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A memoir: East Lansing

I remember the first time that I went to Michigan State University.

I was 15, a freshman in high school. My sister had taken me to a concert earlier in the night, and that night I slept in Bailey Hall in the Brody neighborhood.

The next morning, we feasted in the dining hall. It was my sister’s freshman year of college. She was a vegetarian at the time (and had been for at least 9 years) and having the option of ‘Veg Out’ was life changing for her. I remember being overwhelmed by the options. It really is a superior dining hall.

I visited East Lansing very often in high school. The campus reminded me of Hogwarts, and as the Harry Potter buff that I have always been, that was a big appeal.

Other times I watched my sister dance in the IM West Auditorium. She’d take me to places that my hometown never would’ve had. Insomnia cookies, different cuisine places, book shops, crystal shops, and the gardens.

The gardens on the MSU campus hold some of my favorite memories. My sister who studied horticulture at MSU also worked in the MSU Horticulture Gardens. One day when I was visiting as a soon-to-be senior in high school, we ordered Indian food from Sindhu.

That day, we went back to the gardens to eat the food. One thing about my sister and I, things don’t always go according to plan. By that, I mean, silly things happen to us. The restaurant forgot to give us any eating utensils, but naturally my sister, Julia, knew exactly where to find some.

She ran into a building at her work and out she came with a set of what she could find in her hands. We ate the food in the gardens, that was the first day I ever tried chicken korma, a favorite dish of mine. It was also the first time I had ever been in the background of someone’s wedding photos, on a bench, eating chicken korma.

If you need a lovely place to take wedding photos, the MSU Horticulture Gardens are absolutely lovely.

Julia moved before her junior year of college into a house a part of the SHC, formerly the Student Housing Cooperation, now the Spartan Housing Cooperation. The SHC is a way to live affordably, sustainably, in a cool house and with a lot of people during college. I walked into the house for the first time and was just awe-struck.

She lived in Orion, a house that is on MAC Avenue in East Lansing. Its exterior is white and it has tall posts out front. The inside is filled with a checkered-print hall and other murals. One room is entirely covered in flames, it is the fire room. Another is painted like a night-lit forest, the tree room. On the wall of the tree room are the twin pines, the symbol of the co-ops.

My visits to her are what made me want to go to MSU. My senior year photos were taken in the MSU gardens the same day of the picnic-in-the-park wedding photo crashers day. That day I was so full of love, energy and knew that there was a good chance I’d end up on the campus.

I explored other colleges, I feared rejection from MSU, but I sent my application in. When I got in, my mind was sent. The posts were made, that photo from the warm summer day in the garden made its debut. I was going to MSU!

That was spring 2018, the year I graduated high school.

I declared my major as film study before my freshman year orientation, took my placement exams, and changed my major to journalism the day before orientation.

Orientation took place in the summer, a scorching hot summer day in July of 2018. I had to be up so early and made the mistake of wearing jeans. I don’t even think I remembered a hair tie. I stepped foot on campus for the first time as a committed MSU student in yellow converse, color block jeans, and a tank top. Thank gosh for the tank top.

It couldn’t have been more than 7 am when I was dropped off by my mommy, with my pillow and blanket. A little sleepover on campus before the real deal.

I met the person I would room with that night, Marisa, that morning. We agreed to eat lunch together, they were kind from the get-go.

I ended up in a room that morning that I presume was in the south neighborhood since that’s where we stayed. So many chairs, so many new faces. All of us a little wide-eyed, name tags around our necks, being sorted into sections, a little bit like Harry Potter.

I had sillily left all the important paperwork needed for orientation in the dorm that I would sleep in later that night. So, when the person at the front of the room looked around and was reading off it and everyone was flipping pages, I just kind of sat there.

The person next to me, a long haired human with big brown eyes and a yellow t-shirt, had his papers. I introduced myself, he was prettier than any guy I had ever seen from back home. He was majoring in journalism. He had plans.

I didn’t pay a single second of attention to the tours, really. My attention was drawn to the human I had met that day. He was a writer, and we didn’t stop talking until the day ended and we went to sleep. I just remember something about trees on campus and walking through gardens.

Inevitably, the first attractive guy I got to see on-campus did not end up staying in my life. We did see each other when we got to campus and our dorms were within a 5 minute walk. We did go to some of the places my sister had shown me, Insomnia Cookies and Espresso Royale.

We even found new places.

But, when I saw him with his ex-girlfriend at a tailgate that year, I knew I had to return his Father John Misty record and say good-bye. I wrote what I had to say in a letter, left it in the record and I didn’t see him again.

I didn’t see him again until the Farmer’s Market in Lansing in Fall of 2021, but that was the last time.

My first year in East Lansing I lived in Hubbard Hall and the first friend I met on campus other than the guy was Marisa. Luckily, she and I hung out. Unluckily, she lived on the other side of campus, two miles away.

I didn’t really know anyone, I felt so small. Running around, hopping on buses, getting lost and going into wrong buildings. Sometimes I would forget to feed myself because I just really did not have it together. I consumed a ridiculous amount of Akers dining hall pizza during my freshman year of college.

Conrad’s, Domino’s, etc. were delivered to Hubbard Hall for me. I’d take the elevator from the 9th floor and pick-up my dinner, or late night snack. Sindhu was down the road. The buses took me everywhere I needed to go.

Eventually, I met more people. I ended up dating a guy, who knew some guys who had some cool girlfriends. I became friends with that crowd, and finally had more faces to talk to. Many memories were made. MSU went to the final four for basketball that year, I wasn’t all that into sports, but that was cool.

Around October of my freshman year, I went through the touring process for the SHC and ended up choosing to live in Orion for the following year. My first tour at the house, it not being where my sister lived anymore, I met wonderful people. I had a feeling it would be where I would end up.

I moved into Orion in the fall of 2019. That first year I lived with 23 people. I remember every single one of them. It was the first time that I ever clicked with people just instantaneously. Every single person had something to offer.

We played cards, so many card games. We had pot-lucks, house dinners, and house meetings. We were always together. We had themed parties and would dress-up in silly outfits. It was a time to make connections, not knowing how strong some would end up.

In spring of 2020–

You can only imagine how things flipped. Not only was I a college student, I was a college student living with 23 people when it was announced that the world was experiencing a global pandemic.

I’ve written so much about the pandemic– To skip that part of my college career would be a falsified recollection of the experience.

There were about 20 of us in the fall semester of 2020, the correct number has slipped my mind.

I experienced the dreaded zoom classes, the masks, the dark days of campus. It was a bit more quiet that year. My housemates and I had each other… even though it wasn’t always a fun ride.

I held onto people close, and a lot of the relationships I developed in the house during such a hard time still stick with me to this day. There’s nothing quite like living in the walls with people who are all thinking something similar. A professor I had said it best, “It makes me really happy that we are all going through this shitty time together.”

I think there were days that living with so many people nearly made me reach a breaking point, but I wouldn’t trade having them around during that time. We made it through.

When the vaccine hit we were allowed to leave the house. We pranced through that city like we had never stepped foot in it. Feeling East Lansing alive again after months of silence, the marvelous summer of 2021.

To be continued...

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