Rowing is Not “The College Experience”

Rowing in college is a totally different from the “traditional college experience.”  Being a D1 rower at a competitive school has not been what MTV/Rom-Coms/College Game Day/Project X made me expect college to be like.  

Here’s the root this nostalgic epiphany:  during finals week I was crazy stressed out about school and rowing and went to get a power bowl at Forage after practice (no apologies for being basic af). It had been a bad row, I looked like total trash and I was rabidly hungry, but a pack of loud-talking, sratty girls were clogging up the line.

They were petite and beautiful, dressed in comfort colors tees and leggings, holding designer bags and were discussing last night in vivid detail.

“OMG normally I know when you’re blacked, but I left with the guys and I thought you were fine! I can’t believe your last memory was at the Double U! Did you even get home?!”

Here I was in my sweaty practice clothes, looking like a hulking Amazonian, feeling all kinds of pressure to perform in school/athletics and these girls just woke up from their all-night bender.  

I pictured myself in an alternate universe where I was a part of their friend group. I could have Rushed, gotten a boyfriend, joined some clubs, been in an acapella group and gone out three times a week, but I had joined the rowing team.  What the f*** had I been thinking?!?

That being said, I can’t say that I didn’t party in college, because I did. At Wisconsin, which has repeatedly been ranked as the #1 party school in America, it’s almost unpatriotic to be sober on a Saturday night. I’ve had great nights and awful nights, both of which were eventful, but they became less and less frequent as I got older.

I had to choose between long term success in athletics and academics and the instant gratification of partying. 

Freshman year, I could stay out until 2 AM on a Saturday night with my non-rowing friends. I could spend Sunday being a lump, feel tired until Wednesday and still perform just fine. I was a good enough athlete that I could get away with it and still have a seat in the boat. After a dry sophomore year (lol long story) I started going out again my junior year. This time I realized that I couldn’t have it both ways. I was physically unable to keep up with school work, achieve the goals I had for myself on the team and be a functioning human if I partied hard every weekend.

I cut back, I focused my energy on school and rowing. It’s hard to feel FOMO when you just stop talking to everyone who isn’t a rower. I didn’t have a social life outside of my team, but it was just easier that way. It’s easy to exist inside of my little rowing bubble. Rowing in college has been a sacrifice, but it didn’t seem like a sacrifice when I surrounded myself with people who were all doing the same thing.

It’s a textbook example of peer pressure, except we peer pressured each other into NOT drinking. Take notes D.A.R.E. 

I will say that yes, I did miss out on the “college experience,” but at the same time I got to have a totally different experience. My teammates are my best friends. You would be hard pressed to find any other campus activity outside of sports that will create bonds like a team does. The amount of early mornings, miserable workouts, losses, successes and trust that we have shared is unparalleled.

I also don’t have that much fomo for college because I’ve really loved rowing. NARPs will never know what it feels like to PR on your 2k or what Madison looks like as the sun rises over the State Capitol every morning. They’ll never appreciate perfectly flat water, a set boat and a powerful crew.  

Do I wish I could have partied more this year, yes, I do. However, competing against the best in the nation and making Wisconsin history as one of the fastest teams in the program’s history seems like a lot more fun than Friday night at the Double U.


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