If you are like me, you are trying to figure out where the summer has gone and how is it possible that the new school year will be beginning soon. I swear, time just keeps moving faster and faster. In a couple of weeks, both Kansas State University along with our local school districts will be opening their doors for the 23-24 school year.
New school years are always filled with adjustments for everyone. There are new routines, new faces, learning new areas, and bigger responsibilities, the list is endless. For many, like our Kansas State University students, they are living away from home for the first time and this is their first big step into adulthood. Most of them are learning not only how to navigate a major university, but also, they are adjusting to their new life in our wonderful town, Manhattan, Kansas!
For all of us locals, there is also an adjustment back to life with the college kids in Manhattan! There are two timeframes in the year that you notice a significant shift in town, the end of May when most of the students leave, and mid-August, when they begin to arrive. Let me be the first to say, we love having the students! They keep a youthful energy in our community and many become part of our community. The students of Kansas State University make up a good portion of our workforce, they volunteer, hold internships, and after graduation, many choose to make Manhattan, KS their home, just like I did. With all that being said, if this is your first August in Manhattan, Kansas, then let me give you some tips from a 20+ year Mahattanite!
First, you know all the amazing restaurants in town that we could go to almost anytime during the summer and get into pretty easily. Well, those are a thing of the past, or at least until the end of May 2024. Students will be at all the hotspots they have been missing all summer and the new students will be trying ALL the places as they are finding what will become their go-to spots for the new school year. Lines will be long and out the door. If you go early, it will be a little better, but if you are like many of us, carry-out becomes our go-to for a little while until things calm down.
Next up, shopping in Manhattan, Kansas will be different! In the coming weeks, as students begin coming into town for fraternity and sorority rush weeks, they will also begin early move-in. This means parents, friends, and relatives will all be loading up on the necessities for dorm or apartment life at the stores in town, both the big box and local shops. A lot of us locals are in what I like to call, the "stock-up" period of August. This allows us to be able to avoid these places for the next few weeks unless it is an absolute emergency!
Now, speaking of all these early move-ins, this will begin with the addition of extra cars on the roads. Many of these drivers have never driven in Manhattan, Kansas, or in a city of this size, so slowing down and patience are highly recommended! Entering roundabouts always comes with a possibility of another vehicle not knowing how to navigate a roundabout, but Aug-Sept., that swings from possibly, to highly likely! Go slow and keep an eye on the other cars entering and exiting. Remember, we are all just trying to arrive alive, so patience is a must!
The biggest adjustment though, is simply the increased number of people in town. Kansas State University's average enrollment is around 20,000 students per year. While some students do stay in Manhattan, KS, for the summer, many do leave town. So it is safe to say a good portion of the 20,000 students that will begin arriving are either new or returning students. You will really feel it when you are walking Downtown Manhattan and Aggieville as groups of students are walking to restaurants or a new hangout space. The other place you will also see a difference is on the trails and in the parks. This is one of my favorites, to see the students relaxing in their hammocks, and exploring the outdoors in Manhattan is always so much fun.
This year, and every year, my hope is always the same. I wish all these students have a great experience both at Kansas State University and in town as they enjoy their new life here, but it does take all of us to achieve that. I hope that we all can remember, that this year, like every other, this adjustment is not permanent. It comes and goes and is a nice reminder of that new youthfulness that keeps the fun of our town.