the East Coast and it’s a shock to the system once you are in that face paced lifestyle. Have a great time in China and remember that its always good to go, but its good to come back home.

  8. Gina Palmi

    I completely agree with your take on Minnesota. I have lived here my entire life and I too feel a love for the state. I also agree that I feel more connected to Minnesota more so than the United States. However, I’m sure you will have such an exciting and insightful ten months in China! It is good to round ourselves out and broaden our horizons. Good luck in your endeavors!

  9. Connor

    Congratulations on your teaching opportunity. As someone who was born and raised in Minnesota, i felt a lot of pride reading this article. Having never been very far from home, I feel the same way about the idea of leaving after graduation. Do you think that you will someday return to live in Minnesota? Or is this is a more permanent farewell for you?
    Best of luck in China.

  10. How very exciting! You are very lucky to have such a great opportunity! I hope you have a safe and wonderful time in China! I had never noticed it before, but I have felt the same love and admiration for Minnesota as well (even if I live across the bridge in Wisconsin…Minnesota was close to home and I consider it as such). Leaving home can still be hard, even for adventurous spirits, I’m sure. I hope to hear and read more about your experiences!

  11. Sofia Pineda

    I think that leaving everything you have known all your life can be very challenging but also very eye opening. It is in that exact moment, I believe, that you start to see everything that we usually take for granted. In a way you appreciate more what you have and understand how much it has shaped who you are. As you travel you also learn to see your country/home state through the eyes of the outsiders learning both good and bad things that you have not considered. I hope this experience is everything you hope and more.

  12. I think it takes guts to love your country and to leave it. It also takes a touch of craziness to do both. It is amazing how our concept of home can change as we travel and live in other places. Time is certainly a great normalizer.

    When I first came to the U.S., I thought that culture was something I could try on and adjust and pick what I like. But culture, when you get right down to it, has very little to do with traditional dances or national dishes or fashion trends. After a few months, or even to this very day, I find culture to be a deeply ingrained way of thinking, it permeates everything. I hope this is something you discover in China. It is great how we can appreciate, embrace and even try to understand culture.

  13. Kyle Dosan

    Congrats on the opportunity that you have been given! It is always interesting to see what other countries think of America because some do not agree with what we have done in the past. The point you make about Minnesota playing a big role in you growing up, especially being “Minnesota Nice” is great. Hope you have a fantastic experience in China!

  14. Rachel Reicher

    Being that I am a born resident of Minnesota I can relate to many of the glorious things about Minnesota listed above. I can agree that it is in the best interest for people to travel to other parts of the world to experience outside cultures of Minnesota. Traveling to these places gives many opportunities to grab hold of and physically experience cultures outside of your own. No person ever forgets the place where they grew up, the place where their greatest memories were made, the place where their parents will continue to live, and I believe that with those connections to a place can ensure those memories will never fade. Our hometown, or home state, is who we are and what created us to be individual. I hope to do the same and travel to a place where I am unfamiliar to their culture and experience a new way of life, while still remembering where I came from.

  15. Jodi Moran

    What an amazing opportunity to be able to start off your professional career in another country! Although I have lived in Minnesota for the majority of my life, I am not originally from Minnesota. However, I definitely agree that Minnesotans live up to the “Minnesota nice” in many aspects of life, and that Minnesota nice is inter-weaved into daily life. It will be interesting to learn how other countries view the US. Good luck with your adventures!

    • First off, I am very excited for you and wish you the best as you start a new chapter of your life in China. What an opportunity! Also, living in Minnesota my whole life, I feel I can relate to exactly what you have to say about it, and I don’t think you will miss the winters.. As for the negative stereotypes, I think that is an interesting point to bring up and that not a lot of people notice. I would say don’t worry about it, you are already ahead of the game- so show them what “Minnesota nice” is all about! You got it!

  16. Jessica Richart

    Wow!! What an exciting opportunity! I have traveled a couple of times, once being to the Philippines. It was an experience I will never forget. They were very welcoming and excited to have us there. I hope that you will have a similar experience! Although sometimes there is a stigma with the US, I think that your “Minnesota Nice” sense will shine through. I wish you the best of luck! It will be such a cool experience to be submerged in such a new culture. Thank you for sharing!

  17. jmg1912

    Congratulations on this opportunity in China – I’m sure that it will be a fantastic adventure! I really enjoyed reading about your thoughts on leaving your Minnesota home and all that you have come to connect with it. It makes me think of how as we slowly go deeper in to categories the more often we are able to connect with them (American=>Minnesotan=>Etc….). Along with the complicated relationships that there is with identity. I’m most interested in how the values compare and contrast one another and how that may/will shift your view-point. Good wishes to you on this new journey!

  18. If I had grown up in Duluth, I would probably feel the same way about Minnesota as you do now. My hometown is a ridiculously flat expanse of farms, gas stations, and churches. Growing up here, of course I was imbued with the same sense of wanderlust… it’s one of the reasons I ended up in Duluth, one of my favorite places, and plan to stay here for much of the remainder of my life. But like you, I see that the rest of the world has so much to offer it’s kind of unfair that there’s no way to see it all. Congratulations on this opportunity, and best of luck to you!

  19. Meghan Lozinski

    As I read your post I couldn’t help but think of the article “Minnesotan’s have Thick Coats but Thin Skins” (at least that’s what I think it’s called). That article is about a national ranking of counties by beauty, in which Red Lake County was ranked extremely low and how Minnesotans, so well known for passive aggressive kindness, were up in arms, writing letters to the publication defending our state. Al Franken even got involved. I thought of this because your post points out how much Minnesotans tend to love Minnesota and all it has to offer, even the odd things like the largest ball of twine (which I have actually gone to see with my family).

  20. Nichole DeBoom

    This article was beautiful. I am so happy that you have the opportunity to broaden your horizons and travel to new places. The way you described Minnesota is how many of us feel as well. Bring those characteristics you learned here to China and they will admire you. The pictures you have are phenomenal and show the true beauty of our state. Best of luck to you and your travels!

  21. Thomas Landgren

    Before reading your article I never really thought of what it would be like to leave my home and live in another country. I agree that there is a stereotype for US citizens in foreign countries just like everyone, but I feel you will break that stereotype and be your own person while you stay in China. If you had the opportunity to stay in China longer would you? Good luck on your coming adventures and I look forward to more articles about your experiences.

  22. Jacob Carson

    Being from Alaska, I do understand what it means to have more patriotism toward your state than you might have for your country. I find the American Identity to be a bit too much for me to celebrate, but I am proud to be an Alaskan. Being from a place that is far removed from just about everything else has given me a unique perspective on our country and ultimately our world as a whole. I think that our isolation allows Alaskans to stay disconnected from the ideas of American exceptionalism and the “we are the greatest” mentality. I think pride honestly is our countries fatal flaw at times, and even though it is supposed to give us strength, believing we are number one just doesn’t cut it anymore. We have to use our actions as a nation to “walk the walk” and until that happens I will always consider myself an Alaskan first.

  23. Donovan Blatz

    Living here all my life and being able to enjoy Minnesota has been in my mind a blessing. Having to pack up and move to a whole other country where you don’t speak the native language must be a bit scary. It will be interesting to see what the students you are teaching think of the United States and if they even know where Minnesota is! I’m sure teaching will be eye opening for you and I wish you the best on your future job!

  24. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    Home is somewhere you always want to leave, until you actually do leave then you usually want to go back. I have experienced this coming from Canada to attend school in the United States. I felt like I wanted to travel somewhere away from home, but now that I’m away I am fairly confident I will eventually end up back in Canada despite how much I enjoy my time here. Minnesota is a great state with many wonderful features that has now made me feel like I have 2 homes.

  25. Bryce Gadke

    The ability to travel across the world is a relatively new privilege in the grander scheme of world history. So, congratulations on not only receiving the assistant-ship, but also having the courage to take it. The exposure for you will be wonderful because it will serve as a contrast for your idea of living and the identification of home. There is a certain tie to where you were born and grow up, but there is also a tie to the place where you habitually think of and lay your head at night.

  26. Sara Desrocher

    I found this to be a really relevant article. I think that there is a large sense of community in Duluth that values the city over the country. I also have a sense of community for the city that I grew up in over the country that I live in. Although I do have a love for the USA, when I think of what is important to me, Minnesota comes to mind over the entire country. I think that it is easier to have a certain love for a state or city because it is more secluded and not as general as the country.

  27. Nick Campbell

    This is an article which I believe a lot of students can relate to. The idea of leaving an area you’ve lived in and grown to love has both upside and some downside. I’ve lived in Minnesota for my whole life, but I intend to study abroad and visit other regions of the world throughout my life time. While it is something to look forward to, adventuring the rest of the world, it is also weird to think of moving out of this state.

  28. Carley Nadeau

    I love your take on Minnesota. I, too have more love for my state then my country, also believing that my Minnesotaness has shaped me more than being an American. It will be interesting to see if your personality changed any over the next 10 months. Good luck in China and have fun :).

  29. Carley Nadeau

    I loved this article. I can totally relate to having a stronger connection to Minnesota then America. I feel like Minnesota has defined and shaped me more than America has. It will be interesting to see how China shapes you over the next 10 months. Have fun!

  30. Andrea Ramler

    Living here in Minnesota is an honor to many and what we stand for as the “Minnesota nice”. Although at some pint in your life it may be time to experience something new. I understand that it is hard to leave the place you have always called home, but it will always remain your first home. In fact it will always be apart of you no matter where you decide to go. I think that China would be an awesome opportunity, and I am glad that you are taking advantage of it, good for you! Good luck in your new journey as you start a new life!

  31. Kyle Hellmann

    Great Article Marin! You really point out the dilemma that many people have after graduation. I graduate this spring, and from what I’ve asked my classmates, its about 50/50 split from staying in Duluth or moving somewhere else. Like yourself, wherever I end up, I will carry a little bit of Duluth with my heart! Thanks for sharing!

  32. Sarah Burton

    Congratulations on being able to experience such a wonderful opportunity in China! It is always exciting to travel and be able to experience life in a different country, even though it is hard to leave where you have grown up. I grew up in Wisconsin and have been able to have a deep appreciation for the way I was raised and the way Wisconsin has shaped me as a person. I think that it is important to experience a different state, or even country, to grow an even deeper appreciation for the area that you were raised. Even being a couple hours away from home, has made me appreciate my family and where I grew up more. Good luck in China and I hope it is a great experience!

  33. Mike Zupfer

    Congratulations! I have also lived in Minnesota my entire life. I have, however, gotten a lot of chances to vacation out of state and even out of country in Mexico. It is quite interesting to see different cultures when you leave not just your country but your state as well. I would have to say Minnesota will always be my home, no matter where life ends up taking me, just because of the characteristics you just told us you saw in everyone. Every time I travel to a new state, I often compare the two to see what sort of characteristics are similar and I have yet to find another state like ours. I could just be looking in the wrong area though!

  34. That’s an interesting distinction you’ve made between your identity as a United States citizen and as a Minnesotan. Although I have not traveled abroad, I find myself struggling to identify with the U.S. past; however, there seem to be more positives from Minnesota, my hometown, and Duluth that I identify with. Being in another country must make that more pronounced.

    I also liked the list you assembled of what makes Minnesota so Minnesotan. It would be interesting to see what other Minnesotans would list. Additionally, what would people outside Minnesota list?

  35. Catherine McConnell

    Although I am not from Minnesota, I grew up in the Suburbs of Chicago, my roots are in Minnesota with both sides of my family immigrating from Ireland and settling to farm in areas around Rochester, MN. Minnesota has always been “that place up north” and where we go to visit my great aunts in the monastery in Rochester. I never thought I would ever live or go to school anywhere close to this state, but as fate has it I am here. And I love it, I have found everything you mentioned in the article true about Minnesotans and I find most of the people match the same easy going culture that I was raised with, much unlike the characters my suburban childhood. But like you, I am filled with the dicer to travel and live abroad but I know that the gentle traits I learned while living in this state will serve me well along the way.

  36. I found it interesting that you said Minnesota is a kinder, more polite microcosm of the US. I went to Colorado once and we were shopping at some unique little stores and we smiled or said hi to everyone we walked by, and we slowly realized that wasn’t normal when we received looks like “i don’t know you.” are you trying to steal my wallet and so on. It defiantly has changed how I act and many of my mannerisms

  37. Isabella Williams

    It’s always a hard line to walk as someone educated in our country’s history to be aware of that but also keep a sense of national pride. Each country has its own past, and while ours is particularly dark, I am proud to call our small state home!

  38. Nichole DeBoom

    I really enjoyed your point of view on this article! Stereotypes can be so harsh and hurtful, especially against those just trying to explore our beautiful world. The pride of American’s is just like any other country, everyone thinks theirs is the best. I hope you adjust quickly to your “new home” and enjoy your time!

  39. Megan Bingham

    I felt that this article was very relevant to our class. We read “The Glossary of Happiness”. That article talked about how different cultures are more familiar with certain feelings because they have different words that describe them. I think that with this move for work in china will have so many new experiences. To have pride in MN is great, but most people have pride in the place they live. I hope you find a new pride in china as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.