When I chose my internship, I did not choose it for its location. I wanted to see the world, to explore new places and see new things. So staying in Ann Arbor, while convenient, seemed like one of the least interesting parts of my choice.
But as much as I was interested in the novel, I also recognized the opportunity to dig deeper. To be fascinated by a brief encounter with a place can be dazzling, but to looking beyond seeing often proves to be more worthwhile. Past seeing the surface, I wanted to look for every unique aspect of where I am; to get to know it and appreciate it thoroughly and deeply. I love spending time with a place as I would with a person. So I decided to become very good friends with Ann Arbor.
The Ann Arbor I had known before was the diag, State St. and north campus. It was students shuffling about, coffee and quiet in libraries, and a rather constructed sense of place. I felt like I was walking through a world meant for people like me to walk in and walk out. Even though I knew better – that beyond what I saw, Ann Arbor must be a living, breathing town – like the acquaintance in class whose real face you never see, that’s how I knew Ann Arbor.
New opportunities both during work and after have helped me look further than this. I sought out the edges of what I knew. I’ve learned about companies that work here, from open offices and large machines, to tiny desks and paperwork, to windowless basements that grow on you once you spruce ‘em up a little; sprawling neighborhoods, dogs upon dogs upon dogs, and alleys that criss-cross in the fashion you’d expect them to after you manage to get lost in rectangles too many times. I’ve tried to pretend I’m not a student, passing through as a visitor, but an actual semi-resident.
By looking around every corner, I feel like I know Ann Arbor about as well as if I had asked that class acquaintance to coffee, and happened to mention something they were passionate about, and they smiled for a moment – really smiled. I’ll be on my way soon, and I know my perspective as a college student and an outsider in many ways limit how close I can get, but for the time being, it was nice getting to know it.