Over the course of a week in Panama City Beach for Spring Break, I came across thousands of college students. Pretty much every school proudly posted a flag to show their pride. On one part of the beach, Wisconsin took over, but after walking down the beach to a couple more resorts, we quickly discovered that there were tons of other schools there as well. The first couple of days, we stayed in Wisco territory, not knowing that there were other parts of the beach. Naturally, we'd constantly hear people screaming "YEAH WISCONSIN" as we'd walk by in our Badger gear or they'd shower us with hugs and high-fives. As we progressed down the beach to explore over the next couple days, the Wisconsin love slowly died down. People would ask where I went to school and I'd proudly say UW-Madison with a cocky smile, expecting them to be impressed. My smile suddenly disappeared when half the people said they'd never heard of it. What?! They'd tell me they went to Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, or other schools across the country that I'd never heard of either. We were both as surprised as the other. We'd quickly rile off facts about how great our schools are and the reputations each ones had. The more I talked to people the more I realized that almost everyone believed they attended the greatest university in the nation. It seemed that every school had the best party scene, the hottest people, the best academics, amazing sports, successful alumni, and a beautiful campus. We all had undying school pride.
The same was true about fraternities and sororities. People would state their association and I'd have absolutely no idea what that meant. Even the ones that I'd heard of had completely different reputations at one school to another. Again, it seemed that every person belonged to the most elite group. Shocker. And with sports teams, people would say that they played football for a certain school, or lacrosse, or soccer and it just so happened their sport was the biggest sport at their school. Ha, okay I'll take their word for it.
It seemed that no matter what, people believed their association with a group made them the best. But considering I didn't understand their association in context, I didn't understand what was so great about it. Just because someone said they were apart of this university didn't make me look at them any differently than someone who went to another university because I had no prior knowledge of their respective reputations, unlike the people from surrounding areas. I realized that the student body, organization, or team we are apart of doesn't make us who we are, but rather contributes it. We're all basically the same even though we go to different schools or are involved in different things. Sometimes, I think I was subconsciously under the impression that because I went to Madison made me inherently better than everyone else. In reality, once I graduate, or move away from the Madison area, people won't really focus on where I went to school or might not even be familiar with the wonderful qualities it offers. I'm just the same as everyone else.
This is also true for other extracurriculars. Make sure your membership to a certain group doesn't take over your life, because in four years, it might not hold the same importance in the bigger picture. People might not know that your music group was the best at your school, or your team was undefeated.
Obviously, it's important to always do what you love. But don't get too focused on the reputation a certain group holds to the point that it takes over your life, or you gain false perceptions. In the big scheme of things, you won't be any better than anyone else solely on the fact that you were apart of the most popular organization. Flaunt your talents instead and never become overly confident about being apart of a group, because it could change in the blink of an eye. Never invest your whole self into just one thing, because what happens when its over? What will you do with your life when you're no longer a member after college? That's why it's more important to focus on enhancing ourselves, rather than creating ourselves based on our associations.
I am no longer just the girl who goes to UW-Madison. I'm Tricia- the girl who loves to write, run, laugh uncontrollably, dance, act crazy, play with my dogs, embark on adventures, and be with family and friends- who just happens to go Wisconsin.