By the bright shining light of the moon!
That is just a short snippet of the many University of Wisconsin varsity songs that I sang over and over at basketball and ice hockey games. I have been back in the UK now for well over a month and still find it difficult to get these songs out of my head.
My semester at UW-Madison was nothing short of amazing, packed to the brim with exciting adventures and activities that made me realise how inactive and unproductive I had become at home. The entire campus is bordered with the 21 mile-wide Lake Mendota, a lake which I have paddle-boarded, swam in, kayaked, and walked across whilst it was frozen. The winter was harsh, reaching a low of -20C, but nonetheless university attendance continued, the sidewalks full of slush and students making their way to class through the heavy snow. My thermal leggings are the best purchase I have ever made (Thanks, Mum). The ice and snow proved to be my enemy, after a night of drinking ended in me slipping on ice and breaking both my wrists (at least we think I slipped on ice, nobody can remember anything.) But I ended up with my right arm casted and the left in a splint for six weeks of my semester, which undoubtably sucked, but thankfully the free Southampton insurance came in very useful. Nonetheless, I carried on with university life (after a very unusual FaceTime with my parents explaining to them my situation) and even managed to go skiing regardless of my lack of hands.
Shortly after my arrival, I applied to join a university-run organisation called BRIDGE, which partners an international student with a compatible American student and these partners are put into larger groups, so there’s always a safety net if two partners don’t get along as well as hoped. I would definitely recommend anyone heading out on a study or work abroad placement to join organisations like this, as it’s a great way to meet new people and settle in. My partner was called Maria, and she was from Milwaukee, about 2 hours east of Madison. We ended up being really good friends, going on many adventures such as kayaking on Lake Mendota (the lake that the uni is situated on), trying the food carts on State Street, and exploring the attic of the old Science Hall. She was a senior in her final semester, and so I got to see her graduate (and also help her when she freaked out about being an adult), but this also meant that we spent plenty of time at the library. In our wider BRIDGE team (Go Team 7!) I got to meet people from all over the US and other places like Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Romania, Germany, and Portugal, which really boosted my confidence in meeting new people and broadened my horizons in regards to knowledge of other cultures around the world.
I am lucky enough to have a brother who lives in Rhode Island so I managed to fly out and see him and his wife for a weekend in February. I have visited before, so it was nice to go to new places in Boston and RI that I haven’t previously, and also to just chill out with them rather than rushing around trying to get all the sightseeing in like a normal holiday. It was especially great to be able to see family even for a short time and also to show him around Wisconsin when he came to visit me in April.
Once I had my cast off, Spring Break rolled around and, instead of going south like a normal person, I decided to explore Chicago and New York for a week, staying in the cold Northern weather. It did finally warm up, though, and eventually my hat and scarf were pushed further and further back in my wardrobe. I have also been to New York before, but never Chicago, so it was really cool to explore Chicago whilst also showing my friend places in New York that we wouldn’t have known about had it been both of our first times there. The High Line was a great highlight of NY; a disused railway line above the streets of Manhattan that has been turned into a public walkway and park, where we stood and watched the sun set behind the Statue of Liberty.
UW-Madison is a university known for its extensive contributions to film theory, and so is the perfect place for a film student. Theorist and author David Bordwell is a previous lecturer, now of honorary status, as is co-writer Kristen Thompson. The film department boasts a number of impressive professors, and I was lucky enough to be taught by Ben Singer and Kelley Conway. Prof. Singer is hoping to soon publish his work in film comedy that he taught my class, and so it was very exciting to see and learn his theories, before they’ve even been published! Prof. Conway is quite obviously extremely knowledgeable of Film History, having published many books herself. These two classes were both third year classes, and so really pushed me in my abilities to analyse films and their corresponding theories and styles.
My ability to independently strip apart a film has really developed through their respective advice, and I will undoubtedly utilise their direction in my dissertation writing next year. This semester has given me the opportunity to develop and improve upon my skills in both my studies and personally, proving to be an invaluable experience!
Sadly, students are unable to study a full year abroad at UW-Madison, but if I could, I would in a heartbeat.