Bloomington has a way of keeping a hold on its residents, even those who have left. In fact, the phenomenon of leaving and returning to Bloomington is so common that it has its own name: the Bloomerang Effect.

Claire Frohman

Claire Frohman. Photo by Jim Krause

Although Frohman, 30, left Bloomington for Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Bloomington felt like her home base. Traveling between the United States, Italy, and Mauritius for work and study, she eventually settled in Los Angeles. “Looking back, I feel like I was getting a lot of signs from the universe that LA was not for me,” says Frohman.

After a devastating bike accident, Frohman returned to Bloomington to recuperate in 2017 and has remained here since. She still travels often, and it was only recently that she began to feel settled again. “It can be hard for people from here to accept that they’ve moved back because of what they think it means to grow up,” Frohman says.

Jackie & Leon Olenick

Jackie and Leon Olenick. Photo by Mike Waddell

Jackie, 74, and Leon, 75, came to Bloomington in 1976 when their children were young. “I went from being a musician’s agent engaged in art to being a full-time mom,” Jackie recalls. After moving to Minneapolis in 1986 and subsequently to southern Florida, where Jackie resumed her art career and Leon began working as a rabbi, the two returned to Bloomington several years ago when their daughter decided to raise her children here. “We have many old, wonderful friendships,” Jackie says. “We’re very happy to be back.”

Ellen Wu

Ellen Wu. Photo by Jim Krause

Wu, 45, first visited Indiana University on an eighth grade field trip from Indianapolis. Four years later, she returned as a student. As an undergraduate, Wu developed a passion for the humanities and double majored in history and biology. She also helped develop the university’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration. “I was so involved in Asian American things,” Wu says.

After receiving graduate degrees from UCLA and the University of Chicago, she has taught history at IU since 2017. Wu is an active member of the Indiana State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She relates that work to life in Bloomington. “Bloomington is very white—the farmers’ market situation made that very clear,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like an outsider in my own skin.”

Don & Nicole Griffin

Don and Nicole Griffin. Photo by Richardson Studio

While Don, 49, and Nicole, 48, have known each other since they met at University Elementary School, they did not become close until they both left town in 1989: Don to Virginia and Nicole to Evansville, Indiana. “We became really good friends in our freshman year [of college],” says Don. “I must’ve spent $200 on the phone a month!”

In his senior year, Don ran out of money and caught a bus back to Bloomington. “I had a $26 bus trip to figure out what I was going to do with my life,” he remembers. Having studied architecture, Don decided to obtain a real estate license and quickly discovered his aptitude as an agent. He and Nicole have since lived in Bloomington for 27 years. “I can’t see myself living anywhere else,” Don says.