Madison: “The Things I’ll Carry”

        I  have always been a terrible packer. For sleepovers, and even #UWSOAR, I overpacked; half the stuff in the duffel bag I brought I did not even wear. So as I have started packing for Madison, I have tried my best to only bring the essentials, reminding myself that home was not far away. Making lists helped me manage the stress of packing and organizing what I will be using for the upcoming weeks, until I find the time to return to Milwaukee. I list that I will be lifting my bed off the ground to make storage space for bins of extra clothes. I list the shoes I’ll be bringing and the number of boxes I’ll have to fit in the back of our truck. I list.

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        I was less anxious than expected when meeting my roommate. In fact, it was great to finally meet Maritza after talking from time to time on Facebook. I am typically a shy person when in a new environment, but meeting someone on campus who I will see every day has given me some confidence to venture out and meet new people. Thankfully, with all the clubs on campus, I am hoping to find individuals who share my interests and who love learning as much as I do.

        I am beyond excited for the extracurricular opportunities that I will have on campus. In fact,  I have already found clubs that I plan to join. For starters, I would like to join the Wisconsin Wrestling Club, which will not only allow me to continue the sport I started in high school but also motivate me to exercise. I also plan to join Madison’s chapters of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Alpha Epsilon Delta (National Premedical Honor Society) and American Medical Student Association. Lastly, I would like to do research during my first year. I will be able to learn more about a variety of these opportunities at the #WiWelcome Student Organization Fair.

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   While I am excited for all the clubs that I could possibly join, I am even more excited for classes. Besides the obvious items that I will bring, I plan on packing past chemistry notes to help me with my classes, chemistry and math guidebooks, and a couple of books to read when I find free time. I’ll also bring pictures of my cat, Milo, who my family rescued when he was just a five-month-old stray that wandered into our yard. Carrying his picture will mean carrying memories of him. I’ll be carrying more memories too; those of my friends who have scattered to different colleges across the midwest, the memories of home-cooked meals and Saturdays watching reruns of Law and Order SVU, memories of the nights I would watch my dad play Black Ops Zombies or Diablo on the X-Box. I will carry the all-nighters, weekend projects, and the satisfaction of parent-teacher conferences gone well. I will carry with me trips to the East Side of Milwaukee and even that putrid smell which blew off of Lake Michigan when algae washed onto the shores.

I’ll carry the good and the bad of my four high school years.

I’ll carry moments of self-doubt and unwavering commitment to academics. The questions often asked of me, “Do you even like fun?” brought on by my introverted personally; I’ll carry that too. Finally, I’ll carry with me the difficulty of making new friends and the fact that I have to make new friends. Despite there being thousands of students, I fear I will not find friends.

I’ll carry all of this with me.

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I’ll pack additional thoughts, including the stress of new classes and the anxiety that accompanies studying for tests and nights of no sleep, when getting out of bed will be harder than it should. I pack the fear that I won’t be able to be as active as I like in all my organizations, or that I won’t be able to join all of them because I’ll be balancing my passions with academics. As someone who wants to go to medical school I carry a weight of possibility that I won’t get accepted into the schools I want to attend and that the A’s I hope to receive will turn to B’s and turn to C’s. I carry with me the fact that my busy schedule will force me to sacrifice other interests for goals that I want to accomplish.

I’ll bring this all with me.

Over the summer, I received emails addressing inclusion and acceptance. I am sure I am not wrong when I say that we all want to make the campus a safe place for all students. Doing so means that we use someone’s preferred pronoun, that rape jokes are no more and rape culture is not enforced, that mental illness isn’t fetishized, romanticized or further supported as a trend, and that we do not treat peers with different abilities as if they are incompetent or unable to do the things we can do. It means that we do not belittle our peers of different identities, that we welcome our international badgers wholeheartedly and remember that even if their experiences and cultures differ from ours, they still deserve respect. In order for all of this to happen, we need to look past ourselves and acknowledge that we are not the only person on campus who deserves respect and attention. People come in different shapes, colors, and personalities and experiences. What makes us deserving of respect and love is established by the fact that we are living, breathing, thinking, emotional beings.

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I’m going to leave you with this, my fellow Badgers; embody the change you want to see on this campus. To create a campus inclusive of all students, we will all need to take positive action against harmful actions. Call out and the jokes which support stigmas and stereotypes. Intervene in situations when something does not seem right. Helping to make this campus become a better place for all students can also come in the form of joining organizations which promote acceptance and safety, such as multicultural organizations, health coalitions, and various religious organizations. Be an active part of these spaces and do your best to learn about different perspectives. To the males who will be on campus, you might consider joining We’re Better Than That – Men Against Sexual Assault (MASA), so that you can become ambassadors and speak out against sexual assault. While I do not know the statistics for male victims, one in four of your female peers will be sexually assaulted on campus. That statistic is not something to ignore. Joining organizations which advocate for acceptance and change can go a long way towards making this campus one-hundred percent inclusive, so set this as your goal: become a positive force at Madison.

The kindness, passion, and determination needed to increase the acceptance of all students on campus is something that we can all bring with us as we move on to the UW-Madison campus. See #YouAtUW.

 

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