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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

It’s been quite the culture shock, let me tell you

I made the move to Madison, Wisconsin approximately 6 weeks ago, and let me tell you, the differences between my hometown in Southern California and here are astounding. And not for the reasons you would expect, like the humidity, the lack of LA traffic, and the significantly cheaper gas prices. Because while those are certainly new to me too, I could’ve predicted them. It’s all the little things I didn’t see coming as a born and raised Californian that have thrown me through the biggest loop in my attempted transition to a state 2,100 miles away from where I grew up. 

So please, whether you’re from out of state like me, or a Midwest native, come along with me as I take you through a Californian’s take on Madison!

For starters, the people are nice here. Like really nice. And they’re patient! Let me just say, you haven’t seen true patience until you watch cars trying to go through a crosswalk on the UW-Madison campus. They just wait there, letting dozens of students through, before they can finally make their way across.

I can confidently say that if anyone tried to do the same where I’m from, they would get run over. We don’t have that kind of patience in California, so that certainly threw me off when I arrived in Madison.

Trigger Warning: Bees

Moving on to a negative, like a HUGE negative: the bees. No one, absolutely no one, warned me about how many bees there would be the first few weeks after move-in. They’re everywhere. The second you step outside, you’ll be immediately surrounded, and your food (especially the ice cream from Memorial Union) is fair game 

Speaking of ice cream, I wasn’t prepared for how good it is here. I mean, I should have known that it would be, considering that Wisconsin is the “Dairy State.” However, I wasn’t expecting to genuinely be able to taste a real difference between the ice cream here and at home. Let’s just say that the Babcock Dairy store located approximately five minutes from my dorm is very, very dangerous. 

But what is potentially more dangerous than that ice cream is the wait for any restaurant within a 5-mile radius of Camp Randall post-game day win. Football is big here, and coming from a girl who had dreamed of tailgates and a huge, decked-out stadium, Wisconsin game days have exceeded my wildest dreams. But that post-win high is sometimes (ever so slightly) dashed when the fastest wait time for any food is two hours. It’s alright though, all I have to do is channel the inner Midwest patience that I’ve been trying to replicate. I’ve been able to survive so far. 

The spirit and pride Madison fans have is unrivaled by any school or team I’ve ever come into contact with, and if the massive turnouts don’t show that, I don’t know what does! Walking into the stadium and seeing everyone, from the little toddlers to the fans that have been supporting the Badgers for decades, decked out in red and singing Buttercup is potentially the coolest thing I have ever experienced in my nineteen years of life. 

Second to all the game day feels, experiencing a real fall for the first time is something I didn’t expect to grant me so much serotonin. I thought that my favorite show being Gilmore Girls would numb me to how much I love fall, but it definitely didn’t. I might be made fun of every time I pull out my phone to take a picture of the orange and red leaves, and my parents might be sick of getting texts consisting solely of trees, but I’ll never grow tired of this season.

I hope, with more time and experience, that I’ll eventually be able to consider myself an expert on Madison and all it has to offer. For now, I’ll continue to be surprised every time the weather abruptly changes, when someone lets me cross in front of them without running me over, and when another person raves about Culver’s. That being said, so far, with my limited knowledge, this California Native grants this city a solid five-star review, bees and all. 

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Sophia Ross

Wisconsin '26

Sophia is currently a freshman at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she is planning on majoring in Journalism! In her free time Sophia loves running, taking pictures on her film camera, and going to as many concerts as her wallet allows!