This past May, I became a proud alumna of Michigan State University and began to make the transition from being a student to being a professional. I bought a queen bed and finally got rid of my extra long twin, and I hunted for my first “adult” apartment. After making multiple other major life choices, I sat back and took in how my view of the world and how I was to act within it changed. One of the starkest differences was my learning environment.

Even though I had two great majors filled with kind peers, it would be naïve of me to say that school was not a competitive environment. When your success is measured against the success of your peers, it becomes necessary at a certain point to ensure that you rise to the top. I cared about others and hoped that they did well, but I still kept my best ideas for papers to myself, because we couldn’t both tackle the same problem.

And then I graduated and moved to Detroit. Not to make generalizations, but every interaction where I discuss my goals, whether it is at a networking event or at a local bar, has evolved into a professional connection. These interactions are when the stark differences between the past four years of my life and the upcoming years of my life become apparent. In my majors of Arts & Humanities and Professional Writing, we were all commonly posed with the same question, and then asked to think on our own about the solution. Group papers are (thank goodness) rarely a thing; but having thirty people work by themselves on the same problem is neither logical nor conducive to successful solutions. Lacking the power of minds combined, as well as simple manpower, you are likely to only scratch the surface of thirty different solutions.

Here in Detroit, there is a staggering amount of community development and nonprofit organizations, for profit organizations and individuals working to address the various obstacles that Detroit is trying to push through. From my personal experience, these groups don’t butt up against one another, but rather build up all those around them. In the city, unlike a classroom, we can all tackle the same problem. We can combine our cumulative knowledge. We can put our ideas, strengths and time together to do what is best for Detroit… and I think that’s pretty damn cool.