TW: There is a brief mention of sensitive topics including the events of February 13th.
Unlike many people in the state of Michigan, I never grew up rooting for either half of the in-state rivalry. As a homeschooler until high school, I didn’t really have any idea about colleges at all. I knew there were options out there and I knew you could do pretty much anything, but I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to study. I found out a little more when my brother started high school and I heard him and his friends discussing their future plans. I thought maybe I would go to the University of Michigan and study something in STEM since many of my family members are engineers and I had grown up near Ann Arbor and spent a lot of time near campus.
However, once I got to high school myself, my passions changed and I became really interested in becoming a veterinarian. My mom had said MSU was the place to go, and I was intrigued because I had never been there. I visited one fall day for a high school event, and I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on campus almost seven years ago. There was a beautiful mist rolling off the fields, and I saw herds of adorable sheep, cows, and horses. The actual campus was so peaceful, too, with all its green spaces and its mix of modern and collegiate gothic architecture. I also loved how there were so many restaurants right by campus, and I began to imagine myself there, studying in the library and getting boba with friends. I felt like I had finally found a home and decided that this is where I wanted to go to college.
I visited a few more times for various high school things, falling more deeply in love every time I returned to East Lansing. By my junior year of high school, I had decided I wanted to go into law and had become excited about the James Madison College program. When it was finally time to apply, I sent in my admission application and eagerly awaited my decision. Just a week later, in mid-October, I checked my email and saw that I was in. MSU was the first college I was accepted to and the only place I wanted to apply to, but I was still not sure that my parents would agree to send me. Despite getting a scholarship from University of Detroit Mercy, my parents and I agreed that MSU would open the most doors for me, and we put down a deposit. I could hardly wait to move in, but I would end up having to do my entire freshman year online from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was disappointing, but I still enjoyed my classes and made some great friends.
Eventually, August of 2021 rolled around and I could finally move up to Case Hall. I still remember how excited I was as the family car rolled down Trowbridge, driving past the sign that proudly proclaimed that MSU was the nation’s pioneer land grant college. After taking a few hours to get settled in, my parents took me to No Thai and then turned me loose to start my college adventure. I loved getting to know my roommate and walking around campus, seeing all the sites and enjoying the late-Summer weather. I made sure my wardrobe included plenty of green and white, and I bought season football tickets to make sure I didn’t miss out on the sports culture. While I loved the classes, tailgates, and the college experience, by late October I had started to feel depressed and hopeless. Everything was going right for me since I had fantastic grades, plenty of friends, and was busy with a ton of fun clubs, but somehow it just wasn’t enough.
While I used the counseling and psychiatric services, I felt as if they didn’t make me feel any better. I soldiered on through three semesters of feeling like this, but I was still able to enjoy the many highlights of college life like games, parties, and on-campus events. I finally started to feel a bit better in the fall of 2022. Despite the disappointing football season, I had some great times with my new boyfriend, enjoyed getting dinner with friends more frequently, and checked some things off of my college bucket list. By the end of the semester, I had finished with a 4.0 GPA for the first time in my life and was so proud of myself. Everything was looking up and I was ready for a great end to my senior year.
In my final semester, I enjoyed hockey games, gymnastics meets, ice skating, snowball fights, and so many other wonderful things in early January and February. I had some big interviews and was very close to lining up a job after graduation. I figured that this was going to be the best semester of my time at MSU and was so thankful to be going out on such a high note, but the night of February 13 changed everything. The violence that claimed the lives of three of our students and injured five more broke our community’s heart. It was so difficult to process the fact that people who had come to MSU with the same dreams as me and were going about their day just as I was doing were now dead. It seemed as if I lived in a state of shock for many weeks after, going to vigils and staying close to my friends to try to process my grief.
I had always hated the phrase “Spartans Will” because I found it to be incredibly corny and thought that whoever was in charge of marketing at the university could do way better. However, after February 13, I grew to love it and it meant a lot more to me than ever before. I saw the determination of the students sitting on the steps of the state capitol to protest for change, I saw it in the community wrapping its arms around us by holding events and passing out snacks and hugs, I saw it in the brave people speaking about their experiences at the many vigils, I saw it in our student athletes, especially our basketball team team during their triumphant return to Breslin only a week after the tragedy. I saw it in all of us. I could not be prouder to be a Spartan than I am now, and I know that even when I move to Utah to start my new job, I will still be sporting the green and white.
When I look back at my time at MSU, I will take with me so many valuable lessons from my professors, but I think it is the things that I learned outside the classroom that I will hold closest to my heart. During my six semesters here, I learned to be resilient, caring, strong, and sure of my beliefs and myself. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and I am so grateful to everyone who made my college experience so wonderful. I have so many wonderful memories like watching our football, hockey, gymnastics, and basketball teams win so many exciting games, laughing until I cried with my friends at parties, navigating the dining hall menus to find something good to eat, and strolling around campus in the evening as the sun sets over the Red Cedar. I will miss the friendly squirrels, the unique freedom of being a college student, every person who has changed my life during my time here, and so many other things that I couldn’t even begin to list.
So thank you Michigan State for the best three years of my life. There is nowhere I would’ve rather gone to college and I am grateful for every second of my time here.