Growing up, I never knew much about Ann Arbor besides the obvious: Hill Auditorium and the Big House. My friends played an annual band concert at Hill, and I got peeks of the stadium while my dad yelled at the television during football games. Even though I lived only twenty minutes away and ventured to Briarwood from time to time, Ann Arbor was a foreign place.
That changed in the fall of 2010, when I joined the U-M’s incoming freshman class. The excitement of living in such a well-known city piqued my teenage curiosity, and I welcomed the change in atmosphere. My first dorm room was in Northwood, the apartment-style housing on North Campus. It’s across from Baits–and that’s pretty much all I can tell you about North Campus, outside of Pierpont Commons. I knew it was the hub for engineering, art and design, and the music school, but what did that mean to me, a freshman who knew she was going to be an English major? I found my way to Kroger and Marco’s Pizza across Plymouth Rd., but I wouldn’t say I got to know North Campus well–just enough to survive and to avoid the wildlife.
Sophomore year I moved to West Quad with my best friend, and the perks were immediately apparent. Not only were we closer to class, we were closer to the heart of Ann Arbor. We were now walking home from the Necto at night, or from Five Guys burgers on State, instead of walking to the bus stop to ride home. That is when I really felt Ann Arbor. I could direct anyone to West Quad from State St. efficiently, walk South U knowing it led to Washtenaw, and take the most direct route to Main St.
I was Ann Arbor. Even when I moved back home my junior year, just hearing the words “Ann Arbor” spoken by friends perked my ears because that was my town–no one could tell me otherwise.
But just a couple of years after graduation, the connection is fraying. Walking State St. now, I feel uneasiness, a distance. Five Guys closed soon after I left, All About Blue was converted into more of the M Den, and the Munger Graduate Residences sprang up on West Quad’s parking lot.
It’s not just the buildings that changed. My best friend from the U-M went to graduate school out of state; another friend is busy with life. It’s hard for us to stay connected to a place so dedicated to student life when we’re trying to fully emerge into adulthood.
Last month, I started a job in Washington, D.C. But while I’ve left my college town behind, it hasn’t entirely left me. When I met one of my new editors, she shook my hand and announced, “Go Blue!”