“My Great Place”.

IMG_6025If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I just moved to South Dakota from my home in Northern Michigan.  What you may not know though, is that South Dakota is home of many great faces and many great places.  So many in fact that they adopted “Great Faces. Great Places.” as their state slogan.

I’ve been thinking about this slogan since deciding to embark on this journey to South Dakota.  I’ve given a lot of thought to what makes a place great and even more so, what makes a face great.  This is a tough thing to think about, actually.

The more I thought about it, these three things kept coming to mind:

  1. Sense of place
  2. Sense of belonging and connectedness
  3. Community

In order for a place to be considered great, I believe you must feel connected to it.  You must feel some sense of belonging.  Once you feel connected and you feel that you belong here, a sense of place may develop.

I believe that many things contribute to your connectedness and belonging in a place.  First is your own willingness to become connected, meet new people, try new things.  Next is opportunities.  Obviously, in larger areas there are more opportunities to do more things, find your niche, and thrive.  But this does not mean that you can’t find a sense of place, or have an abundance of opportunities in a small town, just simply that you may have to look harder for them.  Lastly, I truly believe it is the people who make the place.  If you aren’t finding people that you are compatible with, it is much more difficult to get a groove and to make a place home.

For me, I have never felt a greater sense of place than I did when I lived in Marquette, Michigan.  So I’ve been reflecting on what it is that makes Marquette so great.

These are some of the things that I came up with:

  1. Lake Superior
  2. Northern Michigan University-My alma mater!
  3. Nature-Never more than a five minute walk away-For me this means trail running and hiking, cliff jumping, swimming, and many other things.
  4. The people I love live there-Shoutout to my Marquette family!
  5. Small town mixed with a big city vibe-While there is not a mall, I can get anything I need in Marquette, while still having that small town, close-knit community feel.

After coming up with some things that make Marquette great, I reflect on my values and interests and what is important to me and how they factor into my love for Marquette.

The things that are most important to me are:

  1. Love-family, friends, partners, pets, community, etc.
  2. Adventure-I am a sucker for trying new things and experiencing something for the first time.  Lump running, hiking, and nature into this category.
  3. Water- I have a deep connection to water, and feel most alive when I am near it.  I have never lived more than five minutes away from a Great Lake, so you can imagine that my move to South Dakota is a pretty big one.
  4. Education-Obviously I would not be pursuing a career in Student Affairs if Higher Education didn’t mean something to me.
  5. Coffee-No explanation needed.  Just coffee.

So friends, what made Marquette my home?

The fact that it offered me everything that I desired.  Everything that I truly can’t live without, I can find in Marquette.  This is why it is such a great place in my eyes.  With that said, I do however, know people who really don’t like Marquette, and could never live there.  This is because their values are different from mine.  The things that make a place great to them are probably different from those that make a great place for me.

Everyone is different.  Everyone has a different experience with people and places.  But it is all about what you make of it.  You must be flexible and find the things you value in every place you are, or learn to bring them everywhere you go.  Make that connection.  Find that gym.  Join that club.  Go on that date.

Fall in love.  With both new faces and new places.

This is what I’m determined to do.  Because in the two days that I’ve lived here, I have already come to believe that every place and every face is great.  You just have to adjust your perspective, step outside of the box and learn to appreciate it all.

As a #SAGrad, I must be able to show my students the positives of their new home, while still being real, raw, and transparent, knowing that every student may not love USD.  I need to be able to help them enjoy their time here and if I am not making this home and enjoying my time here, how the heck will they?

This is my newest goal for living in South Dakota.  I want to make this place home.  I want to feel connected.  I want to belong.  I want to explore my community and dive into the local scene.  I want to get everything that I can out of my GA position.  I want to learn as much as my brain and body will allow in each of my classes.  I want to make great new friends, and carry these friendships with me forever.

IMG_6055

Here’s to making Vermillion My Great Place.

-Joel

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