East Lansing Michigan, population approximately 48 500 - plus around one hundred Australians. We flew from all over, from Sydney and Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Melbourne, and even from New York, Chicago and Canada for those of us who were lucky enough to travel before the program began. On Sunday the third of July, we were greeted by all the ambassadors and stewards for the American Semester Program here at Michigan State University, including program coordinator Kellie Clock, whose enthusiasm and smile rejuvenated our travel wearied selves.
The nightlife did not wait for jetlag, and the first night we walked down to a place called Harper’s for drinks and to get to know all the people we had committed to spending our summer with. There was no segregation as people from all programs, International Litigation and Arbitration, Contracts, Social Media, Teaching and even Big Data and Film Making, laughed and talked under the string of lights on the outdoor deck. For us Australians, the price of drinks was something almost laughable, with cocktails, beer and wine all costing less than an American five dollar bill.
The Fourth of July dawned early, as we enjoyed breakfast at The Gallery in the Snyder Phillips Building. Across all three meals that day, we were constantly surprised and thankful for the variety offered, with the all you can eat set up offering everything from bagels, cereal, fruit, pancakes, waffles and omelettes, to pizza, burgers, grilled chicken, rice and a salad bar, in addition to a broader menu which changed daily.
After breakfast, it was time for the campus tours, directed by the lovely ambassadors. To walk from one side of the campus to the other would take around forty five minutes, quickly throwing into perspective the sheer size of Michigan State University. The tour took us to the crucial areas we would need to know during our stay, including the College of Law and the International Centre, but also introduced us to the MSU landmarks, the Red Cedar River, the Spartan Statue, and Spartan Stadium.
Spartan Stadium hosts the home games of the six time National Champion and four time Rose Bowl winners, the Michigan State Spartans Football Team, and can seat 75 000 peoples. To compare, ANZ Stadium in Sydney seats 83 500 and the MCG can seat 100 000. The biggest stadiums in Australia are comparable to a College Football Stadium in Michigan.
Our Fourth of July concluded in the American way, a baseball game followed by fireworks. To our amusement, we boarded the traditional yellow school bus to drive into the town of Lansing, where we were to watch the Lansing Lugnuts take on the Dayton … Throughout the game, the city of Lansing’s fireworks were a visible backdrop to the pitches and hits, with patriotic attire clustering around the stands. In what started as a slow game, the Lugnuts picked up the pace as the innings passed, and the game finished in a decisive 12 to 5 victory to the home team.
Tuesday morning saw the beginning of our classes, and Professor Mary Bedikan started the International Litigation and Arbitration program off with introductions and stories, vowing that by the end of the program that she would know each and everyone one of us by our first names. As each student formally introduced themselves (informally we had already all met) it became apparent just how large the scope was for the program. University of Adelaide, Griffith University, Western Sydney University, Deakin University, University of Queensland, University of Wollongong, University of Canberra, plus more that I can’t remember… this was a group of students from all over Australia who were going to experience this summer, and study this course, as one group, hopefully making lasting friendships and memories.
Orientation followed our first class, making sure that we were well equipped with all the information that we needed to survive, including a reminder that the legal drinking age was 21 and those younger would Just have to hold out until the weekend excursion to Canada. It was after this that Michigan State University student cards were printed and handed out, complete with over $300 Spartan Cash to use for our meals and merchandise. Admittedly, there was a group of girls who were among the last to collect these, as we were avidly listening to ASP steward Alex, as they told us the best places to buy makeup during our stay.
The day finished with the Welcoming Ceremony, where we meet ASP director Chris McKenzie, as well as the Deans for the faculties that were involved in the program. The ceremony was held in the Eli and Edith Broad Art Museum (recognisable from its cameo in the recent movie, Batman vs Superman). The exhibits were inspiring, and at times shocking, with photographic portraits of people half submerged in the waters of flood affected areas, and sculptures of everyday objects, baths, cots, clothes and vanities, made entirely of sharp, silver razors.
The rest of the week continued, classes and activities, with detours to nights of fun as our Ambassadors let us know the best places in East Lansing, and days in the sun, with a group of us soaking up the rays on the edge of a lake in Hawk Island Park, all leading up to our first major excursion of the program, over the border to the north to Canada, where one of the seven natural wonders of the world awaits.