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East Lansing residents reflect on living in a college town

October 20, 2023
<p>Rebecca Kasen at her East Lansing home on Oct. 16, 2023.</p>

Rebecca Kasen at her East Lansing home on Oct. 16, 2023.

For many, the prospect of living in an area surrounded by college students might seem unpleasant. 

College campuses are known for atypical traditions like loud parties, students roaming around at late hours and jam-packed roads on game days.

For East Lansing residents who don't attend Michigan State University, these instances can create distractions for their day-to-day lives. For others, however, living in a college town makes  an unforgettable experience.

East Lansing resident Rebecca Kasen and her family recently moved from New Jersey to Michigan. Kasen quickly discovered the positives of living around MSU.

"My neighbors are some of the smartest, most educated people I know," Kasen said. "I don't find the college students to be a major problem. I find them to mostly be helpful."

Kasen recalled when her then 4-year-old daughter fell off of her bike into a ditch close to water. A few MSU students nearby went in after her daughter to help, she said.

Kasen said she has also found her neighborhood and the city of East Lansing overall welcoming and accepting of everyone. However, she did have some minor gripes.

"My biggest grievance is actually just amusement," Kasen said. "Every once and a while, a drunken college kid walks into my backyard, and I redirect them to the apartment's ... The biggest frustration I have sometimes is that college students can be a little bit provocative, and I sometimes don't want to explain things to my kids."

Despite that, Kasen said she remembers what college was like for her and tries to be understanding. She added that nuisances are also usually quickly resolved by letting students be aware of the problem.

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For Randy Boinga, moving to East Lansing in 2021 from Columbus, Ohio was a shock. Boinga and his partner now have five children.

Even though Columbus is also a college town to The Ohio State University, Boinga said it's still different in East Lansing and at MSU. 

"Having young kids, there are times when you're trying to get them to bed at like eight or nine and there's something loud going on," Boinga said. "Or somebody's walking down the street yelling or hollering … It's real annoying, but again, you know, this is where we live."

Boinga said a decoration skeleton's arm was stolen from the front of their house.

"We posted a sign and hung it outside about how sad the kids were," Boinga said. "Somebody put the arm back, but then in the spring ... somebody came along and stole the arms and head off of it again."

Overall, Boinga said living in East Lansing has been a fairly positive experience. In comparison to OSU, MSU is better for walkability with great local parks for children to play, he said.

However, he noted that friendly neighbors is always subject to change when people move out.

"Because of the turnover, ... half the people that live there graduated or moved somewhere else," Boinga said. "So the next year, the house across the street could be loud."

Longtime East Lansing resident Ann Nichols grew up in the city, but not close enough to MSU to fully understand what it was like to live near students on campus.

But now, Nichols has lived in the only non-student residence on her street for 25 years. 

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"We moved here with our little boy, who's now 26, and I was a little freaked out at first," Nichols said. "I found out how lively it was around here, but I've gotten used to it, and I like it, and I don't think I could live in a normal suburban neighborhood anymore; ... it would make me sad."

Nichols said she has experienced some frustrations and people who choose to live in a college town should know what they're getting into. 

"We've had furniture burned down the street, and people have done all kinds of amazing things in our yard,” Nichols said. "But we continue to make friends with students. ... I think it's a bad place to be if you're intolerant, but if your mind is pretty open, it's a good thing to live with people who are very different from you because I learn stuff all the time."

Nichols also said making acquaintance of neighbors beforehand has always made it easier to sort out problems early on rather than involving the police.

She said she believes East Lansing is "a fantastic place" to raise a child. 

"I look at students as if they were one of my kids because they are somebody's kids," Nichols said. "I would hope that when they see (an) old lady out walking her dogs, they see me as somebody's mom. (I hope) they would behave in a way that they would not be embarrassed of."

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