Student to student: A farewell to the campus I love
Editor’s note: Kayla Huynh is a recent UW–Madison graduate from Bloomington, Illinois. She writes for University Communications and will attend graduate school at Northwestern University.
In writing this article, I’ve stared at a blinking cursor and blank page for hours. The truth is there’s no amount of words to accurately describe how much I’ll miss this university and how much it means to me.
The truth is I’m not ready to say goodbye.
For those who know me, they’ll find it as no surprise that I waited until the very last minute to turn in my final assignments of college and to write this article. But that tardiness wasn’t just a product of my chronic procrastination. It was a sense of denial, a way to hold onto the final thread of my status as ‘student.’
At the same time, I know deep down that I’m not truly letting go — there are dozens of memories I have attached to nearly every part of campus. Because of that, a piece of me will forever be in Madison.
This experience is one that I never expected to have when I first began college. On my first day of freshman year, I stood on Bascom Hill in awe of how many strangers surrounded me. In a sea of thousands of people, I was convinced that I was alone. To me, it seemed like everyone already had it all figured out.
What I’ve learned, though, is that no one has it all figured out — and that’s OK. What matters is the memories you make and the lessons you learn during the short time you have as a student.
What matters is being persistent — in reaching out, aiming high and digging deep.
Throughout my time here, I’m fortunate to have done just that. I’ve grown a lot — as a writer, and more importantly, as a person. I came in as a freshman with just an inkling of aspirations and not a clue as to what I wanted to do with my life. Now, I’ve left knowing I can take on the world — even if I have no idea where that journey will take me.
It’s here that I’ve learned everything from horticulture and the composition of rocks to magazine publishing and even Slavic science fiction. I’ve waited in the world’s longest line for Ginger Root sesame chicken and spent far too many hours in the cramped quarters of Vilas Hall.
Along the way, I’ve made more friends than I could have ever imagined and discovered what it takes to learn and to listen. I’ve also realized how important it is to do the things that make me feel vulnerable, including talking to the teachers who initially terrified me and becoming friends with the boss who I was originally too anxious to talk to.
It’s here that I’ve sifted, winnowed, Jumped Around, rubbed Abe’s foot, Terraced more times than I can count. It’s here that I’ve met people from all walks of life and, fortunately, I found a community of my own in the midst of it all.
While these moments are ones I took for granted, they’re also ones that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. In spite of the challenges — a polar vortex, the Great Vilas Flood and, now, a pandemic — I will always look back on this time of my life knowing that UW was where I was meant to be.
No matter how big or small, these memories are the ones I’ll really miss most. The spontaneous encounters with acquaintances on University Avenue, the endless nights in College Library, the mid-afternoon naps on Bascom Hill. All of these experiences have made my time here special, in a way that is uniquely my own.
This place has ultimately shaped me into who I am today. It has become my home, and it always will be, even if I have to say goodbye.
Though I originally stepped foot onto campus thinking it was made for someone else, I’m leaving now knowing that it was made for me all along.
Tags: alumni, commencement, graduation, learning, student life, students