A Graduate Student's View of Life in Madison

Grad student life usually starts in September. Madison is dominated by the university and the lakes around it. Lake Mendota is on the left in this picture, Lake Monona at the top. Downtown Madison lies on the isthmus. Lakes Waubesa and Kegonsa can be seen at the top right of the picture. The UW Campus stretchs along the shore of Lake Mendota. On the weekends, the colors red and white often rule the streets - when the Wisconsin Badgers are playing in town. The football stadium Camp Randall can be seen in the lower right part of the photo.
When the new students arrive, the trees are still green, the weather and the water are still warm and invite you to many outdoor activities. The Capitol dominates the skyline of Downtown Madison.
Madison is allegedly the city with the highest number of restaurants per capita. Most of them seem to be on State Street, the place to go for colloquium dinners or before long nights of homework or remote observing. On State Street one can eat Brats, Burgers, Indian food, African food, Mexican food, Afghan food, Turkish food ...
Possible outdoor activities are softball, ultimate frisbee, biking, sailing, or canoeing like here on Lake Mendota. In the background one can see Maple Bluff, where the Residence of the Governor of Wisconsin is.
When biking around Lake Mendota (the largest lake around Madison), one can stop, for example, on Governor's Island, which is across the lake from Campus. The tallest Campus buildings can be seen in the background on the left.
Or one can bike around Lake Monona, the second largest lake in this area. The lakes are all connected through canals.
The Capitol City Trail runs through fields, woods, and meadows between Madison and Fitchburg. It is about 17km long. New bike paths are being built to make the trail network even larger.
On Friday afternoons, a bunch of grad students (and a few faculty) of the department head out to the Memorial Union Terrace at Lake Mendota for beer. But when the temperatures drop in late September (or when it's rainy), ...
..., people gather inside the Rathskeller at the Memorial Union instead.
When fall has arrived in Madison, the grad students are usually busy with homework and the first exams. However, one can hardly miss the beautiful Indian Summer with its green, yellow, orange, red, and brown colors against the blue sky.
Ducks gather in the bays of Lake Mendota.
Beautiful sunsets can be seen from James Madison Park at Lake Mendota.
The department often holds its fall picnic in Wingra Park at Lake Wingra, a smaller lake in Madison. Students and faculty play frisbee, soccer, juggle, or just have a good time.
When the end of the fall semester is in sight, the Christmas tree inside the Capitol illuminates. An orchestra plays classics on the second floor.
The winter soon has its grip on Madison. The lakes freeze. Cross country skiing, ice skating and surfing become popular. Changes in temperature between night and day make the ice work and crack everyonce in a while. This can cause so called "ice thunders" which shake the buildings near the lakes. The Red Gym at the Terrace is shown here on the right.
In the beginning of February, the festival "Kites on Ice" on Lake Monona attracts many visitors. Kites of all sizes and shapes are flown. One can even watch formation flights of delta kites accompanied by music.
By April, the lakes are usually thawed. However, another cold front often hits Madison with strong winds and tempertures in the teens (Fahrenheit, about -10 C) or colder. This combination can create wonderful ice structures like here in James Madison Park.
One last snowfall is also highly likely in April, ...
..., even though spring is trying hard to fight back.
When winter is finally defeated in May, everything flourishs like the Cherry trees on Library Mall in front of the Red Gym. However, there are always a few grad students who have to study for prelims.
The lilac collection in the arboretum of the university is worth a visit. The scent is incredible. Baby geese can be seen in the marsh of the arboretum.
When final exams and prelims are finally over, Madison looks almost deserted, because the undergraduates are leaving town. The summer is waiting with intramural softball, frisbee and and and. However, in 2000, the games had to be postponed as strong rainfalls raised the water levels of the lakes. Lake Mendota then flooded the softball fields and created a big pond.
And, of course, one has more time to get research done in the Astronomy Department.