September 3rd: The day I had been ecstatic for all summer, but was simultaneously dreading. My love for football Saturdays started early-on as I grew up near East Lansing and cheered each week for that “other team” … don’t worry, I’ve since changed my ways #forevergoblue.

Although I missed an occasional game during my time at U-M, I always enjoyed the overall experience of football Saturdays: the maize and blue crowds, the music and chanting of excited fans, and the palpable emotion. To be honest, I wasn’t always completely interested from the game (*gasp*), but waving those maize pom-poms, seeing my friends play in the marching band, and being submersed in the entire atmosphere was the highlight of my fall semester every year.

Since graduating this past May, I wondered what it would be like to move to a new city and start doing things like a real “adult” person. I started my job in the DC area about 3 weeks ago working at the National Institute of Health, and could not be more excited to start this new adventure. All my work during class and research is actually coming together, wow!

The week leading up to the start of the college football season, my new coworkers kept bringing up their excitement to root for their schools. The biggest difference between them and me is that they’re all actual adults, 28-ish, who finished undergrad long ago. To me, leaving Ann Arbor is still like an open wound, and even though I’m excited for football *of course*, I couldn’t help but be sad and nervous about how I’d feel more than 500 miles away.

As the weekend came closer, I decided to see if a few of the wolverines I knew in DC wanted to watch the game together. One of my friends who moved here about a year ago mentioned a specific bar where Michigan fans watch the game each week, so we planned on meeting there on Saturday morning.

Nicole is a Michigan native who now lives in D.C. and works as a research fellow for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

When game day finally arrived, I put on my maize and blue and hopped on the metro. After a few wrong turns on my way to the place, I saw the familiar block M in the window. At first when I walked inside, I didn’t see any other wolverines. As I stood there wondering if I was even in the right place, I saw another M towards the back of the restaurant. After following a strange path that led outside and around a corner, I opened a door and immediately realized I was hoMe. Even an hour before the game started, the room was already filled with excitement and anticipation to see our new team play (and win!).

As kickoff came closer, I found a few familiar faces that I met during my time on campus, some of which I hadn’t realized had also moved to DC. Even though I had never met most of the people in the room, we shared an immediate connection rooted in a common pride for U-M. These were my people!

When we scored our first (of many) touchdowns, the room broke into the fight song, just as we always did in the Big House. I suddenly realized that this was the first time I had sang those words since the last time I was in that stadium at graduation just a few months prior. Although I don’t really think of myself as excessively emotional, I definitely teared up at that moment, realizing that although I may not be in Ann Arbor, I will always have this community of people with me, wherever I go.

After the game, my friends and I decided to tour our own city and check out some of the national monuments. The rest of the day, our Michigan attire drew out the “Go Blue!” in other wolverines we ran into. My favorite part was when a little girl, probably around 13, told me she loved my shirt and said Michigan was her dream school. When I told her I was a recent grad, she was excited and asked me about a million questions about the school and my experience. I loved seeing her reaction and hopefully inspiring a future Wolverine; maybe I’ll even see her again one day in the Big House.

While taking the metro and getting lost on the way to watch the game was slightly different than the familiar walk down the middle of Hoover Street, I am thrilled to have found this community of people who feel the same excitement for the team as I always had as a student. Thankfully, my brother is still a senior this year and I made sure he sent me about a million pictures and videos so I could still feel like I was kind of there in a way (thanks Ed!)

Looking forward, I know that even though some of us have left Ann Arbor, we’re all moving on to new and exciting adventures, whether that be grad school, a new job, traveling, the peace corps, or many other opportunities. While finishing up undergrad is justifiably sad and definitely takes some getting used to, the Class of 2016 is doing some pretty amazing things all around the globe. We will always have the support and network of our school to back us up in what we’re doing. Though I’m excited to settle in with my new life in DC, I cannot wait to get back to Ann Arbor and attend my first football game as an alumna and cheer on the team.