I Used to Go Here – Going Back to College

Kate Conklin’s (Gillian Jacobs) first novel has just been published and she’s looking forward to a multi-city promotional tour. Having recently broken up with her fiancé, she’s focusing on her career. (Attending a baby shower, her three pregnant friends pose with their bumps, Kate with her book.) But before she can begin packing, she receives a disappointing call from her editor. Seasons Passed is not selling and the publisher has canceled Kate’s tour. Don’t worry, she’s told, once the New York Times comes out with a rave review, the book will move, and the tour will be back on. 

Softening the blow is an invitation from Kate’s alma mater, Illinois University. David Kirkpatrick (Jermaine Clement), who was Kate’s creative writing professor and her mentor, wants her to come to Carbondale, Illinois, for a reading. It’s a consolation prize, but still gratifying. Her tour is off, but she is a published author, right? She can go back to her college, head held high.

Elliott (Rammel Chan), an eager beaver aspiring writer, picks Kate up at the airport and drives her to the bed and breakfast where she will be staying. The owner, Mrs. Beeter (Cindy Gold), is unimpressed by Kate’s status as a writer or an alumn. She shows Kate her room and hands her a key on a lanyard, instructing her not to lose it. Of course, Kate does and ends up sleeping most nights at a house across the street, dubbed the Writer’s Retreat, where she once lived. There’s a trip down memory lane with Kate visiting her old room, the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars still affixed to the ceiling. 

Gillian Jacobs and Jermaine Clement

I Used to Go Here will appeal to anyone who has ventured back to their college for a reunion or a visit and found the experience surreal. (And let’s face it – who hasn’t?) The buildings in Carbondale still stand, but appear less grand. Beloved professors, particularly Kirkpatrick, seem unworthy of past adoration. And the students? Rather than be impressed by Kate, they view her accomplishment as a starting line for themselves. That realization strikes Kate when her reading doesn’t go well and, sitting in on one of Kirkpatrick’s classes, she’s impressed by a student, April (Hannah Marks). 

Kirkpatrick offers Kate a teaching position at the college, she extends her stay. Rather than taking the offer seriously and exploring what that teaching position would entail, she’s soon acting more like a student – attending parties, swimming in the lake, spying on Kirkpatrick, and sleeping with a resident of the Writer’s Retreat. The much anticipated New York Times review finally comes out and serves as a tipping point for Kate.

Filmed on the campus of Southern Illinois University, I Used to Go Here creates the proper backdrop for college life. While Kate’s surprised that so little has changed since she graduated, many colleges, possibly because of financial limits, rarely undergo massive renovations. What does change are the students themselves. Youth brings with it a certain amount of arrogance and ambition. That reality check is exactly what Kate needed to reboot, not only her writing career, but her life.

Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

About Charlene Giannetti (411 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that completed filming on February 1, 2020. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.