the michigan difference

for my 300th blog post, I want to talk about the michigan difference. the phrase “the michigan difference” is used all the time at the University of Michigan. basically, the phrase is supposed to reiterate the ways that Michigan is different- like smarter kids, etc. today I want to talk about my experience at Michigan (which is different than most). 4% of Michigan’s undergraduate population is black (which is totally disproportional to the percentage of black student athletes, but that’s a story for another time). As a black woman, in a sea of white faces, I stand out. And this is what I want to talk about

  • Embracing Being Different

My high school was 97% black. So I went from a school where I was never conscious of my race, to being conscious of it. In high school, it stood out. I’ve always been really smart, so I was used to being known as the smart kid. I graduated 4th in my class with about 250,000 in scholarships and chose to go to the number one public university in the country (simply because they pay for me to go there). I knew going in that I would be looked as a representative of the black community. I love being black and I love the black community, but I know that my experiences as a black woman do not represent the community. But I tried my best and always said that my thoughts don’t represent the community. I just knew that I probably was one of the only black people some of these students had really talked to, and actually listened to. So I used my platform.

It wasn’t easy to accept it. I cried constantly the first few weeks. I missed my comfort zone. I constantly wished I would’ve made a different college decision. I think the most interesting thing that happened was that I started to feel ugly. And the last time I felt ugly, I was an awkward pre-teen who didn’t know how to dress. But I did. I wanted my tan to go away, my hair to be straighter. And I’ve never felt like that before in my life. This feeling lasted maybe a couple days. I soon realized that somehow someway the European beauty standards had crept into my brain. I countered this by embracing myself. Embracing being different. Because I realized I am different than all of those kids, not just racially.

  • “I’m too smart to go here”

One day, I had the realization of the phrase above. Because to me, intelligence is more than book smarts. It is the knowledge of so many things. And I’d say I’m pretty knowledgeable. That’s another way I’m different. At Michigan, many of the students are book smart. They know tons about their specific field. But they don’t know much about the world. They live in a bubble, which they never have to branch out of. the knowledge i’ve acquired over the years makes me stand out. plus I’m an educator, so along this journey I’m teaching others. Though Michigan has it’s issues, I do feel like it’s the right place for me. Even if I do know more than the other kids.

Within the last year I’ve grown more than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve grown and started to embrace the woman I’m becoming. I’ve learned that I am a force to be reckoned with and that I am really capable of changing the world. and that to me, is the michigan difference. 

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