Editor’s note: This column originally published Sept. 9, 2016.
Game day in Iowa City is like no other experience I’ve had in my life. The energy and enthusiasm of the students and the pride exhibited by the young and old-time Iowa City townies is infectious.
In downtown Iowa City the night before kickoff, alumni, members of the Hawkeye Marching Band and anyone who can play a musical instrument travels through downtown pubs and restaurants playing the University of Iowa’s fight song and school song. This year, I noticed a couple of ukulele players in the mix.
In the parking lots and backyards near Kinnick Stadium, folks smile and nod as you walk by. The secret sign that you are bonded over one thing — your mutual love for the Hawkeyes. Those folks are grilling, playing corn hole — #Iowa — and drinking a cold one, momentarily without a care in the world.
But after the final play of the game, when the fanfare of Division I NCAA football has subsided for another weekend, what’s left is even more fantastic — the halls and classrooms of a prolific college campus.
It’s still my favorite hour of an Iowa City trip. Betsy and I walk the paths and sidewalks through the UI campus, reliving five years of our lives in 60 minutes. After last weekend’s Miami of Ohio game, we hit our usual spots. The English and philosophy building — or EPB as its known in UI-land — the Adler Journalism and Mass Communication Building, the Pentacrest and main library are pieces of nostalgia for the two of us.
We walk slowly, chatting about what we’d do differently during our undergrad days if we were gifted our adult knowledge and experiences at 18. We both say, in unison, this stroll “makes me want to study” — something I would have procrastinated 10 years ago.
As we see a few studying students peppered through the Iowa Memorial Union cubicles, we reveal our itch to one day return to graduate school. And no trip to the IMU would be complete without navigating the windy, narrow third floor hallways to the KRUI 89.7 FM studios where Betsy was once news director and I a contributing interviewer.
We also took a timeout from our nostalgia bender to take in what’s new on campus. I minored in music in college, so to see the newly completed Voxman Music Building rise on the southeast side of campus, completely re-envisioned from the the Voxman destroyed in the 2008 floods, was a special treat. The modern glass and steal structure honored the modest former school built in 1971.
College is more than sports, atmosphere, campus life and education — its all of these things. I struggled and succeeded on that Iowa City campus through some of my most formative years. Sometimes it takes a return trip to where it all began to regain perspective, and a campus tour to remember the drive it took to get to where I am today and find where I’m going.
Contact Mike Mendenhall at email@example.com