Curing my summertime sadness
Coming back to Ann Arbor has always been bittersweet for me. Being back at school signifies a large cultural shift I have to make — a change in food, lifestyle and people.
Nevertheless, as I start my third year the best university in the world, it feels more exhausting to make this cultural shift. It is more conscious and forced than before. But once the students fill up state street and campus, I cannot help but smile to myself and fall back in love with Ann Arbor, just like I did as a freshman.
The cultural shift happens in waves. The first wave is always food. I leave behind the taste of my mother’s homemade rice and beans and the upscale cuisine of New York City and say hello to late nights full of feta bread and Fleetwood Diner’s Hippie Hash.
The best memories that I have from my years in college are over meals — celebrating a friend’s birthday, being up late at night with friends and ordering delivery in the early morning hours. Once that vegan macaroni and cheese from The Lunchroom hits my tongue, my bad case of homesickness is cured. Suddenly, Nobu57 and Serafina are now pushed to the back of my mind. It has to be the Ann Arbor magic.
The second wave comes in the shift in people. My friends are my family when I’m away from family. When you’re an expensive plane ticket away from home, you learn to make a new home where you are. It took time and patience, but you come to realize that Ann Arbor’s magic is in its people. Despite my fears of coming back to Michigan this year with the current political climate clashing with my sun-kissed skin, I remember the people that I found home in.
The third wave hits me hard. It took me the entirety of my freshman year to figure out how to get over this wave and every year it hits from a different angle. This year, this wave was especially large, such that even the most experienced surfers couldn’t seem to rationalize.
I know I must abandon the metal containers beneath the Manhattan skyline, carrying eager people to their final destinations and switch to relying on my feet or Blue Buses. It’s a confining, trapping feeling to know that I cannot just hop on a train to Brooklyn at whatever time of the day I please.
Although my world narrows, Ann Arbor packs a punch in such a small area. As I drive past the Kerrytown Farmers Market, my heart flutters at the thought of Saturday mornings filled with fresh produce and homemade trinkets and football tailgates. The sound of the University fight song echoes in the air — a sign of my newly gained independent lifestyle. I prepare myself to make difficult choices — about classes, relationships and my own well-being — without guidance. This is a fight that I will get through by myself, and I will return home with a new perspective gained.
When summertime fades into remembering rather than making memories, it’s easy to feel stubborn to change. I leave the countryside of Italy and the whirl of New York and enter into a new phase in my life, with big changes. Welcome Week is fleeting, and the start of classes comes fast.
Being back in Ann Arbor is bittersweet, but every homecoming is different. It is what you make of it. So let’s make this one good.