Ann Arbor is in the same state you left it in — 68 degrees, sunny, students on lawns and streets with frisbees and chairs. Red Light Rotisserie got a new sign, but Campus Corner remains intact. State Street still hosts Noodles & Co., The Getup Vintage and its beloved theater. The Diag got some new stones.
But things are also very different. No matter what, everyone tries during homecoming to reestablish themselves on campus (and demonstrate what good summer’s done for them). This might manifest in initiating a conversation you wouldn’t have had last year, going up to that professor you’ve gauged as cool after class or telling that voice in your head that doesn’t want booze at 10 in the morning “no.”
From an individualistic perspective, there are incentives to plant new roots, but there’s also just a general exuberance — a zeitgeist really — that is Welcome Week at the University. With everyone back in town and no class, people feed off each other’s energy and openness like no other time of the year.
There are the nights in with those you expect to get closest to — the new roommates. Friends of friends you meet on a night out get a warm hug. Strangers shout at you from cars and approach you on streets, and you reciprocate their forwardness. There are, of course, the rituals — Festifall, football, all-college BBQs. These are decades-old traditions that are all intended to get the big machine up and running again.
It’s unclear where the dividing line is between these opening weeks and the rest of the year, but you eventually feel when they’re gone. For me, their departure is signalled by my first late night spent in the studio doing architecture work. When these weeks’ charisma fades, you’re suddenly left in a world only slightly different than semesters past: an alternate reality where summer, now in the past, is the only thing that’s caused this environment and people you’ve been acquainted with for years now to feel new.
Sure, we’re left by circumstance in new groups, but homecoming is really a reintroduction to whatever life you’ve started here in years prior. We’re the same people as we were in the summer, but a change of location and people as such is certain to affect our ego.
As homecoming and reassimilation comes to a close in Ann Arbor, where does it leave you?