What My Life Is Like Living in Downtown Ann Arbor as a First-year Student

An introduction to key campus areas.

By Catherine Russell December 12, 2022
What My Life Is Like Living in Downtown Ann Arbor as a First-year Student

Growing up, I was exposed to the thrill of game day Saturdays with my family and heard many stories about living in Ann Arbor from my dad, a proud Michigan alum. It wasn’t until I moved here during my first year that I realized how large, spirited, and welcoming this city is for students. Shortly after my move-in day, Ann Arbor became my home, and I now understand why my dad still raves about this incredible city.

Living in Ann Arbor differs from living in my small hometown 45 minutes away. There is always something to do on campus. From trying the latest restaurants to catching a movie at the State Theatre, finding the best local boutiques and coffee shops to exploring free public art and murals throughout downtown, there is something for everyone. Ann Arbor is not as large as other major cities like Chicago or New York, but you get a sense of community here that you don’t get in those cities. Students, faculty members, and families all have one thing in common: We wear the Michigan “Block M” confidently and are proud of our city. The Ann Arbor community is uplifting, accepting, and compassionate; there has not been a day that has gone by where I have not seen the Michigan logo worn by my peers or received a simple “how are you?” from another student. Especially on game days, the city pridefully comes together as a unified whole to cheer on our nationally ranked sports teams.

The University of Michigan is home to a few key campus areas I’ve gotten to know better: North, Central, and the Hill. Settled in the trees and accessible by bus, North Campus is home to the engineering and art schools and Bursley and Baits, two residence halls many first-years, including myself, call home. Central Campus is located at the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. From the endless number of restaurants, shops, and cafes to the Diag and sports arenas, this campus is constantly buzzing with students and school spirit. The Hill is on the outskirts of Central Campus, surrounded by nature and home to several different residence halls, dining halls, and sports courts.

Campus safety is one of the biggest concerns people have when coming to Ann Arbor, and the city and the university do a fantastic job protecting their inhabitants. Campus security is available to anyone, and they roam campus day and night to ensure that we feel protected and safe. Additionally, so many resources are provided to students in case of an emergency that anyone can access within seconds, particularly through dozens of Emergency Blue Light Phones. Ann Arbor is a very safe city, and the community looks out for one another through thick and thin.

The best decision I have made was choosing Michigan and moving to Ann Arbor. I have already made many positive memories here and have never felt so welcomed and accepted in a community. I can see why anyone would obsess over this city, Ann Arbor is truly one of a kind, and you do not get the community and spirit it provides everyone here anywhere else.

Catherine Russell

Catherine Russell is a first-year student at the University of Michigan, majoring in business through the Ross School of Business and minoring in entrepreneurship. Catherine is from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and is interested in creative writing and marketing. Catherine loves to spend time with friends, explore new places, travel, and find the best coffee shops on campus!