Where is the grass greener?

Current adventure: Case

I’ve taken my talents to Wisconsin for the summer. The draw of in-state tuition and a state school experience has led me to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. For those of you who worship The Ohio State University, UW is the greatest school in the Big Ten. Not only is Madtown consistently the top party school in the country but it also seamlessly combines world renowned academics (12 Nobel Laureates) with nationally respected athletics: Russell Wilson, Frank the Tank, J.J. Watt, etc.

As a Case Western Reserve University student, I have to admit I’m excited to leave our geek-is-chic campus behind for greener state school grass. Throughout the summer my column will analyze the shades of state school grass, comparing our mid-sized research university to an institution at least four times greater.

I’ve only been a temporary Badger for a week, so I’m hardly an expert. But in just a few days I’ve come up with a few noteworthy comparisons.

Many of my high school classmates and closest friends attend Madison. Hanging out with my best friends on their home turf has been the highlight. Due to internships and study abroad one friend and I had a 16 month hiatus. Discovering Madison with her has been the perfect antidote to cure my withdrawal symptoms.

Then there are the classmates I haven’t seen since high school. Many of us at CWRU are the sole alumni representative of their high school on campus. We chose to go to a out-of-state private school to seek out new adventures and friendships and break away from our high school classmates.

On my first day in Madison I ran into an old classmate. He called me the wrong name, we laughed and super briefly caught up. It was awkward yet cordial. Midwestern friendliness and Wisconsin extroversion has trained us to smile and exchange pleasantries rather than settle for the casual up nod. That doesn’t mean I’m excited to run into more Tosa East High School classmates any time soon.

University Circle is a great little neighborhood but there are not a plethora of student activities at our fingertips. The Cleveland Museum of Art is free but what student is trying to look at art every weekend. The Corner Alley is expensive, the South Loop is not a consistent means to Coventry Village and our school work dwindles down our free time to a mere trip to Chipotle or the Jolly Scholar.

Madison is a college town. Downtown and the expansive campus are suited for students. The student unions have bowling alleys, rock climbing walls and tables upon tables of study space. There are shops and bars surrounding campus and a winding lakefront path. My favorite place in Madison so far includes a terrace overlooking Lake Mendota: there is a bar and stage for live music, karaoke or projecting movies next to a sailing club.

I yearn for such an atmosphere at CWRU, and we are getting there, but CWRU is an isolated campus within an idyllic neighborhood awkwardly removed from downtown. If we were to acquire all these exciting assets then we would be a college town and lose the appeal of a midsize university.

Without the crushing schoolwork of a semester, not being sCWRUed out of any fun in the sun is good in my book. I’m keenly aware of my current responsibility free circumstances and the bias they create. So for now, I’m going to savor the circumstances and enjoy my time at the greatest state school in the nation.

Heather O’Keeffe is a senior studying biomedical engineering and minoring in sports medicine. She is super stoked to windsurf at the Madison sailing club this summer and keeps her eyes peeled for Barry Alvarez or Nigel Hayes.