Before arriving at the Ross School of Business, I was working in Istanbul…driving. That meant driving between home to work. This took me 45 minutes each way — if I was lucky.
Planning my agenda according to rush hour traffic was intuitive to me. That’s one reason why moving to Ann Arbor for my MBA has been an amazing break. I left behind the hustle and bustle of big city life without losing many of the amenities you’d find in a larger city.
A KIND COMMUNITY AND CULTURE
The first thing I realized about Ann Arbor was how kind the community is. I initially thought the kindness came from Midwest culture. I thought the Midwest was defined by strangers greeting each other or holding doors for each other even when they were several meters away (This was new to me as a person from a large city). Over time, I also realized there were unique intellectual and artistic sides of the city. I believe the culture of Ann Arbor is shaped by the influence of its residents, 90% of whom are working or studying at the University of Michigan.
Although Ann Arbor is a small city compared to where I am from, the campus is huge and full of amazing facilities such as recreational sports centers, world-class museums such as the U-M Museum of Art, and a top-ranked research hospital. Having access to one of the best public universities in the U.S. is an amazing opportunity to get a break from fast-paced MBA life and expand your network and life beyond Ross.
I have visited the Museum of Art many times. It’s only a 5-minute walk away from the Ross buildings so I can take a break and enjoy new art pieces. While talking about art, one interesting fact about Ross is that the business school has hundreds of art pieces inside, which I adore between classes and events. It is always a fun surprise when they move the artwork around or bring new ones into the building.
MY FAVORITE FEATURES: DIVERSE RESTAURANTS AND “HIDDEN ART”
Beyond the campus, I always love to walk around downtown, also located only minutes away from Ross. There are two features that I particularly enjoy about Ann Arbor.
The first is trying out one of the diverse international restaurants. In Ann Arbor, there are over 400 restaurants offering fare ranging from authentic Ethiopian cuisine to scrumptious Eastern European food. However, my favorite will always be Zingerman’s Delicatessen, where they serve more than 100 unique sandwiches. Another one of my go-to’s is Frita Batidos, a Cuban restaurant. Zingerman’s was the first restaurant that I visited in Ann Arbor and my first order was the famous “Reuben”, which is unforgettably delicious. The menu is so large and creative that I keep discovering new sandwiches every time I visit!
Another memory I will never forget about visiting Ann Arbor restaurants was the night I waited in front of Frita Batidos at 11:30 p.m. for almost an hour at -5C/-23F with three other friends from Ross to enjoy the delicious and unique street food. My favorite choice is Chicken Frita with a Coconut Batidos. Lastly, I never skip dessert and enjoy the unique flavors of Blank Slate Creamery. I had the pleasure to stay in Ann Arbor during the summer and I loved walking down Liberty Street to Blank Slate Creamery. Every time, I debate between ordering my favorites “lavender and lemon” and “fresh basil” or trying a complete new one! Even from the designs of these restaurants’ websites, you can feel the artistic and unique culture of the city.
Second, I love discovering the town’s “hidden art”, which includes giant murals painted on walls of buildings and live, pop-up music performances. The first mural I saw was the iconic “Bookstore Mural”, which is on the beginning of Liberty Street. The last one I discovered was #WhatLiftsYou in front of which I will for sure take a graduation picture this year. Walking around Ann Arbor feels like you are in an art scavenger hunt!
CITY LIFE AND CULTURAL EVENTS
Beyond food and its array of trendy cafes and bars, Ann Arbor has vibrant city life with a variety of cultural events. One of the best is the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Other beloved classics I never get enough of are the Michigan and State theaters in downtown and the farmers’ market in Kerrytown.
I was lucky enough to visit Ann Arbor farmers’ market for its 100th birthday in 2019 with my friends. I enjoyed the music performances and celebrations with local artists and producers. Even during the pandemic, people in Ann Arbor have maintained their positivity and adapted their social life activities smartly by following the public health guidance (masks and distancing). For example, one yoga school organized a ‘Yoga on the Streets’ event where many local residents practiced yoga together — I loved observing the harmony of yoga practitioners that day. I really enjoyed being a part of this community this summer because it brought me joy, hope, and positivity even though we were living in a pandemic.
MY AMAZING MBA EXPERIENCE IN ANN ARBOR
Besides the uniqueness of the city and its culture, I have had a great MBA experience in Ann Arbor. It has been always easy to meet with friends and create time for each other as almost everything is within walking distance. That includes all those restaurants I mentioned, along with the campus buildings, and on-campus housing options.
This is especially convenient during the recruitment period when you are bouncing from classes to corporate events to student club events. Even if you live off-campus, Ann Arbor has reliable public transportation with frequent buses and multiple lines (a.k.a. The Ride). For example, I live in the Woodbury Gardens apartments, a popular off-campus option among couples and families with pets. It takes less than 10 minutes to go to business school, campus, and downtown via the bus. This was such a change of pace after being stuck in traffic for 1.5 hours every day in Istanbul. On top of that, Ann Arbor is close to big cities such as Detroit (45 minutes) and Chicago (4 hours). It’s also only an hour to Canada and 30 minutes to the Detroit International Airport, which has flights to almost anywhere you’d want to go.
Before coming to Ross, I was most excited about experiencing U-M’s football culture. Game days are almost sacred here! All Ann Arbor is colored in maize and blue and you can see everybody “tailgating” the whole day — even though the game is typically at noon (which was the most American thing I have ever seen). Ross MBAs also have their own tailgating tradition called “The Bus”. MBA students gather around The Bus and tailgate until the game, which means no meetings are allowed on Saturdays at Ross so that everybody can enjoy the game day! I usually go to The Bus an hour prior to the game to have fun with classmates and catch up. A few minutes before the game, we walk with the endless crowd toward the stadium: known worldwide as Big House! At the Big House, we never miss ordering a Big House burger with a M burned-stamp on it (as everything in Michigan has an “M” on them). Each game is full of multiple ceremonies with the Michigan Band and performers in the stadium and (of course) the game itself. Before my first game, I made sure to memorize the famous fight song, “The Victors”, to sing with my fellow Wolverines.
Especially during the pandemic, I’ve had the chance to enjoy the beautiful nature in Ann Arbor. The city has many parks, but the number one spot on my list is the Arb. Arb offers incredible scenes all four seasons and is home to many animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and colorful birds. It is a neighbor to Huron River, which allows you to enjoy the beautiful nature from a different perspective.
During MBA orientation, a group of us went tubing from Gallup Park to Argo Park through the Huron River. Floating down the river with the ducks was the most relaxing nature experience I have ever had and I recommend it to anyone visiting Ann Arbor if the weather allows! Living in Ann Arbor is a great opportunity to explore other amazing places, such as the breath-taking Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Traverse City, Grand Haven, Boyne City, and Manistee. I had the chance to travel to these places as a great seasonal getaway; I’ve enjoyed the lake life in summer, fall colors with tunnels of trees, spring blossoms, and ski resorts in the winter. One of those was the traditional Boyne trip we took as the whole MBA class ~500 people (first and second years). Multiple buses drove to northern Michigan where we stayed in a resort and enjoyed the winter sports and blew off steam after the busy recruitment season.
One piece of advice to future MBA candidates: Never say no to an opportunity to have a getaway with the MBA community! I am sure you will collect many unforgettable memories and get to know your lifelong friends better!
I feel fortunate to have lived in such a special place during my MBA and enjoyed everything it offers since 2019. As I am moving on to my last semester at Michigan Ross, I know I will miss Ann Arbor when I move to Seattle and it will always be exciting for me to visit for homecoming in the future.
My name is Ebrar Erdem and I am a second-year MBA student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. I’ve previously lived in Wisconsin, Germany, and the UK for short periods during my undergraduate years at Bogazici University, where I studied Chemical Engineering. I knew that I always wanted to have my MBA in a diverse and dynamic environment to develop myself further. This is what brought me to Ann Arbor in July 2019. Before coming to Ross, I worked for five years at GlaxoSmithKline in various roles and organizations from MENA to Emerging Markets organizations. This summer, I had a fantastic experience in Amazon Web Services as a Sr. Program Manager Intern. Aside from work, I am a sailing captain, an advanced SCUBA diver, and an amateur artist who plays the drums and works on oil paintings. You can follow me on my LinkedIn and Instagram to hear updates about MBA life at Ross.