It’s hard to put into words what the last four years have meant to me- both as a college student and as a member of the Madison community. In reality, I know I am not unique by posting about my college experience; as I scroll through my Newsfeed, I see a flooding of graduation posts where people express their sadness about leaving or their pride in accomplishing such a big feat. It is definitely a bittersweet time, though. More specifically a time where weirdness and uncertainty are two of the main emotions felt as we prepare to say goodbye to not only our college years, but also our best friends. But, despite the mix of sadness and excitement, it is impossible not to be grateful to have been given the opportunity to feel all of these things in the first place.
During the first few weeks of freshman year, especially during sorority recruitment, the question “Why Wisconsin?” is asked more times than, “Where are we pregaming tonight?” or, “Why am I still hungry?” Everyone has their own seemingly unique answer to this question at first. For me, the answer was simple: big ten, great research university, city campus, high ranking school, people from all over the country attend. After four years of complete and total immersion on this campus, however, I have come to realize that these reasons are actually beyond cliche and were merely a back drop to what I really gained through my time in college.
As I prepare to say goodbye to this campus and to what I can easily identify as the best four years of my life, I am overcome with emotion. While these feelings have not manifested themselves through uncontrollable tears and sadness just yet, there is an obvious somber feeling in the air as my friends and I begin to tie up the loose ends and head out.
Sitting in the football stadium during the graduation ceremony I can distinctly remember getting chills all over my body as the commencement speaker and chancellor gave what they deemed to be their best advice to new college graduates who now had the world at their fingertips. I looked next to me during our last few minutes as undergraduate students and saw a row full of my best friends, my roommates, my now life-partners, with tears in their eyes and passion in their hearts. I remember thinking to myself that there could be no better moment, no better people to walk through life with even though just 4 short years ago they were nothing but strangers.
We have made this campus and this city home in every possible way. We have spent nights laying on the couch in our pajamas talking about our families and sharing ridiculous secrets and fears. We have gone to five dollar movies with our student discount and stolen the large popcorn bin out of the trash to get free re-fills (shout out Mo). We have spent hours laying in the sun on the terrace listening to the lake as its water crashed on the rocks. We have had a million and one pregames where we made fun of each other for our poor music taste and even poorer taste in alcohol. We have taken this campus by storm and branched out in all of the right ways. Lucky for me, I have gotten the chance to be inspired by strong, independent women who have stolen my heart and have become the only obvious choice for my bridal party. Each and every one of the individuals I have met through this experience has molded me in some way. They have left a deep footprint on my heart, and an even bigger impact on my soul.
While we may never get to walk these streets again as college students, never sit on the couch in the apartment all together eating Chinese food, never get to use our student ID in place of a cover charge at Whiskey Jacks on Saturday night, we will consistently have a slideshow of memories playing on repeat for the rest of our lives. These memories, moments, and opportunities will remain at the forefront of our lives for the rest of time, as we share embarrassing stories at each other’s weddings and bombard our children with our best college moments whether they are interested in hearing or not. Although we cannot stay forever (even though we REALLY want to), I am confident that we will move onward and upward together, even if we cannot do so physically. As I watch the best people in my life pack up the apartment and drive away from Madison for the last time, I find comfort in knowing that I made the best decision of my life by saying yes to the University of Wisconsin four years ago. I will take my experiences and my new discoveries with me everywhere I go and never take these past four years for granted. And, from now on, when someone asks me “Why Wisconsin?” I will respond, “why not.”