College Spotlight: University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
Freshman Year Update
By Ellen Ramsey
College Expert Counselor: Sue Luse
Upon arriving at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this past August, I was both exhilarated and worried—to leave my family for longer than I ever had and to take courses that I anticipated would be very challenging. Summer orientation had included stories about students who came from the top of their respective high school classes only to have their confidence shattered by the first exam.
But after a week or two of adjusting to my new environment and workload, I began to enjoy my classes thoroughly. Yes, they were time-consuming and frustrating at times, but the satisfaction of understanding new concepts was more than worth the effort.
This semester, I took Differential Equations, General Physics 1, and two introductory engineering courses—one focused on Michigan’s School of Engineering and the other on drinking water quality and purification. Three of my four classes included laboratory components, but the water quality course was my only in-person class.
Although I would have preferred to take all of my classes in person, online classes were beneficial for several reasons. Zoom lectures made asking questions less intimidating using the chat function. My calculus class also had recorded lectures, which were convenient because I could rewind or pause the video to take notes. Furthermore, on such a large campus, walking to and from lecture halls and laboratories would have eaten up a lot of my time. Instead, I watched lectures from a few study spots around my dorm building, East Quad. Despite having many of its study rooms and common areas closed, East Quad was full of little nooks with tables and chairs as well as a computer lab in the basement. I was also impressed with (and spoiled by) East Quad’s food, bathrooms, and laundry facilities.
For my water quality course, I took the bus to North Campus three times per week: twice for lectures and once for a lab. The class was project-oriented, for which I ended up being very grateful. My project team and I studied and completed homework assignments together outside of class. After finishing my first semester as a college student, I am significantly more confident in my ability to work successfully with a small group of people.
If I could make one recommendation to incoming college students, I would suggest that they be proactive about collecting contact info or making a group chat with other students in their classes. At a time when meeting with study groups or a professor after class is not as feasible, any additional academic resources are invaluable.
Despite limited face-to-face collaboration, I made lots of friends during the three months I spent on campus by joining extracurricular activities. I became a member of the Engineering Student Government’s sustainability committee as well as BLUELab Thailand, a project team focused on flood mitigation in a town called Mae Chan. I met new people within my dorm and even joined a religious group that still meets weekly via Zoom. However, the people I know best are my teammates from MRun, the running club at Michigan. This year, MRun was divided into “pods” of ten students. Seeing my podmates quickly became the most anticipated part of my day. Some highlights of the season included a giant campus-wide scavenger hunt, a late-night flashlight run, and a chocolate milk 4×4 relay.
And although I stayed on campus the whole time, I hardly felt trapped. My roommate and I tried a new restaurant almost every weekend (restaurants were open the entire time we were on campus except for a two-week shutdown). Even this year, there was so much going on all the time. Invariably, we saw something we had never seen before: swing dancers in the middle of State Street, a student tossing around multicolored glowing hula hoops, and even an old man on a unicycle.
I am incredibly thankful for all Michigan has offered me in just one semester and eager to continue my academic journey as a Wolverine.