I Saw The Sign (and It Opened Up My Eyes): Approach Ann Arbor With An Open Mind For A Great Sophomore Year Experience
What’s the greatest and most valuable thing any sophomore can do to maximize her experience at the University of Michigan and in Ann Arbor? Look around you.
Hi! I’m Amy Wilson, a 24-year-old Ann Arbor resident who was once a sophomore much like yourself. After six years in town, I’m only beginning to feel like I know anything about Ann Arbor. It’s a great town, full of more exciting secrets than you may realize, and always with something new to discover. Although it’s always tempting to give in to the stress of school and the “campus bubble” effect, I strongly encourage you to make an active effort to get to know the Ann Arbor that lies beyond the University of Michigan. Sophomore year is an ideal time to start exploring Ann Arbor and its surrounding area more thoroughly, and I think you may find it quite rewarding.
Here’s a sample of what you might find (and what, I might add, I wish I had found earlier):
A regular smorgasboard of local nonprofit organizations that need your time: I happen to work for one of them. It’s called 826michigan, and it’s located in the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair shop just at the intersection of Liberty and Main in downtown Ann Arbor. We provide free creative writing and tutoring services to children 6-18 in Washtenaw County by engaging hundreds of volunteers to plan workshops, work one-on-one with students in local schools, interact with community members from behind the desk in the robot store, and many other fun and interesting tasks.
Volunteering at 826michigan is a great way to meet new people: UM students both undergraduate and graduate, those studying at our neighbor Eastern Michigan University, and even some people who — gasp! — aren’t students at all. (Like the Violin Monster [pictured], another Ann Arbor feature, who joined us at a field trip one Friday.) And because many of our programs are located off-site, you’ll also get to know local schools, libraries, and community centers in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
You can learn more about 826michigan at 826michigan.org. If we don’t sound up your alley, keep looking around. Growing Hope and Community Records are two more nonprofits that spring to my mind, but there are plenty around and they would all appreciate your involvement.
A radio station that puts commercial sounds to shame: I am also biased on this one, as I recently joined WCBN myself, but I can objectively say that this campus-run radio station is one of the best parts of life in Ann Arbor. Although WCBN is run out of the University of Michigan, you’ll meet all sorts of people — united by a sincere love of music and radio and WCBN’s library, which contains thousands and thousands of songs you’ve probably never heard. It couldn’t be easier to get started as a DJ trainee at WCBN. Just drop by the station on any Sunday at 4pm to learn more.
(And yes, new DJs do have to complete one semester of radio in the 3am-6am time slot, but don’t let that deter you: it’s actually an awesome experience.)
Even if you’re not so interested in becoming a DJ, I encourage you to tune in to WCBN whenever you can. You can listen to it at 88.3fm or wcbn.org. In addition to a wide variety of great music, you’ll also hear regular announcements of local events and concerts — a very solid way to fill your social calendar and get the scoop on what’s happening around town.
A diverse and happenin’ region: As a non-native Michigan resident, I was astonished to discover the variety of experiences available within a 90-minute car ride of Ann Arbor. Southeast Michigan is full of fun things to do and see, from the llama-leaping competition at the Saline Fair to the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History. Or take the train to Kalamazoo or Chicago for the weekend and explore!
As a UM alum, I know how easy it is to get sucked in to the campus bubble. After all, the University does offer many amazing resources and opportunities. I can attest, though, to the value of searching beyond — my current position as a staff member at 826michigan is directly related to my experiences volunteering there as an undergrad, and I kick myself on a regular basis for not getting involved with WCBN years ago.
So, from someone who’s been where you are, take a few hours every week to look up from your textbooks and look around you. Your sophomore year will only be better for it!
Amy Wilson (RC ‘10) graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in Creative Writing and Literature and Women’s Studies. Her favorite class at the University of Michigan was hula with Professor Amy Stillman. Amy is not an expert on anything but is happy to answer questions about the University of Michigan, life in Ann Arbor, work in the nonprofit sector, or whatever else you’ve got. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.