Freshman Dahlia Tesfamichael Reflects on Becoming a Badger

Freshman Dahlia Tesfamichael works on an assignment during a chemistry laboratory course

Dahlia Tesfamichael, who turned down Harvard to attend UW-Madison, discusses making tough choices, pursuing chemistry and looking forward to a bright future.

I was born and I grew up right outside of Milwaukee in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Both of my parents are from Eritrea, which is in East Africa, so lots of influence of their traditions and values have been passed down to me and it’s definitely a big part of my life.

I applied to nine schools and I got accepted at seven and wait-listed at two. I did receive a full scholarship to UW-Madison, the HAMP Foundation Scholarship, so that was a large deciding factor for me. Initially, that was the deciding factor. It would take a lot to put that financial burden on my parents and to ask them to pay so much more money for [my undergraduate] education, especially since I hope to go to medical school after.

Now that I’m here at Madison, every day validates that I made the right decision. Every day, I think, yes, I’m so glad I’m here. I’m happy. I’m meshing well with the people around me. I’m finding things that I like.

I’m taking Spanish, chemistry, a history of science course, and I’m also in URS, the undergraduate research scholars program. And I’m in the L&S Honors Program. Right now, my major is going to be chemistry. I really like studying something so microscopic but that has very macroscopic observations.

I went to the student org fair and probably put my email down for way too many things. I’m part of the speech and debate team. I did forensics in high school [and was a state champion in the poetry division]. I was not only successful in it, but I enjoyed it so much. I learned so much. I also joined Alpha Chi Sigma, which is the chemistry fraternity on campus. I’m hoping to get involved in a pre-med society to help me stay on track for medical school.

One thing that I really love about Madison is that across the board in almost all fields, all areas, is excellence. Even for someone like me who knew what I wanted to do, that was still important. Not only for the chance of me having a career change or a major change, but also for being surrounded by people who are majoring in history, or majoring in art, and also striving for excellence.

My parents are definitely happy with my decision [to come to UW-Madison]. Actually, my dad went here for pharmacy school. They like having me close. They like that my brother Negassi is here so we can keep an eye on each other. We don’t run into each other a lot, but it’s nice to have him around.

One of my best friends is at Yale. I love hearing about all the things she’s going through and all the amazing things she’s doing. But I’m so happy where I am right now. And I’m excited to see where my experience at Madison and where my education at Madison can take me. Because I have absolute faith that it will take me so far, to so many places.

Dahlia Tesfamichael, via College of Letters & Science