People have asked me the same damn question for the past three months or so:

“Are you ready for graduation?”

I wish I had a notecard or something with me in my back pocket that I could just hand the person. It’s the same response every time.

“Yeah, I guess.”

That would be the abbreviated edition. I’m excited to receive my degree from the University of Wisconsin — despite the new image that follows this university thanks to MTV’s “College Life.” I’m nervous to leave a city I’m grown so comfortable in and a campus I absolutely adore. I’m ready to be done with classes and the daily grind that comes with studying and work. I’m sad I won’t see my good friends — many of whom are my colleagues — on a daily basis anymore.

“Excited, nervous, ready, sad.” That’s the extended version.

As I maneuvered through orange barrels and closed sidewalks and detoured buses, it hit me Tuesday morning as I was walking down University Avenue on my way to class. Many of the people around me have three-plus years to go on this campus; I have just three-plus days.

Which gets me to my advice: Do something.

While there may be 40,000 of us here, everyone can leave here having left a mark. There are an incredible amount of opportunities out there — intramural athletics, internships, volunteer opportunities, student government, Greek life, music groups and, yes, a couple of the nation’s best student newspapers. (Yes, that would be a complement to the Cardinal…)

At the end of the day, when ideas come to life, goals are met and achievements are celebrated, we are reminded this is one university and one campus. Our disagreements make us stronger and debate makes this place a grand marketplace of ideas.

We’re all Badgers. We will all (hopefully) leave degree in tow but will forever share the bond of attending this university. I’ve had some incredible opportunities and experiences working here at the Herald, but I am still just one small part of this university. I have tried to take my duties here at the Herald very seriously without pretending to be more important than anyone else.

While I was out of town for spring break this year — far, far away from Madison — some friends of mine and I went to a bar to watch the Badgers take on Florida State in the NCAA tournament. The Ohio State-Siena game was on at the same time, and one, lonely table of Buckeyes sat near us. Badger fans aplenty were screaming and cheering, biting their nails as the game went into overtime. At the end of the game, as Trevon Hughes hit the game-winning shot, the dozens of Badger fans celebrated together. We were hootin’ and hollerin’ and eventually made our way to the center of the restaurant, gathered in a big circle and sang “Varsity.” Here we were, strangers, hundreds of miles away from Madison, uniting as one. It made me incredibly proud to be a UW student.

With that, I would be in remiss if I did not take a few words to praise my colleagues here at the Herald, many of whom have become some of my best friends. I will forever be indebted to all of them for their hard work and dedication that I have witnessed over the past four years. Many of them are here from the early afternoon to the early morning hours, putting in 12-hour days and sometimes 50 to 60-hour weeks. The growth I have witnessed out of so many people has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time here. As a result, many sacrifice GPAs, classwork, other jobs, social events and so on to make sure there is a paper on the stands every morning. It’s been a privilege working with them.

So when you come back this fall, go out for all of us alumni and jump a little higher at the beginning of the fourth quarter and sit out on the Terrace a little while longer. Take a second to look down from the top of Bascom Hill and go see a part of campus you’ve never been to before. Stand up for what you believe in and let your voice be heard. Keep on begging for “Swingtown” until Leckrone caves in and cherish every last moment you have here.

On Wisconsin.

Tom Schalmo ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.