New Jersey to Alabama: A Physical Therapy Student's Journey
by Zahra Asif
October 14, 2022
The most asked question I got during my clinical rotation with Physiolete was how I ended up in Alabama if I wasn’t from here and don’t have any family around. I always started my response with “good question!” because it was, especially when the person asking found out I’m born and raised in New Jersey. Long story short, on the day we were picking clinical affiliations at PT school, fortunately, my name was randomly selected to go last. There were only a handful of clinics left and I was very confused about which one to pick. After talking to my professors about each site and them constantly bringing the conversation back to Physiolete and telling me how great it was, I made up my mind that it was the place for me. It was definitely the best decision. Not only have I learned so much at this clinic but it is more than I could have imagined.
The follow-up question after explaining my journey to Alabama was how it was compared to New Jersey. Let’s just say there are some differences that make each place unique in its own way. Before going further, I want to put out there that this is my personal experience and my opinions may not resonate with everyone. Also, keep in mind that I was only able to live in Tuscaloosa for 10 weeks in the summer. I love both places and don’t mean to scrutinize one or the other by any means. This article is meant to be a light-hearted, fun read and maybe bring some insight to northerners about the south and southerners about the north.
The first fact I want to point out which is probably obvious, it's HOT down here! I’m talking about stepping outside and getting smacked by the heat and humidity early in the morning. Don't get me wrong, it gets toasty up north as well, but I’d rather the temperature stay in the double digits. Although I was only here for the summer, I have had conversations about other times of the year with patients and other locals. One person mentioned that it’ll be 80º around here during the “winter”. Another mentioned how the south only experiences 2 seasons, “hot and not that hot”. As a fan of seeing all four seasons throughout the year, I will kindly give the point to NJ.
Now all the great things that I have been able to experience during my time here. Every week I would ask patients and other clients about things to do nearby. A lot of it involved going to the local lakes, hiking, and eating, which are some of my favorite things to do. First of all, let me talk about the lakes. They are absolutely breathtaking! The water is so nice and there is also a calming sensation I felt every time I went to one. No matter which one I visited (Lake Nicol, Lake Lurleen, Lake Tuscaloosa), I enjoyed sitting with a book and watching the water flow, making me feel at peace. Although we don’t have many lakes, we do have beaches that are a short drive from where I live in NJ. They do get crowded but there are some secret ones that many people do not know of where I usually go to feel the same sense of peace I got from these lakes. I appreciate the scenic lakes that are around here so I don’t have to drive hours to get to the beach in AL, especially with these gas prices!
Hiking here is just divine! It actually reminded me a lot of the hikes I would go on back home. It makes sense, you’re just in the middle of the woods enjoying nature. There is nothing marking it or making it different from state to state. You’re just surrounded by trees and animals and along the way you reach a beautiful scene that you try to take in as much as possible.
There are so many great places to eat here as well! Can’t really compare it to NJ cause both places have great cuisine. One thing that surprised me a lot about AL is the diversity they have down here, just like NJ. There were many places to get seafood, Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican, etc., and even halal food for my fellow Muslim friends! Although I loved the options, my bank account, on the other hand, was not a fan. But I was only here for a short amount of time, at least that’s what I would say to justify eating out.
Traffic is a blessing down here because there barely is any. No matter what time you’re on the road, the traffic does not compare to NJ. I feel like there are more cars than people when I’m there. Although this is true for the time that I was here, I need to take into account that the majority of the students that attend the University of Alabama were not here for the summer. I’m sure once the university is fully up and running in the fall, it’ll get a lot busier. Also the driving style is much more appreciated here. There aren’t crazy people swerving in and out or being impatient when it takes a few seconds to get your car accelerating once the light turns green. People also let you merge into their lane if you need to. Ever since I started driving in the south, I had to check my Jersey driving, but once I’m back there, I won’t have any other choice but to unleash it.
The people here seem like a different species. Everyone is super nice, I don’t think I have seen anyone angry or in a bad mood. I actually take that back, I have seen a couple of people in a bad mood, but they make sure not to let other people be affected by it. Don’t get me wrong, people can be super friendly up north as well, they will just make sure you are aware they are in a bad mood. As an empath, that is something that I don’t appreciate at all.
This article may seem like I’m criticizing one place more than the other, but truly I am not. Both places have their bright sides and not-so-bright sides. I’m sure if there was someone else writing this article, they would probably have different viewpoints. I love both places very much and what each of them has to offer. As a student in AL for her physical therapy clinical, this place was great to be independent, learn from, and explore on my own. As someone who is also family-oriented, NJ is where all my family and friends are, so it will always be home.