When I decided to accept a new position at the University of North Dakota, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I packed up my U-Haul and moved from Michigan to the Great Plains. After driving across the Midwest, things began to get flat. Really flat. The landscape was changing: the hills, lakes, and cities that I grew up around had turned into fields of corn, small towns with populations of two hundred people miles and miles apart from each other, and a sky that never seemed to end. Even though this strange land seemed vacant, with limited options to make a living, I oddly felt at home.
North Dakota has its own natural beauty. You can drive for miles in any direction and admire the openness of the land, the fresh air, and a sky that is breathtaking; there is definitely a reason why it’s called “Big Sky Country.” Across the plains, you can watch the prairie dogs chase each other while the bison roam the open fields, watch the lights dance in the northern sky, observe a stunning sunset every evening or catch a glance of a stunning sundog on a cold winter day. To the east you have the Red River Valley full of greenery and life, while the west offers the Badlands with their majestic beauty. There is just something about living in North Dakota that takes you back to the pioneer days, a simpler life of minimal living but hard work. Even though North Dakota is a place of tranquility, things have not always been easy.
During my time at the University of North Dakota, I heave learned the history of the institution and the surrounding community. UND takes pride in being founded in 1883, six years before North Dakota became a state. The institution faced many challenges but persevered. In 1918, the flu epidemic killed 1,400 people in the state and later that year, classes at UND were suspended as the campus become a military base during World War I. During the Great Depression, the campus housed students in railroad cabooses for free in exchange for manual labor. Food was scarce, but the community came together and made sure that the students had a meal.
In 1997, the Red River Valley area was affected by flooding of the Red River caused by excessive snowfall and cold temperatures. While most of the area dealt with flooding, Grand Forks was severely impacted. The river crested at fifty-four feet, most of the dikes were made to withstand flooding up to forty-nine feet, a height determined after flooding in 1979. During the flood of 1997, many homes, businesses, and the University of North Dakota were affected. Many people could not return to their homes until the floodwaters receded, and the university closed for the remainder of the semester due to damages to many of the buildings. Each of these events has brought the community together and shown that the people of North Dakota are resilient.
Despite the below-zero temperatures in the winter, the economic success and possible decline due to the oil boom, plus the weather dependent agriculture industry’s struggles and successes, North Dakota has a lot to offer. Traveling to this state shows one a time when the United States was exploring the west, a time where cultures clashed and worked together to survive, a life where people are dependent on the land, and a view into the lives of a people who have persevered through troubled times but yet remain positive. I did not know anything about the state until I moved here and have learned so much. I have developed an appreciation of how this state has shaped the history of the United States and an appreciation for the hardworking mentality of the people here who do what they can to help this state grow.
If you were ever thinking, why would I ever go to North Dakota? Second guess yourself and come visit Legendary North Dakota; you will not be disappointed!