Growing up, Wildcat culture was important to my family. As a kid, I loved visiting the University of Arizona with my parents. We’d dress all in red and blue and belt out “Bear Down” anytime we watched a game on TV. My parents met on campus, so being a Wildcat was in my DNA from the beginning. When it was time for me to attend college, I knew I’d be a Wildcat. My parents couldn’t be prouder and my four years flew by.
One evening, I got a call from my college friend Jodie whom I hadn’t seen since we graduated three years ago. She was going to be on campus that Friday for a basketball game-watch party at Frog & Firkin on University Boulevard. I had the day off from work, and I had already planned to buy a new Wildcat t-shirt for my Mom’s birthday at the UA bookstore. So it was the perfect opportunity to see Jodie again.
Just like that, I was heading back to the place I called home for four years.
Pulling onto Enke Drive, I drove past the iconic McKale Memorial Center and Arizona Stadium. I smiled as I recalled all the times my friends and I piled into our seats and melded into the raucous crowd at Zona Zoo, cheering on our Wildcats. I could almost hear the chants of “U of A!” and the roars of the fans. At one of the games, I even got my picture taken with Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat.
I parked at the UA Cherry Avenue Garage, and walked through the main library corridor west toward the UA Mall. I passed the Wildcat Family statue as I headed toward the Student Union and paused. I remembered taking photos in front of it at graduation, smiling giddily. It felt like yesterday when Jodie and I stood in front of the statue, arms wrapped around each other as we posed in our caps and gowns. Thinking back, I realized that I missed being at the university, where Wildcat culture was on full display.
Students rushed in every direction as I continued into the shade of the Student Union breezeway, towards the UA bookstore.
I headed toward the clothing section looking for the perfect shirt for my mom. I remembered visiting the bookstore during my student days, especially on Bear Down Fridays leading up to a home football game.
I left the bookstore with Wildcat gear in hand, and headed west to University. I passed Old Main, the University of Arizona’s first building. It was here that my parents met for the first time, and where we frequently had family picnics when I was a kid. To me, Old Main was both the center of campus and where I began to understand what it meant to be a Wildcat.
I reached Frog & Firkin, my favorite spot on bustling University Boulevard. Jodie was all smiles when I spotted her at a table with a few others I didn’t know, all here for the basketball watch party. “Aubrey!” she squealed as she gave me a big hug. “Doesn’t it feel like we were just here yesterday?”
She introduced me to her friends, who were also recent graduates. We swapped stories of our time in college— turns out I wasn’t the only one who had some late nights on University! Two of the group, Matt and Emily, had moved to San Diego after graduation but stayed connected to the University of Arizona by joining their local alumni chapter, the BeachCats. The chapter helped them meet up with fellow graduates for events and, obviously, watch the ‘Cats trample the Sun Devils. It seemed like a great idea.
Now that I’d visited campus again, I was curious to know more about the clubs and chapters that would allow me to stay involved with the school and campus life. In response, Jodie told me about GLOW, a new event put on by the University of Arizona Alumni Association during Homecoming. It was for students who graduated within the last five years. It’s a free event, with food, drinks, door prizes and games, and it would be on University — one of my favorite spots. It sounded awesome, and I realized it would be an incredible opportunity to return to campus and celebrate with friends I hadn’t seen since graduation. I’ll definitely attend with Jodie in October and stay involved with the culture I loved so much.
As I walked back to my car after the game, it struck me that even though I wasn’t a student anymore, it didn’t mean I was done being a Wildcat. I was excited to stay connected, starting with GLOW, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Alumni Association.
My four years on campus may have come and gone, but that didn’t mean it had to only be a thing of the past. I understood that Wildcat culture was a part of me, even more than I did as a kid.
I was and always will be a Wildcat for Life.Get involved.