By Shirley M.

It was the summer of 1992 when I, as a young woman, arrived in Ann Arbor to start my new life as a UofM grad student. As all of us have experienced one time or another, starting anew is at the same time daunting and exhilarating. I felt as if all the doors were open to me and I could be and become anybody I would like to be. That was much more so when I was young and green, but opportunities and new beginnings arise at every moment of our lives: from arriving in a new country, moving to a new home, starting a new job, starting a family or even starting a new year. Echoes of that exhilaration still come back to me at the beginning of a new cycle, and I like to use that energy to envision a new, better me for the future.

Like the beginning of the school year, International Neighbors also starts its groups in the fall. I challenge you to start anew with us and envision your new you. What part of you would you like to exercise or change? What part of you would you like to show us? Do you want to make more friends? Do you want to learn a new skill? Why not try quilting or crochet? Wasn’t it one of your long forgotten dreams to knit your boyfriend (now husband) a sweater? Would you like to live a healthier life? Why not try a hiking group or a vegan or vegetarian cooking group? I mean, really, you meet friends, cook together and then eat the delicious meal – how can you possibly think that’s not a wonderful idea? Maybe you would like to learn more about your friends by learning about their countries and their culture. So, why not join the Cultural Encounters group? I hear Maya is preparing a long menu of scrumptious Croatian cuisine! Or maybe you would like to improve your English proficiency? I know for a fact, that the new Mystery Book Reading Group is set to be the coolest group on the block!!! They read detective novels and try to follow the clues in the book and see who is the first to figure out who the killer is. It’s a new group, so you know there’s a space for you.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you give your all and enjoy! Because you see, this Fall will be a very important time for this country. It is a mistake to think that a foreigner who might not be long in this country has no impact in the community. It is by showing who you are, engaging yourself with your neighbors and the community that you put your indelible mark in this soil, bringing a better understanding of who you are, your culture, your philosophy and your history. You are important to us because knowing you can change who we are, as individuals, as a community and as a country. Open your heart to us, engage, make friends and let us love you in return.

Welcome friend!

P.S.: Full disclosure: I’m co-leader of the Mystery Book Reading Group. So, sign-up already!