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Returning to 'Such A Place': Alumni find Miami different than they left it

With dorm renovations and building updates, Miami University's campus changes slightly every year, but still feels like home to returning students. However, for Miami alumni -- some of whom make return visits over the course of decades -- coming back to Oxford and all its changes can bring with it a mix of emotions.

For Ben Garbarek, a 2008 graduate, returning to campus is a reminder of both his years in Oxford and all the years that have passed since graduation.

"It can be bittersweet. On the one hand, you can go to a place where nothing has changed, and it makes you nostalgic for the time you had on campus and the life you had when this was your home," Garbarek said. "But this is a different place than when I was in school. This campus has moved on just like I've moved on in life."

The ever-present construction on Miami's campus is one of the biggest indicators for many alumni that time has passed since their days on campus. There are more buildings on campus today than there were even 10 years ago, and the construction of the Armstrong Student Center in 2011 astounds most alumni who were students before that time and recall the days when Shriver acted as the student center.

Garbarek believed the renovations have extended Uptown as well. He recalled many of the "dingy" bars during his day as unsuitable places to bring a visiting parent or relative to dinner during Family Weekend, but has found on his return trips to Oxford that most of the establishments feel nicer and more recently renovated.

Lara Bentley, a 1989 graduate of Miami's Western Program, has also found that much of the construction on Miami's campus seems to be aimed at upgrading the buildings, but said the timeless restaurants and locales around Oxford still make her recall her days on campus fondly.

"There's a lot of things missing, but there are a few classic, iconic places. Dorsey Hall is still there. Uptown still has Bruno's, which I was exceedingly pleased to find out," Bentley said. "When I was at Miami, if you had a dollar you could have a slice of pizza and a Coke from Bruno's. I remember the pizza being better though."

Bentley says she often finds herself noticing the things that are missing when she's on campus. While she's always nostalgic upon returning to Oxford, she feels a sense of loss every time she learns about a historic Miami building being torn down.

"My husband and my son always joke that when I'm on campus, I run around saying 'That wasn't that way when I was here,'" Bentley said.

Garbarek has had similar experiences, but says it's long-standing traditions and the things that make Miami special that ultimately stand out. For as many changes as he's noticed, Miami ultimately still feels like Miami whenever he returns.

"It's that old Miami, new Miami thing. As much as things change, they stay the same," Garbarek said. "Red bricks don't change. Slant Walk hasn't changed. Upham Arch hasn't changed. Sure, there might be a new student center, but the places you go to take pictures on campus are the same places you've always gone to take pictures."

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