Cooking for my First Students

A student arrived soaking wet and smiling from ear to ear – he biked over to our home in pouring rain. I hosted an Italian feast for my first undergrad students from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. My husband gave the young man some sweat pants and we put the wet clothes in the dryer during dinner.

In many ways, these college juniors and seniors are my kindred spirits – trying hard and sometimes missing, we keep going. A non-traditional student and mother of four, it took me eight years to finish a master’s degree, but I finished with a 3.98 GPA and joke with other moms in school that we only cry once each semester. Fortunate to finish my internship hours toward a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership as a teaching assistant for MO324 “Managing Professional Relationships” by Dr. Robert Pasick, it was a gift to cook for the juniors and seniors I hadn’t seen since last December when our class ended.

My high-energy husband pitched in to make coffee while I quickly stuck toothpicks through fresh basil, bits of tomatoes, and mozzarella. When the first student to arrive appeared in our kitchen early, I stopped cooking to give her my full attention. She was so animated, giving me a thank you card and telling my husband about her scholarship to study in Peru this summer (I wrote her letters of recommendation), and also how she lives with and cares for her grandparents while attending college. Not everyone from class could come on Sunday afternoon: some were working a campus job while others were overseas fighting homesickness at their first job after college.

Students shared ravioli, meatballs, whipped mascarpone over berries and talked about lessons from class, Dr. Rob, classmates that we kept in contact with since the last day of class, as well as future plans. During exercises in class, a high achieving young lady became passionate about nonprofit work, so she pursued City Year. Her new employer will pay her a 60% salary to work at a nonprofit in New York City before she starts her job at a big bank in The Big Apple. Another student is a first generation college student, whose next step is working at LinkedIn in Silicon Valley. Her parents are so excited as she is the first in her family to move away from their small town. We talked about many young people working +50 hours a week, and I wished we had covered more material during class on self-care in the transition to employment.

My favorite quote of the evening: “Before you go to college, people tell you it’s going to be the best four years of your life, with parties and all. It’s not. There are bumps in the road, and it’s a lot of hard work.” In a class of forty-one students, three of us lost loved ones that semester. Students interviewed for scholarships and jobs that they didn’t get. Funny how no body says, ‘College – yeah, hard things will happen and you will figure out how to keep studying anyway.’ Remarkably resilient people…such a lovely graduation gift for me to have my first students around our dining room table.


Michelle Machiele

Michelle lives in Ann Arbor, MI and is passionate about helping students in transition as well as Italian cheeses.

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