Bradley University, The 4 of Us, and Our Amazing College Experience

It has somehow been an entire year since our last college day trip down memory lane to Bradley University.  One of my very favorite days of the entire year.

**If you haven’t read last year’s post, definitely read that one before reading this one.  You can find it HERE.**

And yet here we are. 1 year later. And just like every year the 4 of us are given the gift of our 1 magical day where we can go straight back to where it all began. Back to the place where we found each other for the very first time…and haven’t let go of each other since.

Beautiful Bradley University.

Life gets busy but this one day is so important to us and to our friendship that we plan it months ahead of time. We even put 2 different dates on the calendar including a rain date in case of weather. We group text daily with memes and gifs which reflect how excited we are.  Nothing will keep us from our yearly tradition.

And just like every year, I’m in charge of breakfast. This year’s selection includes Greek yogurt, bananas, blueberries, peanut butter, and homemade apple muffins.

The 4 of us have been known as “The Goats” since the very beginning so this sticker is the absolute perfect way to decorate the top of each breakfast.

The car ride up is filled with retelling stories that we have been retelling for over 20 years. And yet somehow it doesn’t matter how many times we have told them, they get even more hilarious with time.  Laughing.  SO.  MUCH.  LAUGHING.

About 2 1/2 hours later…and we see it.  The exact spot where the bend in the highway suddenly opens up to the skyline which may as well be a banner saying “Welcome Home”.

We drive straight to the campus and suddenly…

We’re back.

The sights, the sounds, the smells, all the same. How can so much time have passed and yet it feels like just yesterday when we were wearing our sorority letters and Eddie Bauer backpacks while walking across campus? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I had a meeting with my astronomy teacher and told him that I didn’t understand cosmetology and he told me that word means makeup and the correct word was actually cosmology? Wasn’t it just yesterday when we were having class outside on a beautiful day and in the middle of a serious class discussion, I put my hand down on the grass and it landed straight into a pile of dog doodie? Wasn’t it just yesterday when the creative writing teacher said that the 4 of us should have our very own comedy sitcom because our friendship was so hilarious? How did all of this happen over 20 years ago?!?

The night before I turned 21, my best friends decorated literally every single sidewalk on campus with the words “Today is Jenny Zwass’s 21st birthday! When you see her wish her a happy birthday!” and “Happy 21st Birthday Jenny Zwass!  Your best friends love you!” When the sun rose the next morning, it shined on a campus dedicated to ME.  For the entire day I had literally EVERYONE on campus wishing me a happy birthday! Faculty, students, everyone.  Everywhere I went for that entire day, everyone knew it was my happy day. It was so amazing. I felt so special. Love my girls.

All of these years later there are absolutely zero signs of my beautiful birthday dedications from my special girls. And yet when I look at these sidewalks today, it’s all I see.

We head to the bookstore where we are surrounded by Bradley love.

These shelves used to be FILLED with textbooks!  It’s still so crazy to me that everything is now online.  

Avantis for lunch, One World for coffee.  Avantis gondolas are what dreams are made of.  And dream about them we have…for an entire year since we were here last.

Sigma Delta Tau. What if the 4 of us had joined 4 different sororities?  The night we had to “pref” during the sorority rush process and write down our 1st choice sorority I actually wrote down a different sorority’s name!  After I left and walked back to my dorm room, I was filled with the most unsettling feeling and walked all the way back across campus just to switch my first choice to Sigma Delta Tau.  Somewhere deep in my heart I knew just where I belonged.

What if 23 years ago I DIDN’T walk back and change that form???  What if I had kept it the same and had joined a different sorority?  What if I had never met my 3 soulmates?

But I DID. I changed it.  I proudly resubmitted my first choice with the words “Sigma Delta Tau” and the next day was accepted into what would ultimately determine the course for the rest of my life.

Walking in the front door today is walking directly back into the late night mini pizzas, the 90210 viewing parties, the chapter meetings, the secret sorority rituals, the corner kitchen table with assigned seats where the 4 of us ate every single meal together, the laughing…the LAUGHING….

….and we’re home.

We leave SDT and walk through the alley to our off campus house where we lived senior year.  We take our yearly picture on the front porch.  Oh the memories we once made just behind that door!  

Our rent in that massive old house was only $190.00 a month each. I had never written a check that big (!) and wrote my very first month’s rent check for $1.90. Once he received my check, our landlord came straight over to the house and gave me a lesson on decimal points 🙂

And to think that I almost burned down that house when I so long ago burned a pizza in the toaster oven causing flames…

We walk through the campus, relive our favorite memories, and laugh until it hurts. And when it’s time to drive back, somehow our friendship feels even deeper than when we had arrived that morning. How is that even possible after all of these years???

Our ride home is spent reflecting on the day, reflecting on the past 23 years, and laughing until it’s hard to breathe.

As I’m unloading all of my stuff from the car, the front door to my house flies open and my 2 footie pajama clad children run out onto our front porch literally jumping up and down yelling, “Mommy’s home!  Mommy’s home!” and just like that…I’m back.  As I fall asleep after this long day, I fall asleep with a smile on my face. My 20 something college self would be so very happy and proud with how her future life has turned out.

This year’s souvenirs:

A t shirt for my son, a glittery waterbottle for my daughter, 2 sweatshirts for me, 2 18 inch Avantis Gondolas, 1 container of Avantis ranch dressing, and 2 sorority notepads and 1 sorority shirt for my daughter (aka a TRIPLE sdt legacy…my mom and my great grandma were also in sdt)!

To My Goats: To think that when I first stepped foot on this campus over 20 years ago I did it without the 3 of you absolutely baffles me.

One of the greatest wishes that I have for my daughter is that she will one day experience a friendship like this. The kind of friendship where the word “friends” almost feels like an insult because they are not “friends”, they are family.

Love you, goats. Forever.

Thank you Bradley University for being our home base. Thank you for allowing us to come back each year and to relive the very best and very earliest memories of our lifelong friendship.

What we learned inside of the classroom was valuable but it’s what we learned outside of the classroom that was life changing.

And most importantly…thank you for bringing us to each other.

See you next fall.



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4 Best Friends, 1 Alma Mater

The 4 of us met at the very beginning of Freshman year of college.  We lived in the same dormitory and joined the same sorority.

And the rest as they say…was history.

The 4 of us immediately clicked in such a way that we became instantly inseparable. We ate all of our meals together. We took our classes together. We lived together. We quickly learned everything there was to know about each other. We had lazy days, crazy nights, and everything in between…always together.

One day there was a dramatic tornado warning and the campus had everyone take immediate shelter. The 3 of them were scared and huddled together in the basement of our dormitory but I was still outside walking back across the entire campus from a class. Unbeknownst to me, the 3 of them were spending their time huddled together and frantically discussing and worrying about my safety. When I finally opened the basement door, I was almost knocked down by the amount of hugs I received. They were so concerned about me. That day solidified what I already knew…the 4 of us were destined to watch out for each other. Forever.

We ate Avanti’s Gondolas, Papa John’s pizza, and The Great Wall’s Chinese food. We went grocery shopping at Thompson’s Food Basket together, we studied together, we took classes together. We attended sorority meetings together. We helped each other, loved each other, and were there for each other throughout the everyday details of the life the 4 of us had created. Always together.

But the laughing. The LAUGHING. This continues to be the ultimate backbone of our entire friendship. We have shared some of the most beautiful, most special, most amazing laughter between us. We have jokes and stories that only we understand. There is always, always, always something to smile about and ALWAYS something to laugh about.

When I turned 21, they put our 4 baby pictures together in a picture frame and gave it to me because we didn’t have any photos of us as kids together. How was it possible that we hadn’t even met until we got to college? How had we managed to live our entire childhood and teenage years without knowing each other?

Over the span of 22 years, other friendships have come and gone. Boyfriends have come and gone. Even our beautiful college experience came and went. But through it all, our friendship remained and now as adults the 4 of us continue to grow closer and closer. We group text every single day. There is nothing we don’t know about each other and no secret that we don’t share.

Bradley University is so much more than our alma mater, it’s where we experienced something that only the 4 of us could possibly understand. During a time when we were so young and learning how to survive on our own, we never once were actually alone. Always together.

For one 12 hour day each fall, my 3 best friends and I magically go back to the time when our days were filled with nothing but each other. Before husbands and children.  Before jobs. Before home ownership. Before being adults.

For one 12 hour day each fall, we drive for almost 3 hours and eat the portable breakfasts that I individually pack for everyone. Granola, oats, yogurt, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, peanut butter. We talk, we laugh, we reminisce, we retell stories that we’ve been retelling for 22 years. We bask in the joy of just being together.

And after our 3 hour car ride, when we step out of the car, for one 12 hour day each fall…

we’re back.


Immersed straight back into our most special place where our 4 year experience feels both like a lifetime ago and yesterday all at once.

For 1 magical day each fall, we get to relive all of our special memories and yet at the same time still somehow find the room to create new ones.

For 1 magical day each fall, we get to forget about our adult responsibilities and just focus on being together in our most special place.

For 1 magical day each fall, we get to go back to where it all began for us and to revisit the roots of our friendship.

We visit the bookstore which at one time was filled with physical textbooks but now reflects the digital world in which we live:


We walk through our beautiful campus, remembering our classes and all they had taught us.



Of course we visit the library! Memories of checking our email on the computers, referencing encyclopedias, and studying with our sorority sisters instantly come flooding back:


This library cafe was not around when we were there but how cute is the name?!


Always my favorite part of the library: the basement. Quiet area filled with stacks upon stacks of books.


And this. My absolute most favorite spot to study on the entire campus. The basement corner desk on the very back right side allllll the way at the very end. I sat at this very desk for HOURS when I needed to study somewhere quiet. My special silent study oasis.  It’s still there!  I hope there is currently a student who always goes straight to this desk when serious studying needs to occur.  The best.


And when I asked my friends to take my picture in front of the library sign so I could blog it, my sweet best friends asked if they could also be in the photo and hence be on the blog. It truly touched my heart. Everything I do, these girls are right there to support me. Always have been, always will be. Why take a picture alone when you can be surrounded by so much support and love?

My beautiful, most supportive best friends and I:


I have leaned on the shoulders of these 3 girls more times than I can count, I have cried with them, laughed with them, celebrated with them, and mourned with them. They were in the gorgeous tent with me when I got married and they were at the hospital with me after I gave birth. Somewhere along the 22 year journey that our friendship has taken, they have become my family.

When I started this blog, my very first readers were my husband, my parents…and of course my 3 best friends.

We went to our sorority house and were greeted by the most lovely current sisters.  They welcomed us back into our home with open arms!  They eagerly sat around while listening to our stories, asking us questions, and finding relics from our time when we lived there.  It was amazing and we left with happy hearts.

We visited our freshman year dormitory (University Hall) and were allowed into our individual rooms!  My room looks exactly the same, just new desks.  The girls who currently live in it have it set up exactly as we did.  Love.

And just like that…it was time to drive back home.

When I walked in the door to my house, I was greeted by my son yelling, “MOMMY!” and he ran to hug me.  My husband gave me a kiss.  My daughter had fallen asleep on my side of the bed and as I kissed the top of her head, I thought about how fortunate I am.  I loved my college life so much…and I love my current adult life so much as well.  If that’s not the true definition of happiness, I’m not sure what is.

This year’s souvenirs from our 1 special day.  Bradley sweatshirt for me, Bradley hair bow for my daughter, Bradley shirt for my son, and 2 separate 16 inch Avantis Gondolas to share (maybe?) with my family.  Plus, stickers for my kids with my sorority letters on them.


To My 3 Best Friends: I love you and I love our special bond so much. I honestly don’t know what I would do or who I would be without the 3 of you always right next to me.

You can make fun of me for using this expression all you want but this is my blog and I’ll just say it: We are truly #blessed.

To Beautiful Bradley University: Thank you for giving us 4 amazingly memorable years, for teaching us so much both in and out of the classroom, for bringing the 4 of us together, and for providing us with a place that 22 years later we can still visit and call our home.

Already counting down to our special day next fall.  I’ll pack the breakfasts.



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