As I have done often, and maybe more often than I should, I think about what would have happened to me if I had gone to another school. As outrageous as this may seem to die-hard Michiganers who have always lived here and taken pride in this school, I did not even know about the University of Michigan until I was filling out my applications. My dad made me apply, even though I did not want to send an application to some freezing place all the way in the midwest that I had never heard of. I am an out-of-stater who applied to 11 schools, and Michigan was not even on my list until the last second. As it turns out, I was accepted to some schools, denied from others, and waitlisted at a few others as well. Even when I got my acceptance to the U of M, even though I was happy, it was not the kind of stunning ecstasy that I would have experienced had I gotten into my first choice: Dartmouth. I did not just apply because it’s a great school, but because my older brother went there and I had already gotten to know the campus and the school so well. I was friends with a lot of the people in his fraternity, I loved the school, and honestly it just would have been awesome to go to school with my big brother.
But, as Appiah has asked, would that still be me? He speaks in terms of race, ethnicity and gender, but I believe that the university which you go to just as profoundly shapes your personality. For instance, my mom wanted me to go to William and Mary but I would have been miserable; all of the kids are bookworms who don’t share my notions of fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; they can do whatever they want, but I just shudder to think of the effect that a student body like that would have had on my personality. I think of all of the times that I have gotten up at 6 AM to go to a crazy pregame and then followed that up by stumbling to a screaming, over-the-top experience at the football stadium. I can’t even think of doing anything else on Saturday morning (and indeed, I haven’t been up before 2 PM since). I was never a professional or college sports fan; all of my friends were but I could never keep up with their conversations. However, since I got to the U of M I have become one of the many crazy fans that go here, and the incredible game against Notre Dame this year was one of the best nights of my entire life. In addition, on the other side of the spectrum, I never thought that I could hate a large group of people with with such a passion as I do now: FUCK MSU and FUCK Ohio State. As I learned about the history between these schools, I have come to regard them as something in between spiders and the Nazi SS. It would be quite the different lifestyle if I were going to the school that basically has nothing but IM sports. I don’t think that I ever could have felt the kind of connection to my school that I do now.
When I came to the U of M I knew one person from my town (I come from New Jersey), and so far I have met hundreds, if not thousands of new people who have each influenced my very character in their own way. I cannot imagine where I would be today if I had made a different decision of if I had been accepted somewhere else. It is a very scary concept to think about the factors in your life that have made you who you are. In fact, “scientists calculate the probability of your existing as you, today, at about one in 400 trillion (4×1014).” Your school is a big part of that. But going to a huge school like this is a very unique experience in itself – I can walk around to all of my classes without seeing a single person that I know, while a college like Dartmouth is practically the size of a large high school. I think that the difference can be illustrated by the classification: I go to the University of Michigan, not Dartmouth College. LSA is bigger than their entire school! That also affects how things like classes are managed: once you have been accepted to Harvard, Yale, and the like, the experience is very different that that of a big school such as Michigan. While they have already identified successful and driven students, U of M still has to do that – I feel as though I’ll be here second semester senior year and still taking weeder classes. This kind of competition is pretty extreme; it’s the reason why I’ll be here in the UGLi until 6 AM (when it was announced that the library would become 24-hours, those of us who remained cheered). The Michigan student body has definitely embraced a “work hard, play hard” lifestyle, which I have taken on myself.
How do you feel about your own identity in regard to the University of Michigan? I feel as though in-staters will have a pretty unanimous reaction, but I’m sure that for plenty of people this was not their first choice. But for everyone, how have you changed since you came here?