What do a bunch of New York college students think of when they think of Indiana? (or the Midwest)

crystal meth, tornadoes, no public transportation, that 70s show, Indians, horses, the Derby, overalls, flat land, Indiana University known party school, dirt (3x), rural (2x), river, republicans, nowhere land, tumbleweeds (4x), western movies (2x), lots of driving, Middle of Nowhere (4x), Country, Boring (5x), farms (8x), Indianapolis, Indiana Jones, lots of land, cows, basketball, boonies, do you mean India?, sunny, hot (2x), wild, barren, plains, cowboys (2x), guitar, country music, Pacers (3x), Junior Gold bowling tourney, accent (4x), no idea, small (3x), cacti (2x), mountains, coyotes, snakes, Colts (2x), quiet  (4x), Larry Bird, potatoes, Michael Jackson (3x), close-knit, corn, flat, Hoosiers (2x), Dorothy, I’ve heard they talk like you’re supposed to talk, Peyton Manning, Reggie Miller, wide open (2x), cold, country (2x), animals, relax, agriculture, Notre Dame, Noodles and Company, hillbillies (2x), snow, never thought of it before this, I know it’s a state, good music, Bible belt, conservative, small town people, Where’s that? (2x), hicks, hospitality

I've never seen a tumbleweed in Indiana!

From “Torg”:  Why am I asking my students such a question?

A while back I wanted to finish the following:  my novel A Viking on the Subway, a script adaptation of Viking, revise my collection Horseshoe so that it is a novel-in-stories, and then do a script for it too.  I’ve finally finished all that, and so I’m turning to the next project.  I’ve been thinking that I want to write something that comes from my students at St. John’s University for my students at St. John’s University.  What I mean by that is that I think all of us here at SJU have a unique opportunity to meet and talk with people from all over the world who have all sorts of backgrounds.

Yes, we do have cornfields.

Even for those who are from the city, I often find that each student’s neighborhood, block, or building may not be very diverse.  In other words, a lot of us tend to hang out with people who are like us.  For this book, which might involve a road trip from NYC to my home state of Indiana, I’d like to draw on all the chances I have to see beyond stereotypes, write a story that flies past those stereotypes, and hopefully tell an interesting story that my students past, present, and future would enjoy.

My initial impression was that most of my students not from the United States wouldn’t have even heard of “Indiana.”  After all, did you know that Cote d’Ivoire is a country or that the Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia?  Perhaps you do, but I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, I’m not sure I did when I showed up here to teach writing.  For the most part, my students nailed it with “farms” being the most common answer.  I’m not quite sure where all the tumbleweeds came from.  🙂

Indianapolis, Indiana