As an Idahoan, a “potato native,” attending Grand Canyon University has been the adventure of a lifetime packaged into four years. During my time in the heart of Phoenix, at GCU’s vibrant and growing campus, I have come to love and appreciate the desert and the people it holds. However, like any new resident, learning the culture and attitudes of a new state takes time. For any new and incoming Arizona residents, I hope to help you skip some of this learning curve and dive right into behaving as a true Arizonan would.
It is hot in the summer. Temperatures of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit are simply shocking to most people. In light of this, it is okay to make a comment or two about the weather and the heat, but assume that those around you have experienced far worse. Keep complaining to a minimum, because not only is it distasteful, but it also exposes your lack of desert experience.
Everything in the Arizonan wilderness is beautiful, yet dangerous. Admire the gorgeous saguaro cactus from afar, but do not touch them. They are prickly, and also Arizona’s pride and joy, protected by countless laws and regulations. A good side note is to learn to wait before attempting to pronounce this cacti’s name until your friend tells you how to properly say it, because this is also a dead giveaway you are from out-of-state.
Understand that it does rain in the desert. In fact, monsoon season can be one of the most spectacular breaks in Arizona’s fairly consistent weather patterns. The season starts early July and extends through September, so be on your guard for flooding, dust storms and lightning storms. In my opinion, these natural phenomenon are simply breath-taking and worth experiencing from a safe distance.
Do not assume all Arizonans have seen the Grand Canyon. A surprising amount of Arizona natives have actually never made the drive to the rim and stared down over the vastness of this natural wonder. Although this sight is, in fact, beyond “worth” the drive! While it is probably not a good idea to get too excited over the canyon, as it will give away your out-of-state identity, it is good to share in the general awe of experiencing it.
Arizona is not just desert. This is crucial, because anyone who only focuses on the rolling hills, cacti and heat has obviously not been in the state long. Only two hours north of Phoenix, the landscape rises into steep, pine filled terrain in Flagstaff. This is where fall colors emerge and where snow can be found in season. In my experience, it is completely worth the drive for a good cup of hot chocolate in October.
Deserts get cold. An understandable misnomer indeed, but again, when protecting your foreign identity and wellbeing, remember a jacket. If you really want to blend in, understand that Arizonans only get to where fall clothes for a short time, so when that weather drops to 80 degrees you better pull out boots, sweaters and scarves. All joking aside, December does get very cold at night! Don’t be caught off guard, and remember that even though Arizonans are forced to decorate cacti, they are wise to wear coats outside in the winter months.
Hopefully these tips from an out-of-state student will help in your journey to call the desert home. Remember Grand Canyon University has a very diverse student populous, so chances are you can share your findings and adventures in this great state with a friend and fellow foreigner.
Located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University has unique campus community and would love to host visiting prospective students. To learn more visit our website or click on the Request More Button at the top of this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.