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“I can come with you to orientation, right? I miss my college days,” my aunt expressed to me a couple weeks ago when I mentioned I was interested in attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
”If you’re going, that means I’m coming too!” another aunt exclaimed.
Although these two women are from graduating classes decades apart, hearing the stories of their time well-spent at this university intrigued me. Did my aunt really take lunch trays and sled down the notorious hill in the wintertime?
I decided to investigate for myself. Driving on the interstate on the way to Eau Claire was a gorgeous ride; the forests lining the road transform themselves in the fall. I’ve always had an admiration for autumn colors, but living in the suburbs means that it’s rare for me to see an entire forest bursting with these unique hues.
Once we arrived on campus and navigated through the Garfield Avenue construction, I gazed at the various buildings on campus. From the towering Centennial Hall to the red brick Old Library to the Haas Fine Arts Center across the river, there was a lot to take in. I could picture generations of my family rushing along these paths to get to class, or walking arm-in-arm with their friends to get lunch. I could hear them gasp in awe as they sat atop Putnam Rock, gazing at the scenery surrounding them, and I could hear them gasp in exhaustion as they took the stairs on the Hill back to their residence halls.
As I went through my all-day visit on campus, I wondered how my college days would differ from the other women in my family. Although I admire these women very much and consider them to be role models, if you looked at us sitting at a kitchen table together, you wouldn’t be able to guess that we’re related. The majority of them don’t have a musical bone in their body, whereas I am currently in my seventh season with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. Between being a member of both their Senior Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, I am also a mentor for their Progressions program. My family also graduated with degrees in areas ranging from marketing to communications to human resources, which are quite different programs from music education.
I sipped a cup of coffee in the Cabin, mulling over the new insights I had gained from meeting with Professor Rex, sitting through a scholarship presentation with the admissions staff, and learning about the honors college from a student pane. All of the people I had talked to were so enthusiastic about sharing about their time at UW-Eau Claire. If I became a campus guide, I thought to myself, what stories would I be able to tell prospective students? Maybe I would gush about my time in the L.E. Phillips String Quartet, or the articles I had written for the Spectator. Perhaps I would encourage them to join an acapella group, or stop by Hibbard Hall for a Cru meeting. I couldn’t even begin to list the student organizations I was interested in joining or the classes I was planning on taking.
All too soon, our campus visit concluded. Even though my feet were sore from exploring the various nooks and crannies of campus, I wasn’t ready to leave this city just quite yet. I begged my parents to take me to Revival Records after reading an article about this record shop in Volume One. While flipping through the countless vinyl albums at this shop, I came across Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago” album. As I gazed through the tracks on the album, I knew that I could see myself spending hours in this shop on the weekends. I could picture myself chatting with friends at The Goat Coffee Shop, or taking long walks along the Chippewa River when I needed a break from studying.
Most importantly, I could picture myself thriving at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
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