Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear UofM Freshmen

An open letter to Michigan freshmen

Dear Incoming Michigan Freshman,

Enjoy Welcome Week. Be nice to the move-in-makers (most of them just signed up as an excuse to get back to campus early) and I hope that you enjoy the following unsolicited advice over the next four years…

1) Try a Chipati. Don’t listen to anyone who says to get that Chipati at Pizza House, Pizza Bob’s is the way to go.

2) Go to at least 4 different varsity sporting events. Football, basketball, and hockey are the obvious choices. They’re obvious for a reason–they’ve proven to be awesome. Go early. Get good seats…

3) …Then make sure you check out tennis, wrestling, volleyball, lacrosse, or any number of other awesome Michigan events.

4) You haven’t noticed this yet, but the statues above the Union doors represent an athlete and a scholar. This is my way of saying there’s more to Ann Arbor than sports…
5) …Go to a Groove show, check out your stupidly talented peers in the School of Music, Theatre, and Arts, hang out at a TedX event, see a show at Hill, go to North and check out the solar car racing team, etc. etc.

6) If you’re still stuck on sports: sign up for an IM team. Make sure you try broomball. If you’re in Greek Life, play Mudbowl. If you’re not in Greek Life, go to the Mudbowl finals to make fun of your friends in Greek Life for living up to every stereotype of all time.

7) Take a class that has nothing to do with your major or your b-school / med school / law school applications. I vote one taught by Bruce Conforth, John Bacon, or anything called, “The History of Children’s Books.”

8) Go to Detroit. Seriously. There are too many awesome things going on in the city right now to stay away.

9) Look at a map of the state. Understand that when someone is sticking out their hand, they’re not asking for a high five, they’re showing you where they live. Farmington Hills is not Detroit, but you can nod, knowingly, and pretend that it’s close enough when your new roommate tells you that he or she, “Grew up in Detroit.”

10) Eat No Thai. A lot of No Thai.

11) Go to 1,001 mass meetings. Get involved in too many clubs and put on too many email lists.

12) Narrow down those interests to a few student organizations that you really enjoy. Stop caring if these look good on a resume. Take responsibility (early) in these orgs. Be a leader whether it’s formal or not. Make shit happen.

13) Don’t let Zingerman’s be your only stop in Kerrytown. Explore Sparrow. Have a drink at Aut bar. (But do go to Zingerman’s.)

14) Places to study: The Law Library, have a friend reserve a b-school study room, the stacks, the ref room, the Ugli (basement if you’re an engineer, first floor to be social, fourth floor for peace and quiet), the fishbowl, the basement of the school of social work, a coffee shop that’s not Espresso Royale (try: Crazy Wisdom), the SAC, etc.

15) Eat brunch (hungover, or not) at Mojo. Make a waffle with an ‘M’ in it. Go back for seconds and thirds.

16) Do Trivia night at Charley’s, blue grass at Circus, a beer at Ashley’s, a show at the Bling Pig, see your GSI at Jolly Pumpkin, this list could go on and on.

17) Fail a few times. One of my best friends from college stepped on the Block M, took his first blue book, and not only failed but got the lowest grade in his entire lecture. He’s now a brilliant aerospace engineer for a badass company you’ve all heard of. You’ll be fine.

18) Memorize the Victors. Be that guy or girl with a cowbell.

19) Plan events, found clubs, start non-profits, learn to code, learn to paint, build a company. You will never again have so much time, so many smart folks around you, and so little at risk as you do in your time in Ann Arbor. Make something out of it. Who cares if you fuck up?

20) Go to an away football game (or the NCAA Tourney.)

21) Do something stupid, or crazy (see: a visit to the roof of the union, trip to the big house at midnight, that time my friends drove to Chicago to hear Obama’s speech after he won his first election.)

22) Hang out in the arb; go sledding on cafeteria trays in the winter.

23) It’s a big school. Make it smaller via your major or clubs. But embrace the size and magnitude of your opportunity…then pause, puzzled at how you always see that same guy—in the cut off, sleeveless shirt, drinking a gallon of water—every time you’re walking through the diag.

24) Fall in love. With a class. A guy. A girl. A part of campus. A book. A moment. A team. A subject. A cause.

25) Get a hot dog at Le Dog. I’m kidding. DON’T DO THAT. Do get the soup, though. Trust me.

26) Sleep in. Skip class because a great movie is on TV or you have 12 meetings–one of which is with Mary Sue. Go out on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…you get the idea.

27) Be slightly obnoxious: tell your friends at schools without football programs that Saturday morning is the best night of the week. Tell your friends at other Big 10 schools that Michigan is the winningest program in college history. And remind anyone who made the decision to attend an Ivy that Harvard is really the Michigan of the east, and those guys who founded Google? They’re alumni of your school.

28) Find a schedule that fits you. Are you an early bird? Take the 8:30 am lectures that nobody wants. Do you watch football every Sunday? Maybe you want to give yourself an easy Monday so you can make up all the work you procrastinated on because the Patriots were on TV.

29) Explore: Go abroad. Do a semester in Detroit. Take time off for an incredible internship or program. Sign up for a creative writing immersion at Walden pond. Do research in the UP.

30) Find your ‘go-to’ brunch location. Go there frequently.

31) Carve out an hour or so of your day before you get to campus: watch the 30 for 30 documentary on the Fab 5.

32) Take a class on North Campus (I loved the one that MPowered puts on. Great lecture and you get to listen to famous entrepreneurs and alumni come back and talk about their stories.)

33) Spend a spring or summer in Ann Arbor.

34) Enjoy communal drinks—they’re the easiest to share. Pitchers of beers (Bells? Cheaper?) Fishbowls. Sharkbowls. Buckets.

35) Meet students who are different than you. Define different for yourself. Everyone has different backgrounds; everyone is at different stages in life and studies, embrace that and meet students and professors around you.

36) Paint the rock. Defend that rock.

37) Eat sushi. Surprise! Good rolls actually exists between the coasts. Everyone has a different hierarchy: Sadako for the lunch special, Melange to be fancy, Totoro is simple but great, Sushi Town for the creative…the list goes on and on.

38) Be a good friend. Try your hardest to do something because it’s the right thing, not because you ‘expect something in return.’ Be spontaneous; plan a future. Spend late nights talking, sweaty August afternoons helping people move. Early mornings nursing hangovers over black coffee; earlier mornings up for a run. Go on trips; stay local. Try great restaurants; cook amazing meals. Write a bucket list; cross items off that bucket list. Share your deepest secrets; make new ones.

39) Read Bo’s “The Team, The Team, The Team” speech. Point at things, Hoke does it.

40) And last, but certainly not least: make the friends who you’re proud to say, “Forever, Go Blue” with. By graduation, you’ll mean it – and, I promise, it won’t sound the least bit cheesy.

I was originally inspired to write this by a post of a similar title. Full credit for the ideas of ‘people thinking they live in Detroit’ and ‘the people you see around campus’ to the original author. Alumni, am I missing anything? Add it to the comments or let me know on Twitter: @al0nd0n.

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