JOHANNING: A home and family I never knew I would have


Chelsea Johanning (bottom, third from left) poses with the MUTV team and friends after the final show of Spring 2019.

My first semester at Marquette was bumpy. So bumpy that my aunt, who desperately wanted me to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, asked, “When are you transferring?” I thought MU might not have been the place for me. 

I was never a good student. I was happy with B-minus, thrived in art classes and barely made it through math. Getting into college was the biggest weight off my shoulders because I wasn’t sure I would get into the school I wanted.

Truthfully, I still don’t like school, but I knew I had to go to college to get a foot up in the world. My parents wanted me to do better than them. My mom dropped out of college and my dad doesn’t like to talk about how he never got a full bachelor’s, only a few associates.

That being said, both of my parents are amazing, smart and talented people, so I never thought less of them. I just knew college had to be in my future, and I had to finish it. 

I chose Marquette because I liked the feel it gave me. I liked the courtyard and the tall buildings and downtown Milwaukee. I liked that it wasn’t in my backyard but I could get home in an hour and ten minutes if I needed to. I liked that it had my major and backup major: biochemical sciences and graphic design. That’s right, biochem. I wanted to be a genetic counselor and test if people were going to have healthy kids or have a high risk of a disease. That obviously did not last long. 

I toured Marquette three times, all private tours so I could go everywhere and see exactly what I wanted. I ate at Sobelmans before they took credit cards. This place felt great — that is until the end of my first semester. 

I was struggling in my classes (who gives a first-year a schedule of bio, chem, calc, English and theology?). Two of my closest childhood friends had just ghosted me from their lives. My new college friends were trying to do the same, making group chats without me in them.

I didn’t get the design job at the Wire I applied for. I had no friends at MU and I had no friends at home, and no club or activity. Thank God for my amazing boyfriend for being there for me, even if it was long distance. I was sad a lot of the time, and it made sense that my Aunt would ask “When are you transferring.” I didn’t know. I told myself that if at the end of the year I still hated it, I would apply to transfer to the UW-Milwaukee or back home in Madison. 

But second semester came around and my life looked up. I made my first real and true friend at MU (my roommate Lauren). It started getting warm and sunny again in Milwaukee, making it easier to breathe. I got my first job on campus at the Wire as an opinions designer. The presidential election happened and made me realize what I really should be doing. That semester I signed up for my first political science course and changed my major. 

Life wasn’t smooth sailing from there. My new best friend has mental health problems, so I spent some nights over the last four years helping her through it. 

I didn’t stay with the Wire the whole time. I quit a year later after having a dream that I got in a screaming match with the then-executive director, threw my things and quit before I could be fired during a late night. This was just a dream and that would never happen, but it told me I was too stressed to deal with the job at the time. My break only lasted a semester until I was back as the Chief Designer. 

Thankfully, I had taken Mark Zoromski’s journalism class, where he pretty much dragged me back into the newsroom and, truthfully, my place on campus. The Wire became my home, the staff my family, the late nights my favorite night of the week. I can’t thank Mark and Sydney Czyzon enough for assuring me that I needed to come back. 

During my time at Marquette, I found true friends in the Wire. I learned about politics and the importance of journalists. I learned I was not just OK at design, but had a talent for it. I learned how fast-paced, exciting and exhausting a television live news show can be.

I won awards for my hard work on TV and the Tribune. I got to go to the best parties (both Wire parties and banquets). I got to hammock in front of Lalumiere in the sun during basketball games — because man, no I do not care about basketball.

I learned how hard working some students are and how much they care. I made friends who I truly think I’ll have for life, no matter where they move to. I learned how problematic and corrupt the world can be but, also how amazing and caring it can be.

Though my final year didn’t end with bar crawls, banquets, my favorite karate competition or my graduation ceremony, I’m glad it is at least ending with the people I love at the school that truly is my home. 

To those who don’t know what their future holds: it will work out. Make every single minute worth it because even if school really isn’t your thing, the people and experiences will make you sad to leave. I know I am.

This story was written by Chelsea Johanning. She can be reached at