I studied abroad this past spring semester in Seoul, South Korea. It was unbelievable, magnificent, delicious and every other positive praiseworthy adjective you can think of. I could spend this entire article recounting the semester and rambling about the people I met, the places I saw and the things I learned.
But, that sounds a bit obnoxious, so I want to focus on how a semester abroad in Seoul made me more grateful for our perfect mid-sized college town of Madison, Wisconsin.
I knew I was going to miss my family and friends tremendously as this was the furthest away from them I could possibly have gone. But I did not expect to miss all the minuscule and not-so-miniscule elements that make Madison precisely what it is — the people that make up the city, the highly anticipated reunions with my closest college friends I’ve known since my first month in Madison, the new friends I made along the way, the smiles people exchange on the street for no reason other than the fact that we are in the Midwest and so much more.
So here is everything I missed, packed full of recommendations:
- The walks and runs on the lakeshore path with a picturesque view of Lake Mendota right over my shoulder. The vibrant summer green of the Arboretum. The darling homes I pass on the Monona Bay loop, and the conversation, giggles and gossip I share with my favorite running buddy.
- I missed the Saturday farmers market at the Capitol, from which I continuously returned home with a tote bag piled to the top with fresh produce, flowers and little treats.
- Picnics and catching up on reading at James Madison park.
- Sunsets at the Memorial Union terrace, where you can share a pitcher, play cards and watch generations of Madison alumni and folks in the area gather with their own loved ones. A place where you catch prospective students whispering to their parents they want to go here and old groups of college friends revisiting their cherished college town, knowing you were once the former and one day will be the latter.
- Eating at my favorite restaurants. And just because I missed them so much, I will list them by name. At my number one spot, Ha Long Bay on Willy Street. The Thai bubble tea, fried tofu dumplings and pad see ew are my go-to dishes. The Japanese stir fry at the Globe on N. Henry Street is mouth-watering, along with the rest of the menu. The So-Cal Grain Bowl at Everly on Monroe Street and the Ziti Reginella at Naples 15 on N. Butler Street are must-try restaurants. Breakfast at Marigold Kitchen, Monty's Blue Plate Diner and Ancora are all delicious choices as well.
- This list wouldn't be complete without acknowledging the iced chais with oat milk I missed with a burning passion. However, this thirst was quickly quenched by my favorite spots. If you’re looking for the best-iced chai, it can be found at Michelangelo's Coffee House and Fair Trade Coffee, both on State Street.
Honorable mentions include but are not limited to: the State Street Brat's patio, anything and everything from Batch Bakehouse, ice cold water, hummus, riding a BCycle, the seaweed in Lake Mendota, country music and avocado toast.
Leaving Madison for a semester was the best and hardest choice I made, and I feel immensely grateful that it made returning all the more sweeter.