For those of you reading this, I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I will be graduating in a little less than a month (scary right). Four years have come and gone and I’m about to leave the nest. In this post I plan to narrow down the things that I’ve learned from this great experience. I hope this post will help those who will soon reach this milestone also reflect on what they may have learned.
I have two majors: Life Sciences Communication and Zoology. No I am not going to work in a zoo. My home college at UW-Madison is the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences or “CALS”. I have gotten skills in marketing and communicating science and I have a background and working knowledge of the biological sciences. Given the classes, experiences and friends I have had at UW, here are the top ten things I have learned.
- Beer is currency. Money is great but beer is better. Need a friend to help tutor you? Offer them beer. Need someone to help you move into your new place? They’ll likely want beer to compensate. Want to get into a party? Bring some beer. Ate some of your roommate’s food accidentally? Beer can fix that. Beer can be used as currency just as easily as money and sometimes it’s even preferred (only if both parties are 21).
- Bucky over all other celebs. Remember the last concert you went to of your favorite artist where you were screaming and hyperventilating? That’s cute. Every time anyone on campus runs into Bucky regardless of where or when the occasion strikes, you will see a smile on everyone’s face and everyone screaming “Bucky!”m me included. Bucky is an icon with a cult like following and unless you go here, you won’t understand.
- Go to the terrace as much as you possibly can. The terrace is the one place on campus with a fantastic view, ridiculously colored chairs and the best entertainment and company you can find. Grabbing a drink and ice cream with my friends and watching the sunset has been one of my favorite things to do on campus. You can watch late night movies, go stand up paddle boarding and listen to some awesome live music.
- Spend a summer in Madison. Yes going home is necessary to see your family and internships are important for your future career. But I highly recommend spending at least one summer in Madison. Like I said before, there’s the terrace, tons of outdoor and water activities and more. Camp Randall shows movies, Devils Lake is nearby and campus has a very different vibe that is just so spectacular that I just can’t put my finger on.
- Quality over quantity. Many people come into college thinking they’ll meet this giant group of friends on their floor freshman year and that’s who they’ll be friends with through their entire undergraduate career. For some people, this is the case and there is nothing wrong with that. Although I stay in contact and hangout with many people I met freshman year, I’ve found this is not the average experience. As I grew throughout college and figured out more of who I was and what I was interested in, I joined clubs and made friends there that I related with more. People in some of my classes became my best friends. I’ve found that finding a few people that you really relate to is what matters. Having a few quality friends who share your outlook on life is more valuable than having loads of friends who you know on more superficial levels. Personally, I found I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.
- Create your own opportunities.I hate to break it to you, but nothing will be given to you in college. Not your grades, not that internship you want, and not even that job you want after college. You have to go talk to multiple people: advisors, professors, friends, employers, supervisors, etc. YOU have to make the appointments, YOU have to take the risks and put in the effort, YOU have to ask the questions. Going to UW-Madison you have endless opportunities, but it’s your job to go found them and take advantage of them.
- The process of elimination. For me, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I came into college. I knew I liked science and that was about it. I tried doing research sophomore year and realized quickly that it was not for me. So I ruled that out, but I figured out I liked talking about science and learning about it. This lead me to discovering the Life Sciences Communication major. I loved science but then I took organic chemistry and physics as a biology major and realized I hated those classes so I began looking for a different major. Then I took a class that made me realize what I really cared about, conservation and sustainability. I wouldn’t say I magically realized one day what I wanted to do. It took a series of experiences that helped me rule out what I DIDN’T like. And that’s ok. However you figure yourself is just fine.
- Take time for yourself. Right off the bat your time will be pulled in every different direction. You have class, studying, social events, club meetings and activities, buying and making food, exercising or sports, the list goes on. I know i definitely neglected my well-being and paid for it. Take that nap that you feel you need. Eat a vegetable, even if it’s just one. Go for a walk. Watch some YouTube videos for a laugh (my personal favorite). You mental and physical health are just as important if not more important than that grade you’re trying to get in whichever class.
- Be afraid but take the plunge. What? Yes. College is scary. You move away from home. Maybe you’ll have a job or internship in a different city. Maybe you study abroad. Or, like me, you’re getting a real world job. It’s ok to be afraid and scared of the unknown. But what I’ve found is that the greatest things come from jumping into the unknown. You can be scared, but please do yourself and favor and take the plunge anyway. I bet you’ll be glad you did. I sure am.
- Madison will always be home. Madison and UW is a magical place. I’ve had some of my worst and best moments here and I wouldn’t change a thing. Not even for all the beer in the world. No matter where I go, or where you go, Madison will always be a home base to come back to. Home is a feeling and Madison is that feeling. When you graduate, you’ll understand 🙂
I hope you found this list entertaining and heartfelt. This is by no means a comprehensive list. There a million more things I could add to this, but these are the ones I’m mulling over as I’m about to leave this amazing place. Good luck to all grads and people on their college journeys. I promise all the pain and laughs are worth it.