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Published February 19, 2013, 11:30 PM

VIDEO: Faces of Our Community: Transplant to Upper Midwest falls in love with Fargo

Hailey Adkisson remembers the day she arrived in Fargo in 2011. “We pulled up with our U-Haul at our apartment to unload, and it was probably 95 degrees plus humidity, so we’re like, ‘How could it get cold here? It’s 95 degrees in August,’ ” she said.

“Faces of Our Community” is an occasional, multimedia piece focusing on the people who call our area home. To view a slideshow and hear audio from the interview with Hailey Adkisson, visit bit.ly/forumfaces.

Hailey Adkisson remembers the day she arrived in Fargo in 2011.

“We pulled up with our U-Haul at our apartment to unload, and it was probably 95 degrees plus humidity, so we’re like, ‘How could it get cold here? It’s 95 degrees in August,’ ” she said.

But it did get cold.

“I had never known real cold until I moved to North Dakota,” she said.

Moving to the Upper Midwest has been an adventure for the 26-year-old who lived in Virginia, Washington and Maryland before coming to Fargo. Along with learning what “real cold” is, Adkisson has grown attached to this part of the world.

“I have a lot of affection for this area,” she said.

The James Madison University alum is the assistant director of student leadership and service at Concordia College, where she facilitates service-learning/volunteer efforts for students. She is working on a master’s degree in speech communication at North Dakota State University and is engaged to marry Blake Goplen in June.

Adkisson is the focus of this installment of the “Faces of Our Community” series. She talks about the cold, tater tot hot dish, moving to this area and more.

On the experience of moving to North Dakota: “Moving to North Dakota, I think, was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, the biggest risk I’ve ever taken, but probably the best decision I’ve ever made – ever.”

On the people in this area: “I think really the best experience has just been … the people. And I have been to different parts of the country. And I think everything’s great and there’s positive things about every place. But, I think, just how friendly everybody is when it’s negative 30 degrees outside, like, how positive you can still stay … I get in conversations with people at the grocery store standing in line or I’ll be looking at some food in the grocery store and someone will come up and recommend what I should get. And I just feel like that doesn’t happen in other places that I’ve lived.”

On her time in AmeriCorps and her position at Concordia: “My two years in AmeriCorps totally changed my opinion on a lot of issues in this country and in the world – totally flip-flopped – because I was exposed to things that I was never exposed to in my very comfortable and somewhat privileged life. And so when you’re working side by side with people who do not have the same life as you, maybe have had to struggle a little more, I think you learn a lot about yourself. And so in this position, I’m able to work with students, get them involved and hope that they can have some kind of opportunity like that or realization so that when they leave Concordia, they can really take those skills and develop as a person.”

On how she got to Fargo: “I like to say that it was because I found a really good job, but I’ve come to terms with, it was probably for a boy … (Blake) was going to NDSU, and so it was either we continue to do long distance, which our whole relationship up to that point had been long distance, or I go to North Dakota with him … I like to tell people my sister … was going to India for a year, the same time I decided to move to North Dakota, and so my mom would talk to people and say, ‘Oh, you know, Lindsey’s going to India and Hailey’s going to North Dakota.’ And people would go, ‘Hailey’s going to North Dakota?’ ”

On the cold: “I got here and it turned 30 degrees in, like, October. And so I broke out all the winter clothes I had and then by January realized I don’t know how to make myself warmer. I just used all the warm clothes I have. How do you make it warmer? And so the first winter was just tough. I didn’t go out much. We didn’t do any winter activities … I got an Autostart right away though because I learned that’s pretty important. But it was a struggle. It was cold.”

On hot dish: “That’s probably one of my favorite Midwestern things is a hot dish … Well, the fact that it’s called a hot dish and not a casserole. I never have understood the difference; I’ve just accepted it. But I’ve never understood the difference. And then that you put tater tots on top of something that you eat – like, that it’s not just a side dish of tater tots, that you actually put it on something was always really strange to me … I like it. It’s a hearty meal.”

On her affection for the area: “I have a lot of affection for this area. I think I get defensive when people now criticize it. I feel like they’re, you know, talking bad about somebody I care about.”

On the opportunities this area has afforded her: I just feel like North Dakota, Fargo, Moorhead has really provided me with some opportunities that I just don’t think I would have had anywhere else. And I don’t know that for sure, but I never thought I’d go to grad school. I never thought that I’d be working at a college. I never thought that I would – well, be living in North Dakota to begin with. But there are just a lot of things that I never imagined to be a possibility, and I’m so happy with the outcome of where I am at this point. I wouldn’t change anything.”

(Music courtesy of Riley Armstrong - http://www.rileyarmstrong.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734