Andrew Gresham, a sophomore political science major, was looking for a change of scenery when he decided to attend school in the big apple. New York City could not be more different than his hometown of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. Pitt Meadows, located just outside of Vancouver, has a population about 1 percent that of the Bronx.
“It’s really different,” Gresham said, “that was one of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Manhattan College, just because it was so different from where I grew up.”
Gresham’s decision to attend Manhattan College was largely based on lacrosse as well. “I was recruited by a couple schools, some of them in the northeast and some more out west,” Gresham said.
In the end, it turned out that Gresham could not resist the allure of the city. “As soon as I came to New York I was like, this is somewhere that I want to be and work,” Gresham said. “There’s always something to do, there’s always stuff going on, so I found that really interesting, it’s pretty much polar opposite compared to where I grew up, but I like it a lot.”
Gresham expected the city to be a lot busier than Pitt Meadows, but was most surprised by the diversity of people. “It was crazy just how many people you see all over the place, and how many different types of people,” Gresham said. “When you go to Times Square, which is one of the first places I went when I came to New York, just all the different people in the streets, like the vendors, it was all crazy, because I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Gresham was not only impressed by the people but “Manhattan itself… the skyline is unbelievable,” Gresham said.
While starting college in the US was an entirely new adventure, it was not the first time Gresham ever visited. At age nine, Gresham traveled to the US on a family vacation. “My family did a trip to go see Mt. Rushmore…it was pretty neat… then we went all around the northwest of the US, to Washington, Oregon, [and] Utah” said Gresham.
Soon after Gresham turned 12, he began playing lacrosse at a more competitive level, which meant even more travel to the U.S. “I played on a touring team that would come down to the states at least twice a year and we would do tournaments all throughout the northeast, we went to Florida, North Carolina, and then we also did some tournaments in Washington and California too,” Gresham said.
Those trips usually meant a few missed days of school, from Wednesday to Monday, and was something that Gresham did from the time he was 12 until he was 17. “In the states, all my roommates played high school lacrosse and that’s pretty competitive. In Canada, club is the really competitive one and then the kids who are trying to get recruited to the states play on touring teams, like what I played on, and then that’s why they go to the states to play tournaments,” said Gresham.
In Canada, lacrosse is the national summer sport. “Growing up, lacrosse and hockey are kind of the two main sports, then either one kind of branch off, so you pick a sport when you’re 10 or 11 so,” Gresham said.
While Gresham did spend some time traveling throughout the United States, growing up, he spent most of his time in the small town of Pitt Meadows. In a lot of ways, Pitt Meadows is the complete opposite of New York City.
“If something happens everyone kind of knows what’s going on,” Gresham said, “how small and tight knit the community is, is pretty different than some of the other places that I’ve been.” That community is something that Gresham identifies with his home. “It has a very ‘homey’ feeling, just because it’s so small, you can literally walk across town in half an hour… it’s unique in that aspect,” said Gresham. On top of that, “the people there are really down to earth and I feel like everyone is just super nice,” said Gresham.
Pitt Meadows is an old farm town that once had acres of blueberry farms and corn farms, along with both cattle and horses. The town has similar weather to Seattle, which means a lot of rain, but it does not get as cold as other parts of Canada. The town also borders the Fraser River, “a huge river that goes through pretty much all the lower mainland of BC,” Gresham said, “and then on the other side is all mountains.”
While there are many natural beauties surrounding town, one of Gresham’s favorite places near home is Pitt Lake. It’s “a huge lake just at end of town… [the] scenery around the lake is beautiful and the water is see-through blue…we go boating there… and fishing and stuff like that, canoeing, kayaking. Getting out there… it’s kind of nice getting away from the world for a little bit,” Gresham said.
Gresham isn’t the only one that enjoys the vast expanses of nature in British Columbia. “There’s grizzlies, cougars, everything… [my] craziest encounter was probably when I was hiking just outside of Whistler, which is about two hours north of me… I was hiking with my family, I was 12, and we saw a grizzly bear and its cubs maybe 200 yards ahead of us… we had to stop and wait for it to move on, and then we went back,” Gresham said.
While Gresham’s family takes full advantage of the area where they now reside, Gresham’s family has not always lived in this little pocket of British Columbia. “My mom was born in Calgary, Alberta and then my dad was born in Whitney, Ontario,” Gresham said, “and then they met in University, at York University, just outside of Toronto and then they moved to BC about twenty years ago.”
Being so far from home, the transition to college was not without its challenges. “It was pretty tough,” Gresham said, “at the start of the first semester that I had at college, it was hard being away from my friends and family… but all the friends that I’ve made held me down and made it a lot easier, because everyone is so nice here. And being on the lacrosse team, everyone is always there for each other so that helped a lot,” Gresham said. While the transition was not an easy one, “I was really excited to come to college and play lacrosse, so the excitement kind of helped the anxiety,” he said.
Since Gresham only makes the trek home for winter and summer breaks, he really cherishes the time that he does spend there. Upon returning home, the first thing he does is catch up with friends and family. “I make sure everyone is doing well, and then after that I try and relax and catch up on my sleep,” Gresham said, “a perfect day at home, I’d probably sleep in until one in the afternoon, wake up, probably grab a bite to eat with some of my friends, go for a drive out to the lake, [and] play lacrosse or pick up basketball or something like that with my friends.”
Attending school nearly 3,000 miles from home, Gresham is learning what “being independent” really means. “I’ve become a little bit more mature, just being away from my family, my friends, my roots, I’ve had to grow up a little bit. Like doing laundry, managing time, appointments and all that, I have to do all that on my own now and that’s been a learning curve for me,” he said. Aside from learning the responsibilities of being an adult, “I know a little bit more about stepping out of my comfort zone… being from such a small town and then coming to New York I think it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities,” Gresham said.
While some of Gresham’s expectations were met, there are some things that were entirely new to Gresham. “One thing that I definitely notice about American culture is they’re a lot more upfront about things. My roommates, for example, if we’re playing video games or like pick up sports always get after each other, which is something that I kind of like now because it gets everyone excited and gets everyone motivated, so it’s interesting… a lot of teasing and stuff like that but it’s all in good fun,” said Gresham.
When looking to the future, Gresham already has a plan for what he would like to do in the next couple of years. Gresham’s main goal is to attend law school back in Canada. “I want to go to school back home just so I have a dual education… so educated in Canada as well as the US. And also for law schools in the states, being an international student would cost like a lot more money… so that’s a big factor as well,” said Gresham.
Growing up, Gresham often found himself surrounded by policeman and firefighters which he credits, in part, for his interest in being a lobbyist for the government, or at least working in the government in some way. “My dad is in law enforcement, in Canada, and being around stuff like that… I’ve always been interested in working with the government, and a lawyer is just something that I’ve always dreamed of being,” Gresham said. “I like to talk and I like to debate.”