Tuesday, October 27, 2015

International Students Find the American Dream — in Flint

In the summer of 2009, I met a group of Kettering and UM-Flint students from India playing cricket at Mama Calvo Field near Whittier and Central. It got me thinking about just who is coming to Flint during an era when many residents are leaving.

My recent story in the New York Times chronicles the international students from more than 40 countries who are coming to Flint in record numbers. Here's how it begins:
A few months after Abhishek Y. Utekar left Mumbai, India, to start an M.B.A. program at the University of Michigan campus in Flint, his landlord gave him a driving tour of his new home. Dennis Brownfield watched out for his tenants, and he wanted Mr. Utekar to understand the dynamics of a city often defined by deindustrialization and decay. His car provided the first lesson. It was a Honda Civic with a license plate that read “GM LEFT,” a commentary on the 70,000 automotive jobs that have disappeared over the years in this birthplace of General Motors.
They rolled to a stop in the empty parking lot between the main library and Central High School, an imposing brick building shuttered because of falling enrollment and budget cuts. “Now make sure you’ve got your seatbelt on because I’m going to show you an American custom,” Mr. Brownfield said. He shifted into reverse, cranked the steering wheel hard to the right, gunned the engine and popped the clutch. The result was a dizzying, deftly executed series of backward 360s. For a final flourish, Mr. Brownfield yanked the emergency brake to abruptly change directions.
“That’s called a doughnut,” he said when they had skidded to a stop. 
“It’s how we have fun in Michigan.” 
Rattled but impressed, Mr. Utekar realized: This was going to be a lot different than India.
Read the rest of the story here.

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Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.