Detroit is a city of overhaul. It is unlike any other city I have ever been to. The downtown area, rather than being a bustling hub of activity, is a deserted ghost town. All over the city (which is an expansive metropolitan area that could fit San Francisco, Manhattan and Boston in its parameters) there are abandoned houses in a state of disrepair. It is eerie. But over the past two weeks starting up IHP, I have learned there is hope yet for this city.
Two weeks ago, I started my semester abroad… in Detroit, Michigan. I am enrolled in a program entitled International Honors Program (IHP for short), Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning and Places. A group of 32 students and 4 faculty members travel to different cities across the globe to get a better understanding of how cities work. We are headed to Sao Paulo and Curitiba, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa and Hanoi, Vietnam. The 32 students represent a large number of colleges and nations. This semester, I get the honor of working, learning and traveling with students from Wesleyan, Sarah Lawrence, Carelton, Wellesley, Trinity, Davidson, Brown, Middlebury, University of Michigan, Macalester, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, University of California Berkeley, Skidmore, Harvard and Barnard who come from the US, India, Nepal, Peru, South Korea, the Virgin Islands, Bangladesh and Mexico.
It’s been a full and testing two weeks. I’ve met a model-turned-restaurateur, heard Jay-Z and Eminem shake the streets of downtown, bought ice cream from a vendor behind bulletproof plastic, visited a vacant lot-turned-art installation, heard Grace Lee Boggs talk about activism and eaten great Greek food. Most importantly, however, is that I’ve gotten a chance to really get to know the peers who I will be adventuring with for the next three and a half months. It’s off to Brazil tomorrow and I’m ready for the ride.