US-127 and I-96 come together to the southwest of East Lansing, Michigan. The dial of the radio has been tuned to the well known Lansing area radio stations, and instinctively I merge right onto US-127 north for Clare. Almost immediately I am at the East Lansing exit. I exit US-127 and enter East Lansing, Michigan.
It has been some time since I have been in East Lansing; almost six months which has been the longest time I have spent away from campus since I moved here in August 2010. For four years of my life, East Lansing and Michigan State University were more than a temporary residence and an institution of higher learning. Michigan State and East Lansing became my home. It was where I first learned to live on my own, have a roommate, and began the long and arduous journey into adulthood. The four years I spent in East Lansing and at Michigan State were ‘transformational,’ or whatever other cliche you want to insert. Yet, that well worn cliche is true.
Now that my car is turning onto Trowbridge road, it feels as if I am returning back home to the comforts that I knew for four years. This feeling of coming home is vastly different than the one I feel when I return to Howell, my childhood home and where my parents still live. The feeling I get when I see the ‘Welcome to East Lansing – Home of Michigan State University’ signage is one of pride and nostalgia. My four years at Michigan State were incredible, and during the tough days that was graduate school I would wish, only slightly, that I could return to those better days.
Three days ago I left Oxford, Ohio and Miami University. The feeling was vastly different than when I left Michigan State University two years ago. While I was sad that I would no longer be with my cohort, friends, and faculty, it was not at all like the feeling I had when I left. And that’s okay. For me, the time I spent at Miami University were just as transformational and filled of learning. Yet, that growth and transformation pale in comparison to that which occurred at Michigan State.
The pride I feel when I tell people that I have a degree from Michigan State University is one that will carry with me for the rest of my life; the feeling I will get when I tell people I have a degree from Miami University will not be connected to the institution, rather the program that I studied in. Maybe that is normal, but it is something that I have been thinking on as I drive through campus.
No matter how much campus has changed in my two years away, I feel a strong connection to Michigan State and the home that I built here. As I transition out of Michigan and the Midwest for Virginia and the South, I will miss the easy access I had to Michigan State and East Lansing. For now, though, I am going to enjoy the time I have at home.