Four years later, 8 Mile Road remains but its meaning has changed

As someone who’s not a Detroit area native, I enjoy the fact that each day is a new opportunity to learn something about the area where I go to school.

The best part of that is all I have to do is drive, which as a commuter student is something I do each and every day.

Whether it’s taking a right here or a Michigan left there, I’ll often find myself noticing little details as I drive along. Or sometimes it’s whole buildings, houses, restaurants or businesses that I’ve seemingly missed over the years.

My point: I know Detroit a lot better now as a senior than I did as a freshman. Living off campus has only increased that familiarity.

And, yet, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t notice something new.

Simply put, I’ve come along way from what I thought of Detroit in high school, before I decided on UDM.

I’m not proud of it, but on my way to my initial tour of UDM, I thought it was “real cool” when I drove on 8 Mile Road for the first time. I remember sending some of my friends back home pictures of the exit sign as proof.

Growing up in Chicagoland, I didn’t really know Detroit. I knew of it and what it stood for – mainly cars, music and sports – but at that point in my life 8 Mile Road was Detroit to me.

Maybe it’s an out of state way of thinking, I don’t know. And, ironically enough, 8 Mile is now part of my everyday route to campus since the beginning of junior year. I guess that’s what I get for sending pictures of the sign.

Little did I know just how much my view of the city would change.

Flash forward to nearly Christmas of my senior year and I know that Detroit is much more than just a road that divides the city from the suburbs.

From the University District to downtown to Belle Isle to Palmer Park to Southwest Detroit to Old Redford and to any random neighborhood, there’s a lot beyond 8 Mile. I’m glad I know that now.

I could still know Detroit better and that’s something I plan to do in my remaining time here, however long that is.

Much like the city itself, I don’t know what my future holds.

Some days I can see myself living in Detroit for a long time. Some days I can’t wait to leave and go somewhere else.

But no matter where I end up, I know I’ll be better off having spent time in Detroit.

It might have made more sense for me to have gone to a different school in a different city but I didn’t. For whatever reason, I chose Detroit.

And even when I think I’ve found all of Detroit, I know that somewhere there will be a spot where I haven’t been.

And that’s OK.

It’ll be a reason to get in my car and drive.