Coming Home to Iowa City: A Tribute to the Town I Love

The University of Iowa is celebrating Homecoming, a week for returning to the city that you once called home.

I moved to Iowa City fresh out of high school, an excited Hawkeye freshman from rural northwest Iowa.

Iowa City was a beacon–a place full of art, music, food, nature, education, diversity, and fun. I devoured it all.

My heart pitter-pattered, full of life and love for my new-found home, like the tummy butterflies of a new relationship.

homecoming OC - Lianna

I first made my home on Clinton Street, assembling my meals on dining hall trays, smiling at all strangers in case they might be an undiscovered future friend, and sleeping on a lofted bed across the room from a stranger who actually was an undiscovered future friend. The Hawkeye football team had an unexpected season of gridiron glory that year, and I filled my wardrobe with black and gold and learned the fine art of tailgating. After a particularly challenging Calculus test (and the triple shot espresso required to study for it the night before), I took a nap on the Pentacrest lawn, resting my head on my backpack and the knowledge it contained.

This is the city where I declared a major, earned a degree, and started my career. This is the city where I met the man who would become my husband. Here, on the corner of Dubuque and Jefferson, we said our vows to each other, in the very first church to be built in Iowa City. This is the city where our babies were born, squishy little round-faced babies who stole our hearts and filled our home with life.

It was in this city that I changed from child to adult and met the people who would be with me through that process.

The same sidewalks I once trudged over through the snow on my way to class, I now walk on with my family. I show my daughter my favorite quotes on the literary walk, and admire the father my husband has become.

homecoming ped mall iowa city

So much has changed in the years since I first came to Iowa City. Businesses have begun, failed, moved, flourished. People have come and gone. Laws have changed, roads widened, buildings erected.

But despite all the things that have changed, there are a few things in this town that take me right back to those early days when Iowa City was new and undiscovered for me.

  • The view from the back of the Old Capitol, looking across the river at the buildings of the hospital and the University’s west side
  • The inexplicable smell of maple syrup near the eastside dorms (What IS that? No, don’t tell me. I like the mystery.)
  • Walking under the Weatherdance fountain in the ped mall
  • The swarm of black and gold walking over the pedestrian bridge over Riverside Drive

This list could go on and on. But no matter how far I go, or the places that I fall in love with around the world, nothing compares to the feeling I get when driving into town on Dubuque street, with the river to my right, the new crop of freshmen to my left, and the city sign up ahead. There might be a few letters missing from the sign (vandalism isn’t cool, Freshmen!), but I know exactly what it says: Home.

Homecoming sign iowa city

What places or experiences in Iowa City would be on your list? What makes this city feel like home to you?


Lianna is a homesteading mama of three: a sparkly seven-year-old daughter, a joyful five-year-old boy, and a confident three-year-old boy. After graduating from the University of Iowa’s college of education, she started Wondergarten Early Enrichment Home, a multi-age, play-based early childhood program. A self-proclaimed Queen Dabbler, she has a long list of hobbies (from gardening and canning to sewing and painting), and doesn’t mind being only mediocre at all of them. She lives with her husband, mother, three kiddos, dog, cat, rabbits, dwarf goats, and chickens on an acreage in the country. The Cornally family spends their time talking about education, learning how to grow and preserve their own food, and romping around in their woods.


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