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Raw DS Article: Whether we like it or not…Welcome to UND, 2010 edition!

August 29, 2010

Whether we like it or not, Fall is now upon us. Hordes of freshman are making the annual right-of-passage stumbles over the Coulee and across Columbia Road and back for a night of “academic tours” of the Greek houses on campus complete with fully-laden backpacks filled with what I can only assume are books for this semester’s classes. Dining Services and the Parking Office continue to wage an ever-constant battle to see who can increase their prices more indiscriminately. Right now, the Parking Office is winning, with their poor customer service and lack of actual improvement in infrastructure. These two things are just two examples of what new students, faculty and staff to the area have to look forward to in the coming months and years. For those of you that have just arrived in the Grand Cities, welcome!

This marks my fifth year writing a “Welcome to UND” column. Things in the twin cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks have changed greatly during that time. Restaurants have come and go, stores have opened and closed, and global warming has yet to hit our winters, much to the dismay of those of us here in January and February. For such a small city, there’s a fair amount of new things to learn about, see and do. As a voice of experience, having been here for the past six years, I’ve experienced almost everything there is to see, hear, and do in these Grand Cities. Here’s your (brief) guide of the places and people you need to hear about in your academic and professional careers.

Grand Forks’ mayor is Mike Brown. He can sometimes be seen  in the community and on campus. Mayor Brown is an OBGYN–Freshmen hopefully won’t need his prenatal services during their sentences here. The President of the University of North Dakota, Robert Kelley can often be found in and around his lair in Twamley Hall. Unlike past presidents of UND, Kelley is a very student-focused administrator that genuinely cares about our concerns as paying customers of the university. If you get the chance, introduce yourself to him or any member of his cabinet (those people with titles like “Vice President” and fancy nametags).  The administration here at UND used to be markedly less friendly toward students, but has seen several changes in personnel that have greatly improved the student experience here.

In Grand Forks proper, there are several places to go and things to see that are out of the ordinary for Grand Forks. Stop by the North Dakota Museum of Art behind Twamley Hall for a dose of culture unlike anywhere else in GFK.  Their current exhibits: Fantastic and No Lo Se are fascinating and very different. Get over your hangover and stop by the Farmer’s Market in downtown on Saturday mornings. Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs abound. Culinarily “diverse,” in restaurants that have colors in their names, Grand Forks offers a wide array of places that offer fried foods and meat repackaged with different seasonings to meet a very bland North Dakota palate. The dining beat for the Grand Forks Herald is covered by a very grandmotherly-woman affectionately called the Grand Forks Grandma by members of my family. Her Wednesday Eatbeat restaurant reviews have provided many entertaining insights about napkin sizes, Shirley Temple refills, and hummus being “disgusting food dredged up by people with strange tastes.”

The University community continues to grow and develop, and is completely different than the school I came to as a freshman in 2004. There have been some things that remain the same (the Parking Office’s wanton raising of parking fees), but many things have changed. Some have been for the better (the divisive and racist Fighting Sioux nickname retiring) and other things for the worse (have you activated your UND Pride Card, and therefore shared your private information with a third party yet?). Grand Forks as a community is far from the perfect paradise many people here will try to convince you it is. There still aren’t cultural food options, and the community’s attitude toward outsiders of both origination and race/religion/sexual orientation/political belief need improvement. Some of the things I’ve seen and experienced as a Jewish person here are unlike anything I’ve encountered in 38 states and 23 countries. If you do happen to fall into one of those “different” groups, please stay strong. If you are one of the majority, be open to new people, new ideas, and new experiences.

Like it or not, Grand Forks is the place we have chosen to live, study, eat, and play in. Make your experience here for the duration of your degree the best possible—participate, have fun, make mistakes, see the world, and, most importantly, don’t die from hypothermia. Good luck this year!

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