As my dad and I flew down I-94 toward Madison this past Sunday, butterflies ricocheted around the inside of my stomach at lightning speed. Thoughts of who I would meet, what kind of opportunities would arise during welcome week, and how exactly I would get all of my stuff to fit in my dorm were racing in my mind. I scratched my hands against my new jeans as the sign for "Entering Dane County" quickly passed our mini-van. My college dream, always a prior reach and a distant place, was now becoming a reality.
To be blunt, move-in day did not feel real. The buzz I felt by everyone throwing their belongings in carts and hugging people they knew from home or orientation was overwhelming. Here I was, in this new state knowing virtually no one. This was the first time in my life I had packed up all of my belongings and moved them somewhere else. Processing the experience was difficult.
Madison is the best college town in the country. No matter what time of day it is and where you may be at, there is always someone wanting to do something, go somewhere or see new things. One would have to go out of their way to try and be bored here. While all of these new opportunities and freedoms are what I have been craving for years, the overwhelming nature of limitless activities and endless fun set me back for the first few days of school. I was so busy soaking in all of the new that I didn't take any time for myself. I started to feel on edge and my chill nature started to unravel.
Come Friday, the streets were flooded with people sporting red and white as UW prepared for its first football game against Western Kentucky. As an avid Badgers fan, I had been looking forward to the first game day since the day I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to buy season tickets in June. I threw on my best red and white tailgate outfit and joined the masses heading toward Camp Randall.
For anyone who has never been in Camp Randall, it is hard to describe the energy that the crowd encapsulates on game day. I grew up going to Badger bowl games, but nothing compared to stepping into the student section for the first time. Thousands of students, cheering and heckling, clad in red and doing all of the little crowd traditions was an overwhelming yet relieving experience. For the first time since I had arrived on campus, I finally felt at home. This was the start of me making my mark at UW-Madison, just like my Dad and his parents had many years ago.