1. Amazing public schools- Ok I realize that I'm no longer in school so this doesn't really apply anymore, but there are times when I am really thankful for the amazing public schools that I went to as a kid. They really did set me up for success, giving me a strong foundation to build upon. I was able to easily get through college and feel like I became a really good student/learner because of the school and the environment I grew up in. When you are surrounded by talented and hard working students, it helps to elevate you in order to keep up.
2. Diversity- This one really depends on where you are in New Jersey, but the high school that I went to was about half Asian and half Caucasian with a few other ethnic groups thrown in there. It was really cool being able to be friends with people who had such diverse backgrounds, who spoke different languages at home with their parents and carried on some of their customs. Portland definitely is lacking in that, and there are times when I really miss being surrounded by a diverse community.
3. Wawa, Dunkin Donuts, Boston Market, Wegmans- There are some stores that haven't made it out to the west coast which really bums me out. Although there are some stores that work as substitutes, I do still miss the real thing. If only Wawa would come to Portland...
4. Proximity to New York, Philadelphia, and other Northeastern cities- this is something that I really did miss in the beginning. It was so nice feeling like I was in the center of some really important cities. Time zones were never a concern. Neither was viewing live events- a lot of the time I have to leave early from work if I don't want to miss the beginning of a live event. I really do love the energy of those big cities and always having something to do. Living in NJ was nice since I didn't have to live in the center of the cities to enjoy their benefits, but I was only a train ride away.
5. The Seasons (and for me the sunshine!)- This might seem strange, but there is a lot of sunny days in New Jersey in comparison to the Pacific NW. I also liked that NJ always had a few decent snow storms in the winter. While a lot of people complain about the snow, I always got excited as a kid and even as a college student when a snow storm was on it's way. It's always so beautiful and a fun change of pace. However, I'm glad that the snow isn't permanently around for months (like it is in the midwest) but comes once a year (unlike in the Pacific NW, where some years there isn't much snow at all).
6. Bagels- Alright this is the first of a few specific foods that I miss from New Jersey. Again, there are some substitutes that help, but the quality just isn't the same. Bagels from the NJ/NY area are crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy in the inside, so you don't even need to toast it- eat it just the way it is. My first job was actually working at one of my favorite bagel shops, and I was seriously in a bagel eating, coffee loving heaven.
7. Diners- You know the ones- with menus that are at least 10 pages long and take you half an hour to make a decision on what to eat at 1 in the morning. Oh how I miss diners.
8. Pizza- Similar to bagels, there are substitutes to help you when you have a craving, but NJ pizza is just the best. Thin crunchy crust, homemade pizza sauce (and yes people call it gravy from up North), and gooey cheese cooked to perfection. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.
9. Chinese Food- Again, when you grow up with amazing Chinese food, all others seem to fall short of what you are used to and expect.
10. Last but not least- my family and friends! Ok this one is a bit biased since obviously not everyone has family in NJ, but I just love coming back to a welcoming community of friends and loved ones.
So as you can see, New Jersey definitely has it's upsides (even though it does receive a lot hate). I do miss it often and enjoy going back to visit a few times a year. Too bad it's 3,000 miles away!