Thursday, April 9, 2015

Majors, Classes, Confusion

Picking a major, picking classes and deciding what academic path you want to pursue can be a daunting task. Especially for first year students at UVA. I remember when I first came I had no idea what I wanted to major in and had no idea how to navigate SIS and register for classes. I was simply overwhelmed by the multitude of what is offered here.

Since then I have tested the waters of most subject areas and now have a much better idea of what interests me (thank goodness). Although it takes time to figure out what you want to pursue, I promise that as long as you explore everything with an open mind you will find something that interests you.

When incoming first years ask me what kinds of classes I would recommend taking I tell them two things. First of all, if you are in the College of Arts and Sciences, try to get a couple of area requirements out of the way early. There’s no reason to put them off. It will make your workload easier third and fourth year. Secondly, take some classes that you might put you outside of your comfort zone or are in a department you know nothing about. There is no better place than UVA to gauge your interest in history, mathematics, chemistry, statistics, you name it, it’s offered.

In my time here so far I have tried to follow my own advice. As a result I have come across areas I found very quickly that I did not want to pursue, and some that I did. Here are my top three specific class recommendations:

1.       Shakespeare I and II: This class is really quite unique. I had taken plenty of English classes before, but never one in such a concentrated area. The fall semester version covers histories and comedies and the spring semester covers the tragedies. There’s no need to take them in a particular order. Professor Maus brings an excellent amount of enthusiasm and passion for the subject that really makes her class enjoyable.

2.       Commercial Law I: This is one that you probably won’t be able to take until your second year. I believe everyone, regardless of major, should consider taking this class. It is not just about the legal process but also about information anyone should know, especially if they are ever in a sticky situation.  Again, the professor makes this class a really great pick. Professor Moore is a really awesome person and engaging lecturer. I’m already looking forward to taking COMM Law II.

3.       Intro to Statistical Analysis: This is kind of an unorthodox recommendation. When I tell people that I am a stat major they usually wrinkle their face in some expression of agony. And I get it, math isn’t for everyone. I never used to think it was for me. But then I took STAT 2120 and realized that I actually really liked the subject. It is applicable to many different types of research and career paths. I think my experience is a testament to the fact that you should really be open-minded in whatever classes you end up taking. Even if they’re seemingly banal requirements for a major or area requirements that you are trying to get out of the way, you can’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Obviously UVA has many, many more interesting classes to offer in addition to what I have listed above. You should look into everything you can. I would recommend checking out Lou’s List (just google Lou’s List UVA), which is a user friendly version of SIS (the site used for course registration). It will give you a feel for the type of classes that UVA offers across all departments. Lastly I would recommend sitting in on a class during Days on the Lawn. You can really get a taste for a particular department by doing so. Best of luck!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Alternative Study Spots

On my first visit to UVA, I remember being taken on a tour of the three main libraries on grounds (not campus!): Clemons, Alderman, and Clark. On the visit to Clemons, the group was inducted into the leveled culture. You enter in to the fourth floor, a place of group work and no commitment to lowered voices. Next, you make your way down the stairs, each level with its own distinct culture, until you finally reach the silent first floor. So silent, that our tour guy warned us we should take off our shoes if we were wearing flip-flops. Next door, we were taken to see Alderman, with its many study rooms and the not-suitable-for-just-anyone STACKS! A mere seven-minute walk from there into central grounds you find yourself at Clark, more often filled with students from the sciences.

However, what the guide did not tell our group was that finding a perfect place in any of these libraries is like winning the lottery. What many students instead choose to do is find alternative study spots. For those who spend most of their time on McCormick road, the life science library is a clear favorite. While you do need swipe access the building after seven at night, many students simply go beforehand and stay until their work is done. Similarly, it is not as well known but the physics, chemistry, and psychology buildings all have quiet places to study that are always available. For those in the social sciences and humanities, there are even more choices. The Nau/Gibson building is full of couches, empty rooms, and study lounges that always have empty space for students who need to get something done. New Cabell, which has just finished its renovations, has study lounges on every floor as well as a silent lounge on first floor. Not to mention plenty of empty rooms with chalkboards and white boards. For upperclassmen that live on grounds, there are places such as the Bice basement or Lambeth commons that have quiet places to study as well. In conclusion, it is not necessary to fall under the false belief that you must go to one of the libraries during the day or spend a full night on first floor Clemons. There are plenty of lesser-known places that students adopt as their favorite study spots. While exploring UVA during your first semester, it is important to find the place that best suits you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Charlottesville's Top Five Scenic Activities

On college websites and admission tours you will undoubtedly hear that UVa is known for its great academics, tremendous spirit, and beautiful architecture. A lesser-known but equally positive aspect of the school is its location in the Piedmont region of Virginia, which gives it an abundance of natural beauty. This list will please both nature-lovers and less outdoorsy-types, offering plenty of active—as well as not-so-strenuous—opportunities to appreciate the beauty of Charlottesville. From mighty mountains to stunning sunsets, Charlottesville’s surroundings provide a beautiful setting that has something for everyone.

1. Hike humpback rock
Wake up early and stumble you way through the 45 minute hike in the dark to catch the sunrise or go at a more leisurely pace later in the day. Either way you’ll get an incredible view! (And a pretty good photo-op)

      2. Carter Mountain Orchard
The orchard is a gorgeous spot to pick apples, drink cider, and hang out with friends on a crisp fall day. Don’t forget to try their famous apple donuts!
      3. Take a dip at the Quarry
If you’re looking to cool off during the warmer months, Schuyler Quarry is the perfect place to cool off. Take a relaxing swim or do cannonballs off of the ledges if you’re a dare-devil! 

    4. Watch the sunset
The sunsets in Charlottesville are always spectacular. You can watch from the lawn or find a higher location to see the sky painted with blue and orange. (Go Hoos)

 5. Stargazing
The advantage to Charlottesville being a smaller city is that it makes it an ideal location for gazing at the stars! Find an open field or head up to UVa’s Observatory Hill to get a great glimpse of the night sky. 

 Bonus: Appreciate the beautiful trees!
With every season I find myself stopping on my way to class to admire the fantastic foliage of UVa trees. Don’t be ashamed of snapping a few photos but watch out for the vicious squirrels! 

 UVa provides all of the amenities of a city in a beautiful, natural setting. You can shop, study, or try a new restaurant in the midst of gorgeous surroundings and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. Charlottesville is a college-town that offers something for everyone, whether it be scenic city life or plenty of opportunities to appreciate Virginia’s great outdoors.

By Erin Falk

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Is So Special About Special Collections?

Every student at UVa should visit Special Collections at least once. What is Special Collections? Well, it is a library containing more than 16 million items such as books (obviously), photos, maps, and almost anything you can imagine. For example, the collection has items ranging from Edgar Allen Poe's journals to a lock of Thomas Jefferson's hair. Due to the massive amounts of rare items Special Collections hosts, their stacks are not open to the public. However, if you really want to examine an artifact, all you have to do is ask. If you are not visiting Special Collections for research, they offer several public exhibits. Here are the top three exhibits I think you must see.
1. Declaring Independence: Creating and Re-creating America's Document.
We all know that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence but few get a chance to see an original copy - unless you visit UVa, of course. This exhibition allows you to investigate the writing and signing of the Declaration as well as its printing, distribution, and impact. To see England's reaction to the Declaration of Independence, browse through some of the British articles. My personal favorite places the Declaration next to a recipe. Good to know the British took us seriously!
2. "Who Shall Tell the Story?": Voices of Civil War Virginia
Undoubtedly, Virginia was changed by the Civil War and this exhibit illuminates that change. Read through various diaries, letters, and newspapers in order to hear the voices of those Virginians who personally experienced the Civil War. This exhibit demonstrates the duality of the war through white, black, Confederate, Union, male, and female voices. Additionally, hear from UVa students during that time and how the Civil War impacted them.
3. William Blake, Visionary / Envisioning William Blake
From now until May 2015, stop by Special Collections to view the artistic talents of painter and poet, William Blake. Not only did Blake write his own poems, but he illustrated them as well through paintings, engravings, and drawings. Envision the works of this visionary when you get the chance.
Now you have at least three reasons for using a library.

Sporting in Spring

Spring is a beautiful time at the University of Virginia. The weather is warmer, the clothing is lighter, and the atmosphere seems happier. UVa offers students numerous opportunities to escape the stress of the classroom and to go outside and smell the roses. Here are a few outdoor activities to try this spring.

Box 21:
There is a treasure chest on the Lawn that is known to few UVa students. Unfortunately, it does not contain gold or jewels but it does have frisbees, soccer balls, and other tools to use on the Lawn. The treasure chest is known as Box 21. It is not hard to find since it is located in front of lawn room #21. Don't be shy. Box 21 is available for all students and visitors to enjoy. When you are done, just return what you took. We trust you.
Meadow Creek:
If you want to relax by the water then head over to Meadow Creek. Located across from the UVa Bookstore, Meadow Creek is a charming little area originally designed to manage stormwater. When it is quiet enough, you can hear frogs, birds, and even fish popping up for some fresh air. In fact, I have a seen a few students fishing in the creek. Overall, this is a wonderful place to rest, study, or walk around.
Snyder Tennis Courts:
A great spring sport is tennis. The Snyder Tennis Courts are always bustling with activity once the weather warms. The lighted courts offer the University community day and night play as well as spectator seating. If you're up for it, Snyder Tennis Courts allows 18 hours of activity per day. Bring a racket, some tennis balls, and a friend.
Sand Volleyball Courts:
Located off of Emmet Street, the Nameless Fields host two sand volleyball courts. It is a perfect place to hit the sand without being at the beach. Play in the warm sun or the cool night air. All you have to do is remember to bring a volleyball.
Field Day:
Get a nice workout by utilizing some of the many fields UVa provides its community. Some of the more popular fields include: Madison (Mad) Bowl, Lambeth, and Carr's Hill. Play a game of soccer, football, lacrosse, or even dodgeball in any of these locations, and you will most likely have students asking to join the fun.

Get out there!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

5 Must-Visit Places Around Grounds and Charlottesville

It's not secret that UVA is a beautiful place to live and go to school, not to mention its status as a World Heritage Site. Plus, the city of Charlottesville has a quaint downtown area and is a short drive from some gorgeous mountains and hiking sites. So, with all that beauty surrounding you here are some suggestions of the places you should make sure you stop by.

1. The Fralin Museum of Art
If you want to feel grown up and artsy the Fralin is a great place to go. They have a variety of exhibits so there's something for everyone. Even if you're not really into art, check out the Object Study Gallery that has things like ancient Mediterranean coins.

2. The chapel
Whether or not you attend a service or a concert here I still highly recommend stopping by inside on your way to the Rotunda if only for the stained glass windows.

3. The pavilion gardens
Prettiest when it feels a little more like spring, the gardens are great places to study or hang out that feel a little secluded from all the activity around the university.

4. Brooks Hall
Though today it is the home of the anthropology department, it was originally built as a natural history museum in 1876, which explains its rather quirky architecture including carved animal faces. Plus inside there's an elephant, which in itself is a reason to go.

5. Mellow Mushroom
You will be treated to some crazy, colorful, psychedelic decor and really awesome pizza, which you deserve after walking all over grounds.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A variety of UVA sports

Before I came to college I wasn’t at all into sports. My high school didn’t have a lot to offer to spectators and I was never very into watching professional sports. When I came to UVA I learned how exciting college athletics can be. Some of my best memories from college have to do with attending sporting events. Everyone knows about basketball, it has already warranted its own post. But UVA has so much more to offer in addition to hoops.
The athletics program boasts 25 varsity athletic teams and has won 21 national championships, the most recent victory belonging to men’s soccer. Women’s soccer and men’s baseball are up there too, both finishing second nationally within the past year.

UVA’s student section, Hoo Crew, does a good job of promoting student attendance at a variety of sporting events. Not only does more varied attendance give you a better chance of getting tickets to basketball games at JPJ, but it makes you a more well-rounded and dedicated fan. My personal goal is to try to attend an event for every sport. In my experience so far I can say soccer, baseball and lacrosse events are just as exciting as any other sport.

As an extra bonus, many times varsity athletes will come out to support other sports at UVA. For example, last year Joe Harris threw the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game at Davenport Field. In addition, men’s basketball players can be spotted at the women’s games at JPJ.
If you’d rather play than watch I would recommend looking into club sports or intramural sports at UVA. Club sports are more competitive and intramural sports are much more casual. For intramurals you can sign up with a group of friends, your dorm or as a free agent. These sports range from soccer and football to ultimate Frisbee and dodgeball and are always a lot of fun.

So no matter what your degree of enthusiasm for sports may be now, be prepared to become an instant fan when you come to UVA!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

So What Exactly is Happening to the Rotunda?

UVa's Rotunda is getting quite the makeover. When you're almost 200 years old, you could probably use a face lift, too. Three years after the University of Virginia was established in 1819, construction of the Rotunda began and was completed in 1826. Jefferson's original plans for the Rotunda included exercise yards, classrooms, and a library. Once Alderman Library was created in the 1930s, the Rotunda was no longer central to academics. The Rotunda renovation is meant to restore Jefferson's building back to its original purpose. In 2016, it will resume its former role as a library and classroom building that unites students and faculty in an academic setting.Today, the Rotunda is a World Heritage Site and the core of UVa's grounds. The second phase of this renovation costs around $42.5 million. Don't worry, tuition money is not paying for it. Actually, the majority of funds are from private philanthropy. How thoughtful!

So what exactly is happening to the Rotunda? Here is a brief list of construction plans:
  • classroom space expansion
  • portico roof replacement
  • updating utility systems
  • new marble capitals
  • Dome Room ceiling replacement
  • underground room to house mechanical systems

Pros and Cons: Since the Rotunda is the centerpiece of UVa, its construction has undoubtedly altered events and traditions. For example, 2015 Final Exercises will occur during two days in May instead of one. As a result, the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will have their Final Exercises on May 16 and all of UVa's other schools will have theirs on May 17. This limits students to allowing 4 guests and prevents some friends and family members from graduating together. On the other hand, the renovation will give students the chance to attend classes in Jefferson's self-designed building. It'll allow the UVa community to connect and embrace the history around them. The Rotunda isn't just a historical landmark, it's a symbol of neoclassicism, education, community, history, and dear old UVa.