“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” –George Bernard Shaw
Another post inspired by French class, but this time, the post will be much more than a simple translation of my writing. One option for my most recent composition was what would be different about your life if you had attended a different university. This was a much more challenging prompt to address than most because attending UW-Milwaukee has been extremely influential in who I’ve become. The list of potential differences wasn’t going to fit on one page (the length requirement) which is why this post will be an elaboration of the actual assignment.
My other option (at the time), if I didn’t attend UWM, was UW-Madison. I’m skeptical if I’d have liked Madison enough to complete my degree though. It’s not that I have anything against Madison, just that I don’t think it would have been a good fit me personally. There were numerous differences regarding the campus culture that I discovered when touring; I’m sure I’d have found several more if I actually studied and lived in Madison. The tidbit about most of campus being drunk before noon on football game days still gives me pause when I consider I almost attended that school. The drinking lifestyle was never for me. There’s also the possibility I could have avoided the drinking or it might not have been as bad as the tour guide said (and my imagination imagined). However, I have a low tolerance for drunk people, especially noisy and rowdy ones.
If I disliked the environment and culture enough, there’s a good chance I would have transferred. The question is where. I know I wouldn’t have transferred home; I refused to move home even when I didn’t have a job and could barely support myself immediately after graduation. A part of me thinks I’d have transferred to UWM. I loved almost everything about my three and half years of undergrad and firmly believe I was meant to end up in Milwaukee. However, there’s another part of me that considers my love of travel and distant lands; thus I could have transferred abroad. There are an uncountable number of factors that would have played into my decision though: how old was I when I chose to transfer, was I dating someone, had I studied abroad already, how were my relationships with certain family members (my mom, my older sister, and my niece), where were my interests, etc.
Not only would my relationships have played a definite role in where I transferred, but these relationships could have been extremely different than they are today. I couldn’t have afforded to take the bus and frequently visit my sister and newborn niece my freshman year, so—unfortunately—neither of these relationships would have their current resilience. The positive influence they (and my brother-in-law) have had on me is immense. The amount of patience I gained by spending time with my niece (now nieces) is reason enough to say their impact was huge. By having a stronger relationship with my sister, I sought out her advice and took said advice seriously—as well as my brother-in-law’s advice. This advice helped shape other decisions I made. None of this would be the case without the current strength of our bond though.
Then there’s the relationship with my mom. I have no idea how that would have differed because regardless of where I attended university, I still would have gone home for as many holidays as possible and talked to her the same amount. The difference would have been that I have since learned she didn’t support the idea of me going to Madison. However, she also isn’t one to hold a grudge, so I’m confident she wouldn’t have held this against me; she may have been overly supportive if/when I chose to transfer though and thus influenced that decision.
Returning to going abroad, I might not have studied in New Zealand. Almost my entire life, I had my heart set of going to England and I didn’t because I needed an international internship for my Global Studies major (a major Madison doesn’t have), and UWM has a program to New Zealand that included help securing internship placement. New Zealand was still on my bucket list of countries to visit, but it wasn’t my first choice; I realize now it should have been though. Similar to how my relationships shaped me, so did my time in New Zealand. Some of these results would have happened regardless of where I studied abroad: sense of adventure, increased independence, appreciation for other cultures, etc. I wouldn’t, however, have met the same people and had the same internship/learning experience. My internship in New Zealand gave me confidence in my work that my classes hadn’t. Since neither of my majors exist at Madison, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have completed that internship anyways. Madison has similar majors, but I still could have taken my education (and thus my life) down a completely different path. Either way though, I would have found something I enjoyed.
All these potential differences mean I might not be friends with some of the wonderful people I am today. I happen to really like my Milwaukee friends, especially considering the majority of them have one very distinct similarity: French. There are one or two friends I don’t know directly through the French Department who also happen to love French, if not the language then certainly the culture. Aside from these friends, I’ve only made a few other friends in Milwaukee. In recent years, French has definitely made a big impact in my life. Regardless of where I could have attended university, hopefully I still found the delicious eloquence of French :)
Then there’s Alice, who I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t attended university in Milwaukee. I also wouldn’t know all the great people from my jobs or from the student organizations in which I was a part. Nevertheless, a lot of other people inhabit the world, so I wouldn’t be friendless and I would have had other jobs in which to meet people. Plus living in Madison would have allowed me to assist more with my high school forensics team as one of the assistant coaches lives in Madison and the team competes in Madison almost every season.
Ultimately, I hope I would have either found my way to UWM or found myself happily living abroad, travelling with any spare money I have while learning/perfecting my knowledge of other languages and making friends along the way. Also I like to think that somewhere in creating myself and seeking happiness, I would have developed the strong relationships I have with my family.