My alarm clock’s nagging and monotonous beeping blared at six in the morning on Labor Day this year. Getting up eagerly, I exhibited a deep contrast to my usual routine of hitting the snooze button. I was thrilled to visit the University of Wisconsin in Madison! Anxiety and elation battled within me as I sat into the driver’s seat for the first time on a highway. Taking the I-90 from Chicago, Illinois, the three hour trip was mainly a straight road with light traffic.
Arriving in Madison, my parents and I headed towards the Capitol Building first. Its large white facade with a magnificent cupola at the center of the branching wings glistened in the sun. Standing on top of a hill and overlooking the city, it was like a present day Mount Olympus. From this high throne, the whole city was revealed. At each wing of the white giant was a busy street, bustling with pedestrians. Strolling through the college town, we visited the modern engineering building which took up a whole block. In front of this architectural feat was a park with a fountain which provided a peaceful retreat from the intricate man-made structures. Students rested at benches scattered everywhere in the shade of tall trees. We continued exploring and marveling at the various edifices that made up the university- Bascom Hall, the math hall, chemistry building, and many research towers.
My family and I also toured the different dorms. The Lakeshore ones were quiet and serene, most of them very close to Lake Mendota and its algae-filled water. Around the lake was a park which attracted many visitors, both young and old. Despite the many people jogging, walking, or riding a bike, one still felt a sense of tranquility that comes with being in nature and far from society. It was like a small sanctuary within the busy college city.
Next, we visited the inside of the dorms in Sellery Hall. It was a ten story building with a cluster of bikes surrounding it. Once inside, the atmosphere was extremely embracing and pleasant. Constant chatter and laughter were spilling through the door frames at every floor. Everyone seemed willing to engage in conversation, point out attractions to visit, and relate their experience at Madison so far.
After visiting most of the university’s buildings, my parents and I headed for State Street. It was the doorway to most social events in Madison. No cars, only public transport could drive in the street and the wide spacious sidewalk was heavy with the many people strolling on it. Large groups of college students were walking around and laughing. There were gatherings of elderly people as well, chattering in benches around fountains. Little kids ran around giggling as their parents chased them playfully. Various kinds of music emanated from multiple boulevards in an enchanting mixture of cultures. Street musicians attracted crowds of people who were dancing to the captivating rhythms. The mood was entrancing — cozy cafes were huddled together on the sidewalk, along small boutiques, and stores full of unique trinkets. It seemed as if the whole city was out, gathered on State Street and overlooked by the herculean Capitol Building.
Dusk fell like a blanket over the wide, gray-paved highway. The reflecting paint and markings on the road glared from a distance — always attracting attention, always alert. Yet, my mind was roaming among the ambrosial atmosphere I’d encountered. The enveloping darkness was illuminated by my ardent hopes of one day joining this versatile community. It was a one-day trip that will last a lifetime.
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