From my first football game to my last appearance at the Big House, where I processed across the field in my cap and gown along with thousands of my peers, I’ve felt a mounting feeling of University of Michigan pride. I’ve recognized the blue blood coursing through my veins with each day spent sitting in class in East Hall or Mason Hall, walking across the Diag and eating lunch at the Union, transforming me into a pure-bred Wolverine. I’ve never felt so much a part of something greater than myself than when I sat in the stands on April 22, 2012 listening to Dr. Sanjay Gupta give the commencement address.
Fast forward about two and a half months as I walk across campus on my way to the bank from my Kerrytown apartment. The buildings that once appeared mountainous and awe-inspiring now seem a bit average, even flawed. In the quiet heat of summer, the city of Ann Arbor seems to engulf and overpower the campus, where the campus always seemed to stand powerfully above the rest of the city. I feel like an adult returning to her favorite childhood amusement park. In many ways, I remembered it to be bigger and more exciting “back then.” I see students in “High School Class of 2010” t-shirts, relishing their summer campus experience, and I suddenly feel so much older than I did on April 22. I wonder when the maize and blue chapter of my life ended and this new one began.
Since graduating, I’ve felt very conflicted about leaving Michigan in the fall to go to graduate school in Massachusetts. I’ve been very hesitant to leave this place and the life that I love here in Ann Arbor. Yet, walking past the Diag once more, on my way back to my apartment, I realize that I’m finally a victor. I’ve conquered this great mountain in my life: a University of Michigan education. Where these buildings and this campus once seemed so huge and daunting — as I stood at the foot of my undergraduate career, looking up — they now seem small and unimpressive as I stand at the summit of the mountain looking down at all that I’ve accomplished. Now that I’ve been able to remove my maize-colored glasses, I can pass them on to the next generation of Wolverines so they can also fall in love with the beauty and wonder of the University of Michigan. Finally, it’s time to move forward.
Heather Burcham is a 2012 University alum.