5 Things I Wouldn't Have Learned If I Didn't Go To The University Of Wisconsin

Mark Hoffman

One day I woke up and I was a college graduate. Four years passed me bye in the blink of an eye, and if that's not bad enough, the last two years following passed by even faster.

I've reached that really weird time of post-grad life where you're not entirely sure if you can still call it post-grad. I graduated two years, three months and three and a half weeks ago, not that I'm counting or anything. Sometimes, that feels like a lifetime.

Every time I open Snapchat, log onto Facebook or check Timehop, I'm in awe of how much time has passed. I've finally gotten to the point where most days, I don't miss school.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first one to say that my four years in college were the best of my life. They were four years that I'm so incredibly grateful for, and four years that molded me into the person I am today.

Here are five post-grad things I wouldn't have learned if I didn't graduate from The University of Wisconsin:

1. Slow Down

I grew up 40 miles north of New York City and the fast-paced city lifestyle of the city seemed to easily slip into suburbia; All my life I talked fast, ate fast and walked fast.

When I moved to Wisconsin, I had the refreshing realization that not everyone was rushing to get somewhere. Yes, I absolutely hate getting stuck behind a couple walking slow on the way to work, but I'd like to think my time in the Midwest taught me to appreciate the smaller moments in life.

Now, the things I once took for granted, like sitting on the couch for hours on end with my best friends, have to be planned (and paid for) months in advance, so when they do happen we put our phones down and enjoy every second.

The day I graduated my brother said to me, “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

I'm not where I thought I would be two years after graduation, but I try to remind myself to live in the moment and to take advantage of each curve in the road.

2. Be Nice

There really is something to be said about the Midwestern sense of being nice. 

In Madison, I learned that a smile can work wonders, people appreciate being asked how their days were and the cashier at Walgreens can actually be interested in why you're buying green and white streamers.

I learned that there's not enough time in the day to spend your energy negatively and a simple gesture, liking holding the door open for someone, can go a long way.

If I could give one piece of advice to every high school senior in the state of New York, I would tell them to find a school as far away from New York in personality and distance as possible, and go there.

3. Say Yes

I'd like to think that most nights during my senior year, given the choice to stay in or go out, I chose the latter.

First and foremost, college is about your (formal) education, but as our favorite Madison bar, The Kollege Klub, lovingly told us, “You can't let school interfere with your education.”

There is so much more that gets packed into the word "college" than meets the eye. It's about learning, both inside the classroom and outside.

At Wisco, I learned to say yes, to step out of my comfort zone and to do things that scared me.

Since graduating, I've realized how important it is to say yes and to seize the moment, because you never know if you'll get certain opportunities ever again.

4. Choose Your Friends

OK, this may seem self-explanatory, but hear me out.

In college, you learn how important it is to surround yourself with people who care about you, support you and will talk you down from being crazy at 3 am on a Saturday night.

I love my high school friends, I've known them almost all my life, and they know a part of me my college friends will never know. But I never lived with them.

I didn't hug them after saying goodbye to my parents for the first time, I didn't spend 12 hours in the library with them cramming for our first college final, I didn't hold their hair when they had too much fun at formal and I didn't cry on their shoulders as we closed the book on a chapter of our lives.

Our childhood friends watch us grow, but our college friends help us grow. You'll never spend as much time with anyone (besides your future spouse) as you did with your college friends. There will probably be no one that ever knows you (or your wardrobe) better.

5. Call Your Parents

It wasn't until college that I realized my family wasn't completely normal -- and I say that in the most genuine, nicest way possible. I love my family.

All my life, my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins attended birthday parties, holidays, dance recitals, school plays and swim meets. It's not that I took this for granted, I just thought it was the norm.

When I reached college, I discovered that not everyone's family functioned this way, but I was glad mine did. Being far away from home showed me how much I relied on the comfort of my family.

Yes, it's important, and necessary, to step out of your comfort zone, but it's equally as important to remain connected to those who know you best.