[street]After spending every summer vacation since I started school lazing around my parents\’ house, last summer was hardly the summer routine I was used to. I\’d finally decided to act like an adult and do something productive with all that spare time; five days a week, I walked from my apartment at The Oaks to one of two classes in Bessey Hall or my desk job in South Complex. For the first week, I marveled at the empty campus. Even while the weather was perfect – 80 degrees, sunny, clear skies – it seemed like I hardly ran into anyone except my classmates.
Ah, summer, the time when campus empties – or so I figured. By the end of the first week in May, the dorms will no longer be packed with students, as most MSU students head for home, work or abroad, and only two residence halls remain open for student use in the summer. The traffic was much easier to maneuver, the bus actually seemed to run on time and my summer roommate and I never had trouble finding a parking spot at the 24-hour Beaner\’s. The road construction on campus was a nightmare, but once we\’d figured out which roads were going to be shut down all summer, it wasn\’t a problem. But as I quickly learned, once June hits, this campus doesn\’t just belong to Spartans anymore.
Every MSU student has fond memories (or, OK, not-so-fond memories) of our Academic Orientation Program (AOP) before starting freshman year – two days spent touring campus during the hottest months of summer, scheduling classes and subsequently getting lost in Case Hall. I had anticipated the AOP crowds, since one of my summer jobs involved working part-time helping new students in the enrollment labs.
What I did not anticipate were the thousands of other visitors MSU hosts during the summer. Boys\’ State, Girls\’ State, 4-H groups and sports camps moved into all those empty dorm buildings. At first, it was slightly overwhelming to see the large clusters of much younger students around campus – especially when I worked at the front desk in Wonders Hall and had to explain to the parents of 11-year-old soccer players how to get to Old College Field through the construction and why none of the dorms have air-conditioning. (It involved dozens of campus maps and a lot of complaining.)
The combination of dorms and cafeterias means MSU can host groups of just about any size, and all of our sports facilities and coaching staff make for an exciting experience for young athletes. This summer, more than 400 female high school juniors will spend a week in Shaw Hall, participating in a state government simulation called Girls\’ State, and that same week, the Boys\’ State program will fill several halls in Brody. Exploration Days, a three-day summer program for members of Michigan\’s 4-H clubs, brings more than 2,000 students to the east side of campus, and high school students travel here for band, choir, journalism and debate camps.
All of that was nothing compared to the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC), which brought hundreds of Boy Scouts to campus, filling South Complex, Brody Complex and West Circle Complex. When I took a shortcut through the Brody courtyard and ran into an obstacle course, I knew summers at MSU were a completely different experience from the four semesters I\’d already put in. The NOAC participants would often give patches or pins to desk receptionists for no reason other than the fact that, despite the 100-degree weather, we were doing our jobs as politely as we could. I can honestly say I don\’t expect to get a patch with a shark on it for giving directions to MSU students.
[campus]While that particular conference won\’t be back this summer, thousands of other guests will be. According to MSU Housing and Food Services, more than 35,000 guests and 150 different groups participate in summer camps and conferences on the MSU campus. Three of the four halls in South Complex will again host sports camps in sports ranging from basketball to team volleyball for students ages 8 to 18, and Case Hall will definitely be packed with new Spartans getting their first taste of campus life.
And just two weeks after most MSU students hand in their final papers and exams, more than 18,000 students, parents and coaches from as many as 25 different countries will descend upon campus for the 2007 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, according to an MSU news release. The students range from kindergarten-age to college-age and have arrived at the World Finals after successfully completing national-level competitions in the creative problem-solving organization.
In a way, it was frustrating to have so many non-students on campus. After a while, pointing visitors in the direction of Grand River Avenue just gets tedious, and since many visitors come by car, their arrival and departure dates were marked with slow traffic as the combination of unfamiliar streets, campus construction and those dreaded traffic circles confused them. And, despite being guests on our campus, a few visitors – or, rather, the parents of a few visitors – were rude and demanding when told that they weren\’t in the right place or that a rooming assignment hadn\’t worked out exactly as planned.
But I attended Girls\’ State as a high school student, and like many of these summer conference attendees, it was my first exposure to the MSU campus. Not only are dorm rooms and cafeteria food easy and convenient breaks between sports practices or conference sessions, but they also give younger students a taste of college life; their experiences might just influence their college decisions. MSU students who do choose to stay here for the summer can end up being a great example for visitors, instead of embodying the common stereotypes of college students, constantly acting like they are on an extended spring break.
Although it was slightly overwhelming to see so many non-students on campus, it was also actually exciting to give directions and explain what Meijer is and where to find it to out-of-state guests looking for a grocery store. So if you\’re going to be around East Lansing this summer, don\’t be surprised to see large crowds around campus that don\’t quite look like they\’re from around here – chances are, they probably aren\’t. And not only will they appreciate your wealth of East Lansing expertise, they might just make you appreciate your time spent in the dorms a little more; after all, most of us never had to live there during the heat of July.

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