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When I think about my experience at the University of Arizona, my mind is flooded with memories of laughing till I couldn’t breathe, late nights in the library studying, and more sporting events than I ever could have ever dreamt of. But rising above all of these shiny memories is one of the very first ones I made at the UA; it was during my first football game freshman year. Coming from a small town, it was about a four-hour drive to anywhere with a large collegiate or professional athletic program, so I didn’t frequent those too often. Needless to say, the hours before this game were filled with anticipation and excitement.
Waiting in the ZonaZoo tunnel before the season opener was just as exciting as it was annoying: my impatience was growing by the second. I just wanted to be in the stands cheering our team to victory! But the energy from everyone else in the tunnel overshadowed my restlessness. Some people started chanting, others started a few rounds of “Bear Down, Arizona,” other people painted themselves red and blue, and everyone was ecstatic to see the Cats back out on the field. When the gates finally opened up, the tunnel was filled with cheers from eager students and dings from the CatCards being swiped. As I walked up the little ramp into the bleachers, I was afforded my first view of the Arizona Stadium. The grass was verdant green, the sunset was golden and rosy, and everything was how I imagined it would be.
But it made my anticipation and impatience get even worse—waiting is not my forte.
As people trickled in, the ZonaZoo was transforming into the sea of red I idealized from iconic UA pictures. Thankfully, time passed quickly since I got to see everyone decked out in their UA gear, showing their love for our school, and, of course, taking Instagram-worthy pictures with friends. The stands were soon filled signaling that the start of the game was near. The hype video played next, and I would have to say that it did its job. The stands came alive with people jumping up and down, unable to control their excitement. Of course, I had to join them, screaming at the top of my lungs while trying not to fall off the bleachers.
Then our team came running out. Red and white fireworks lit up the dark sky. I couldn’t hear anything but the yelling and screaming of the Zoo. And as cheesy as it sounds, I had tears in my eyes. This was my school. This was my future. This was my Wildcat Family.
My friends laughed at me for getting emotional, but I couldn’t help it. The pride and love I felt in that moment was too much to handle. The camaraderie I saw between everyone in the Zoo made me feel a part of a special community. I knew I made the right choice by coming to the UA and that was one of the best, and most reassuring, feelings ever.
The cheers were soon eclipsed by the jingling of keys before the first play of the game, a beloved UA tradition. Everyone took out their keys, held them high in the sky, and shook them as hard as they could. Later in the game, Wilbur was crowd surfing, and I met the oh-so-lovely Wilma. All these elements combined added to the love that I already had for my school.
Before I knew it, the end came and we were victorious. It all went by too quickly for my liking, and I left without a voice, but I knew nothing would be able to compare to this first experience I had in Arizona Stadium. After the game, my friends and I went to In-N-Out to talk about the amazing game, which became our own tradition.
Going into my senior year, I think my four years have gone by way too quickly, just like my first game did. But I know that I’ll always have fond memories like this one to look back at when I’m missing my home away from home, full of my Wildcat Family.