University of Wisconsin–Madison

Time for a Change

I come from Oregon, Wisconsin, a quiet little town that’s just a twenty-minute drive through rolling farmland to Madison. Growing up so close to the UW campus, I spent a lot of time hanging out downtown with my family when I was a kid. My dad and I would go sailing off the Memorial Union and my mom would take me to the Plaza when she would meet her friends for lunch. Both went to UW-Madison in the 80s and Dad worked as a carrot breeder in the Agronomy department, so I have known forever that I would go to school here. I didn’t bother to apply anywhere else, it was Madison or bust. I got in, graduated high school, packed up my things and moved ten miles north. That is the start of my story.

Going to college so close to home has its benefits. Mom can stop by after work and drop off food and you can go home once a week to do laundry and eat dinner. And when Dad is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the end of freshman year, it is better to be at home with the family. He fought hard and never gave up. That summer I sat with him and listened. He died on the last warm day of November. It was cloudy for two weeks. I came back to class to pass my finals. But the city I have known and loved my whole life did not feel the same.

It was then that I knew that it was time for a change.

That was a year and a half ago, now its August ‘18 -the month that would never come- and I’m looking back like what was I thinking?! Who thought this would be a good idea? In a couple days I’m going to hop on a 787 and not come back FOR FIVE MONTHS. I’m going to study at the University of Bologna, one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in the world, surrounded by no one I’ve ever met, speaking a language that I’ve studied for less than three years! I’m no European, just a procrastinating punk from the Midwest that prefers polishing prose and pounding pinot to pouring through paragraphs of paperwork.

I’ll stop hyperventilating alliteration before I lose my readers (thx 4 reading, btw), I haven’t even left yet. It is better to take this day by day and remind myself that I really am prepared for this and I really do need a change. I need a break from the rut that I have been riding. I’m tired of watching people play Fortnight and I have been to far too many birthdays at the Nitty Gritty. My Instagram feed is never-ending, and my asshole president gives me an ulcer whenever I read the news, which is often as a journalism student. I need to get away from the streets of my father’s city and the memories of a life I have outgrown.

I need to go out into the world on my own to return with a better idea of who I am.

In Italian, when you want to say ‘good luck’, you say in bocca al lupo, which literally means ‘in the mouth of the wolf’. It refers ending up with your head in the mouth of a wolf, which would be bad luck, sort of like how we say ‘break a leg’ in English. The response to in bocca al lupo is crepi il lupo, which kinda means ‘may the wolf die’. I like that. I want to live with my head in the mouth of the wolf, hoping that it will drop dead before it bites me.

Let’s get started.