Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the season...

Of finals.

While college students around the country prepare for the festive holiday season by listening to their favorite holiday music, going to tacky Christmas sweater parties, or buying presents for their Secret Santas, there is one obstacle that must be overcome: finals. Sure, finals may bring students closer together and give a sense of comradery, but in reality, it's tough. It's even tougher when you have a fever (which was my case). Luckily my exams were spread out (Thursday being the last) so it wasn't too bad. I just loaded up on herbal tea and lots of soup. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to spend a lot of time in the most happening place during this season: the library. But I will let you guys in on the Final Festivities.

Final Examinations this year started on December 9th and lasted until December 17th. The University has a strict exam schedule and policy that is posted even before students start registering for classes. The are two "Reading Days" in which no finals are scheduled and when the libraries are packed with students. It's impossible to find a nice place to study since all the good spots are taken, whether it be a cubicle in the Stacks in Clark, a table on the second floor of Clemons, or a nice nook in the McGregor Room of Alderman. I, myself, used to be a Clemons' girl last year but this year I've been finding myself in Alderman quite often- "room hopping."

One of my good friends (and future roommate's) birthday was on the 10th, just as finals started, and since we knew she would probably be stuck at Clemons studying for her Biopsychology Final on Monday, a bunch of friends and I decided to surprise her at midnight.

I tried to take a video of the Clemons library without looking creepy by recording everyone (as you can see it didn't work out so great.) In general, you can see how crowded the floor is on a Friday night during Finals. Some of the pros about studying in the library is that you may sometimes bump into your friends who are unfortunately in the same boat as you - pulling an all-nighter with a Starbucks Espresso Shot can in their hand. trying to bang out a paper. Various organizations and secret Societies also like to give out free food, have arts and crafts stands and other stress relieving activities. Apparently, last week a live Chicken was roaming around the first floor of Clemons. These spontaneous activities provide great study breaks in between long hours of studying.

I'm now home enjoying home-cooked meals and trying to fully recover from my fever. I hope you all enjoy the Holiday Season - Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Oh, and for all of you high schoool seniors out there - good luck on college applications!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Holidays Come to UVA

Have y'all caught the holiday bug yet? Here in Charlottesville, we're in our last week of classes and the stress of finals week has definitely set in. But if Shelby's last post on holiday travels didn't clue you in to what's really on UVA student's minds, this video of one of my favorite UVA traditions will!

The Lighting of the Lawn celebrated its tenth anniversary last night, in an evening complete with music, steaming cups of hot cocoa, a humorous poem recapping the events of the past year, and approximately 5,000 feet of holiday lights. For me, events like this cement the fact that I belong at UVA. Somewhere between touring my friends' lawn rooms, singing along with the a cappella groups, and finishing the night with the Good Old Song (really, nothing "cheers my heart or warms my blood"- and trust me, I needed warming in last night's chilly weather- like the Good Old Song), I was struck by how incredibly blessed I am to be a part of such a wonderful community that celebrates the moments between libraries and loves to take the night off to honor and enjoy the traditions that make UVA a magical place.

Check out this video and join in the tradition! Sorry about the shaking, it's surprising difficult to sway to the Good Old Song and film at the same time. I know it's dark, but I hope you can get a good idea of how many people attend this event- the lawn was packed!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Since the Holiday Season is in full swing, I think it is important to talk about how students travel to and from Charlottesville for the holidays. This is a particularly important issue if you are an out-of-state student like myself and are trying to keep costs low.

There are a number of ways one can get into and out of Cville, each with its own merits.

My preferred method of travelling to and from Charlottesville is through flying into the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO). This tiny airport of 5 gates is about one-sixteenth the size of the international airport in my hometown, Houston. It provides for a much more slow-paced, stress-free travelling environment. The five gates do not even have jetways and so you enter the planes, generally small express jets, from the tarmac. My favorite element of the CHO experience, however, is the short security lines. Due to a small number of flights coming into and out of the airport, security generally takes under five minutes! And you didn’t hear this from me, but, if there is one airport you can “cut it close”

in arriving for a flight out, it would be this efficient airport in our wonderful city of Cville!

Another viable option for flyers is the Richmond airport. Because flights into Richmond generally do not require a connection, these flights are often cheaper. The airport is, however, an hour away from Cville. Cab rides generally cost somewhere in the $90-150 range though, so the most economical way to fly Richmond is to find a friend who can d

rive you.

The most exhilarating route, in my opinion, is flying into Washington, DC. From DC, students can take a short Amtrak train ride into Charlottesville. The inexpensive ride cuts through the rolling Virginia countryside, passes through several small towns, and drops off very close to Grounds at Cville’s Union Station (see photo). Though the train doesn’t leave from Platform nine and three-quarters, I always feel rather Harry Potter-esque taking the train back to school.

Lastly, many out-of-state students (and most in-state students, of course!) drive to and from Charlottesville. Though the drive from Houston is too grueling to make for just a holiday break, my friends from as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Connecticut can easily make the drive in one day.

One of the stranger adjustments of going to college is only being ‘home for the Holidays,’ but fortunately there are many ways you can get there and back!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Choosing a Major – How About Computer Science?

When I first came to UVA, I had no idea what I wanted to study.  The first few classes I took were completely unrelated, ranging from Astronomy and German to Computer Science and Psychology.  Honestly, I was a bit intimidated – it seemed like so many people came here knowing exactly what they wanted to do, and could pretty much plan out their schedule for the rest of college.  With time though, it’s not hard to figure out what’s the right fit for you.

A few weeks into the semester, I was really enjoying my Introduction to Programming class with Professor Jim Cohoon (if you’re at all interested in Computer Science and don’t have any prior programming experience, I highly recommend his course!).    Something seemed to click, and I knew that Computer Science could be the right major for me.

Which brings me to the main focus of this post:  the wonderful Computer Science program we have at the University.  There are two main ways one can major in Computer Science – either through the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, or through the College of Arts and Sciences.  One of the major distinctions between Computer Science in the College and in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is that one graduates with a BA in the College, and a BS in the E-School.  There are some differences between the two programs, but since I’m in the College of Arts and Sciences I’m going to talk about that major.

Computer Science is one of the newer majors in the College; the first graduates of the program were in 2007.  After a student has taken at least one introductory programming class, he or she may declare the major – there are five core courses, four computing electives, and four integration electives.  The integration electives required by the BA are (in my opinion) the biggest difference between the BS; the electives allow students to take classes which apply computer science in many other departments (such as Music, Media Studies, Drama, Philosophy, Biology, and Psychology). 

Right now, the Computer Science department is housed in Olsson Hall, but UVA is constructing a new building directly to the right of it – which means a brand new facility for future Computer Science majors! 

The current building housing the CS department, Olsson Hall
One of the best parts about majoring in Computer Science is that the degree is incredibly flexible; if you choose to major in it, you’re not going to be stuck in a cubicle programming and doing software development for the rest of your life.  Many consulting companies hire CS majors if that’s what you want to go into, and that’s just the start of job opportunities.  (Also a side note:  the average starting salary of a UVA Computer Science graduate is around $60,000 a year – so there’s a lot of money in the field too). 

That’s just one of the many great majors at UVA – no matter what your interests are, you’ll find the right fit. If you are interested in majoring in Computer Science, check out the following link for more information:

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sounds of the Dining Hall

Like any transition, moving to college prompts many questions. How hard will the work be? How much food will I eat? How long do I have to live with this roommate? Coming from Virginia, I knew a good amount of people going to UVA and although I wasn’t the most outgoing, I wasn’t extremely shy either. So, it wasn’t until the first morning of class when I stepped foot in the dining hall that the daunting question surfaced: how will I make friends?

Sure, for the first and even the second week, everyone’s in the same boat. On the street, at the gym, and in class, you say hi to anyone you recognize: the people in your class, your hall or suitemates, maybe some people from orientation. You might even exchange numbers. But come the third week, everyone’s settling in. Cliques aren’t necessarily established, but people have begun making memories with one another, whether it was over an insane frat party, a midnight game of Basketball or a 2:30 a.m. fire drill.

Not excepting you. You have a Friday night buddy system, you’ve joined an intramural team, and you’ve even hosted a dance party with your hall. But here you stand, glass of cranberry juice in one hand, your plate of stir-fry in the other, alone. You my friend, yes you, have become a victim of the first year. “Why me?” you wonder. You’ve scanned every table for a familiar face and already rejected the to-go box. Two choices: Sam, whose constant stream of drip sweat is sure to spoil your appetite and those hotties you and your friends were gushing about earlier only to find they were right behind you; somehow, it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

No, don’t even reach for your cell phone; fake texting is lame.

But hear, hear! Literally, listen!

Sound #1: There is the sizzling of your stir fry. A grand concoction of “broccoli, carrots and chicken.” You would have asked for more but you have no idea what else there was and you weren’t quite brave enough to try the pineapple. Consider asking others, “What are those things you got on your stir-fry? Are they good?” or “Have you ever tried it with pineapple?”

Sound #2: There is a conversation behind you. Eavesdrop! If they are talking about soccer say, “Are you all talking about the club team? I have a friend who wanted to do that.” or “You play soccer? I’ve been looking to play a pick-up game! Where are you all rooming?”

Sound #3: Not big on asking questions? Music, baby! All of the dining halls play music, from John Mayer to Kenny Chesney to Led Zeppelin. If you know a song start singing. I’m glad I did. Going through the yogurt line, I picked up singing, “If only my life was more like 1983….” The guy next to me joined in, and a full show choir erupted! No, not literally. But a fellow John Mayer fan, I asked to sit with him and my first morning was spent with 8 other guys I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

In conclusion, there are many scheduled, organized ways to make friends, but you have to take advantages of other less obvious opportunities. If not, sit with Sam Stinker and stomach the stench; he or she is probably an athlete, and with a little deodorant, might make a good running buddy! Or sit with the cuties you were gushing about; you have four years, so best reclaim your dignity now! If all else fails, try to remember the face of the last person you saw eating alone in the dining hall. You can’t and no one else will either.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I would hate to burst your bubble, but...

It’s easy to get caught up in your own life at UVa. Between your classes, your activities, your friends, and potentially a job and/or significant other, things can get hectic. And I’ll be honest—I’ve gotten lost in the “I’m too busy” mindset and unfortunately, sometimes not explored all that UVa has to offer. But this weekend, the opportunity to escape my “bubble” presented itself and I jumped on it—and am so glad I did. To my surprise, not only did I have an unforgettable experience, but it also made me realize something about myself.

Here’s what happened: My good friend Katie from dorms (and ironically, from South Florida—who knew!) casually invited me to her UDC (University Dance Club) fall performance when we ran into each other the other day. She told me the details (she was just in the third dance of many, and I could leave after that) and said if I was free to stop by, she’d love for me to come.

I figured it would be fun to surprise Katie, as she wasn’t expecting me to actually come. I had fully intended just to stay for those three dances—after all, the reason I was going was to see Katie dance and it was Sunday aka “catch-up-on-all-of-your-work”-day—and work, as usual, was plentiful.

After arriving in Newcomb, I found a seat, but as soon as the first dance started—to my surprise—I immediately got up and went to stand up behind the seats—I wanted to get the best view possible! The energy in the room was incredible. I even got the chills. Katie wasn’t on stage yet, but I was already loving it. Needless to say, I was completely caught off guard by my reaction. When Katie came on, it was awesome to see her strut her stuff, just as I had expected. But what I didn’t see coming: I stayed for the entire show! My automatic reaction after the third dance ended was “Time to go crank out that problem set!” But I stopped myself.

This is part of why I’m here, too. Although it’s easy to forget, it’s important to not just participate in your involvements. From older students and graduates, I’ve been told numerous times that part of why college is so great is that you have the opportunity to grow and learn in your experiences, by going outside your comfort zone and seeing what’s out there. And as I was reminded this weekend, it’s amazing what happens when you’re spontaneous! Going to the UDC concert reminded me of how rewarding that can be and how great a place UVa is, as there is so much going on here to explore.

And then it dawned on me, as I scheduled for classes next semester. This applies to academics, too. I scheduled myself to take three math and two commerce classes? Probably a good idea to round out that schedule a bit—I did want somewhat of a liberal arts experience, after all! Art history? Another psych class? Only time will tell. But I do know that I want at least one out-of-my-element class each semester. My social psych and advanced econ class have both been extremely gratifying, and arguably up there with my favorites. Shocking, I know. (I smell a future post on this).

Catch ya later, readers!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Virginia Skydivers

Coming into UVA, one of the most exciting things was always the amount of clubs offered. I have always been a girl to enjoy a lot of extracurriculars and hence appreciate the selection here a lot. One of the clubs that I am most fond of is Virginia Skydivers.

The club's regular by-comers are all experienced divers, except for me, because I just joined. Although costly, skydiving is very well worth it. First tandem jumps cost $255, but with the UVA student discount it's $225. A tandem jump is a type of skydiving in which you are strapped onto an instructor and the parachute is attached to the instructor's harness. There's some training before you make this first jump, but most first-jumps are tandem jumps. This is the first baby step of skydiving! Once you dive more and eventually get licensed if you wish, prices for jumps significantly decrease. Usually at least one person in the club goes out every weekend. We have two regular locations, Orange, VA and West Point, VA. A lot of times, people can just come out and watch too. It's a really fun time to go out and just watch people sway down from the sky and witness it in person. It's a really different atmosphere out there.

In addition to just jumping, we also have a handful of fun events we attend! We do other things, such as base jumping, jumping from hot air balloons, wind tunnels, and recently the club attended the infamous skydivers' Halloween Boogie at West Point, VA. There was a casa, in which 30+ jumpers use a tailgate exit, magic carpet rides where divers just hold on tight to each other, hoop dives through hula hoops, raft dives, and etc, as seen in these pictures!

We meet every Thursday at the Backyard, which is off of Elliewood on the Corner, at 7PM. These meetings are always very relaxed and chill, talk about skydiving, fundraising ideas and other things. I make it out there by foot from Old Dorms, so I know you can make it too! Fundraising is a big priority right now, because we want to make skydiving more affordable for college students, but to do so we need help! Please try and come out sometime and we'll assure you have a blast!

And here is some really cool footage of CavMan diving into Scott Stadium when we played Eastern Michigan! I can't say that the club sponsored CavMan, but cool nonetheless.

Along the lines of something a superhero once said... flying is statistically still safer than driving! Check out our site!

Monday, November 8, 2010

APO: a Service Fraternity

Logical or not, the one thing I swore I'd never do was join a fraternity or sorority. Nothing against those who do, it just didn't seem like my kind of scene. I wouldn't say that I like the quiet life, but I do enjoy a varied life, and everything I saw of fraternities and sororities screamed repetitive--not to mention indoors.

Well, three years in and wouldn't irony love the fact that I'm part of a fraternity. Well, I suppose it's only mostly ironic. See, we say fraternity/ sorority as if there's only one kind, but there are several. Each branch has its own distinct personality, and recognizing that, I stand by my original decision not to join a social fraternity; it's just not my treat.

What it is and What it is Not
APO is not a social fraternity but a service fraternity, and in the eyes of UVa, a CIO. The focus is on helping people rather than knowing people and building connections. The core principles of APO are leadership, friendship, and service, and members of the group seek to exemplify these values in their daily lives as well as through their service.

Every Saturday, the group gets up bright and early to visit various sites throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle to help Free Paint Projects, Quest, Loaves and Fishes, the Lewis and Clark Center, and many others. From a purely practical standpoint, members learn a lot about painting, sanding, building, and planning, but the main focus is on improving and being involved in the community.

Pledge Project
Every semester the incoming pledges put on a large scale service project for the communities of Charlottesville and Albemarle. They choose it and plan it based mainly on the principles of need and permanence. Then they execute it along with current brothers and graduated brothers who can make the trip back. Past projects include the Skate Park at McIntire and the renovations at Greenbrier Elementary School.

To be clear, APO does not haze; not only would it be against APO's charter, but it would also violate UVa's own policies on the matter. APO also does not use any of its fraternity money (pledge dues, brother fees, etc.) to purchase alcohol. Again, the focus is on service, so our money goes to buying things like tools and paint and paying National Chapter dues.

In my mind, the importance of any group lies in whether it serves a function, especially when it fills a niche. Much like Write Club that fills the void from a lack of creative writing options, APO gives an outlet for both service and social events. Most groups are either one or the other. To find out more about APO or a chapter in your area (each chapter runs slightly differently depending on its choices, though they all have the same core), go to

If you have any questions about fraternity/sorority life, or social, service, and honor fraternities, please feel free to email me. I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject, but what I can't answer, I can surely direct you closer to the person who can.

Friday, November 5, 2010

V Magazine

Welcome future wahoos! I’m so happy you have stumbled upon our blog so that we can give you a glimpse of what life at The University is all about! I think my fellow bloggers will agree with me when I say UVA is a magical place. There’s something here for everyone, and it is impossible not to fall in love with Mr. Jefferson’s school. I know I have!

A quick introduction: my name is Ellen Haick, and I am a second-year completely undecided about my major (on most days I fluctuate between English, economics, and religious studies- today I am determined to do it all!). I am a Southern girl, born and bred, hailing from Jackson, Mississippi. Moving to Virginia was quite the transition, but has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. There’s nothing like playing in your first real snow (see the picture of two Southern girls trying to master the art of snowball fights), attending your first field hockey game, or realizing that Nova is actually an area of Virginia, not another state that you somehow missed in your second grade geography class. UVA has become an essential part of who I am. Outside of classes, I am involved with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), my sorority, volunteer tutoring through Madison House, and copy-editing for V Magazine. Charlottesville and UVA has so much to offer, I feel like I discover something new everyday!

One of the best organizations I have joined is the wonderful staff of V Magazine. V Mag is just one of UVA’s many awesome publications. We strive to bring fashion and culture to the university, covering everything from events on-grounds to little known attractions throughout Charlottesville. Check out these shots of last issue’s cover.

In my opinion, the coolest thing about the magazine is that, like most organizations on-grounds, it is entirely student run. Our staff, writers, photographers, and models, are all members of a very talented student body. Once a week, we all get together to touch base and make sure the publication runs on schedule, and to enjoy pizza and each other’s company and creativity. My job as copy editor allows me to interact with all the writers and be a part of marketing the magazine to the rest of the school. I love putting the finishing touches on great pieces and seeing all our hard work come together. I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a wonderful and creative organization.

Next time you are near grounds, look for our upcoming issue! Stay up to date with our newly launched Facebook page ( V Magazine embodies a diverse and inspiring student body- a student body I hope you prospective students will one day join!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The New Semester Approaches

It’s about that time: 11:54 p.m. Just before midnight, I always seem to lose momentum. The effects of my green tea are wearing off, and as students dwindle out of the library, I feel less obligated to maintain my studious composure. I slump in my chair, and all but shamefully type in the web address bar f-a-c-e-b… Alas, no notifications. And I waited a whole hour! One final time, I’ll refresh my browser. To my surprise, I’ve received an email from my faculty advisor. “Please log into the SIS before scheduling an appointment.” Beautiful. I log into the Student Information System and am suddenly replenished with the excitement I felt late last summer registering for classes. It’s about that time: 12:00 a.m. and the next semester is approaching with the sunrise.

Am I really up for this? As exciting as it is to be planning a whole new schedule, scanning the list of classes for next semester can be equally overwhelming. As an English and/or Politics major, I highlight about 18 different courses, among them Advanced Studies in Literary Criticism, The American Short Novel, Politics in Islam, Leadership and Character, and International Law: Principles and Politics.

But how can I neglect my life-long dream of taking Italian? What about studies in Global Development? African Religions? Anthropology?

And because, as a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, I have to fulfill a few requirements, I scan the science and math sections to see if anything’s remotely interesting. I run across Principles of Nutrition: the physiological study of health, proteins and energy. Human Biology and Disease, studying the human immune system. Psychology of Aging, the study of how humans age and interpret death.

There are twelve schools at UVa, some of the most renowned including Commerce, Engineering, and Architecture. Students aren’t only restricted to one of these schools. They are offered the opportunity to take up to 18 credits in any one or multiple other schools. So, not only can I choose liberal arts classes offered by the College, but that awesome drama teacher my friend raves about? So choice! That urban planning and development course? Why not? That unexpected inspiration and life-changing class? Completely within my reach.

My list continues to expand and my excitement ameliorates. Can I really only take 15 credits? How will I ever choose?

Fortunately, all students are provided with advisors, deans, and professors who help sort through all these classes to comprise the schedule that is most appropriate for their interests or intended major. Additionally, once the semester begins, students can add, swap, or drop classes, depending on their workload, interests, and position on the waitlist. Professors not only are required to have weekly office hours to be kept open to students, but teaching assistants and discussion sections give most students additional resources for large lectures.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pancakes came...and so many other things are coming.

As almost every blogger has expressed, the fall is a wonderful time to be at the University of Virginia. To accompany the changing leaves and dropping temperatures, UVa offers a number of special events:

Football games
Mid-autumns Carnival
Trick-or-treating on the Lawn
History Week
Family Weekend
Third Year Ring Ceremony
Lighting of the Lawn

Two of my favorite fall events are Pancakes for Parkinson's and the Virginia Film Festival.

On October 16th, the seventh annual Pancakes for Parkinson's took place on the Lawn. Thousands of students, faculty members, and community members came together to enjoy free pancakes while making an indelible mark against Parkinson's disease. More than a dozen musical groups offered their vocal support, providing free entertainment while people enjoyed regular, blueberry, and vanilla pancakes. Two football favorites - the drum line and Cav Man - made special appearances.

Pancakes for Parkinson's is an official Team Fox fundraiser and is the largest one-day student fundraiser at UVa. Over the past seven years, the organization has contributed nearly $200,000 to Parkinson's research. The event exemplifies three integral parts of UVa culture: community, charity, and fun. Pancakes for Parkinson's is a cherished event that will be around for years to come.

Another event the UVa community values is the Virginia Film Festival (VFF). Although the event is intricately connected University, the event is literally Virginia's Film Festival. Students can attend most screenings for free, many of which have star attendees. Last year, Matthew Broderick came for the screening of his film "Wonderful World." The 2010 VFF boasts an incredible line-up of films.

One unique offering of the VFF is the Adrenaline Film Project, "a 72 hour filmmaking competition where 10 to 12 teams of three filmmakers must write, cast, shoot, edit and screen a film." Despite UVa's general status as a liberal arts school, events like the Adrenaline Film Project put the University on a similar level as more specialized, technical schools.
Some films I plan on checking out:
Black Swan (11/4, 7:00 PM)
Freedom Riders (11/5, 6:00 PM)
Don't be Afraid of the Dark (11/6, 9:00 PM)

Now is the perfect time to come visit the University!

Happy fall!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hey Readers!
I hope everyone is having a great October and enjoying the fall season (only nine more days till Halloween!). Fall is my personal favorite: the colors, the weather, the fashion, the holidays. Honestly, it wasn’t until I came to UVa when I realized that. Pictures don't do this school justice.

On another note, I’m sure all you seniors out there must be stressing – college applications, essays, recommendations, and SATs on top of schoolwork and extracurriculars. Breathe, stretch, shake, and don’t forget to enjoy your last year!

I remember like it was yesterday when I clicked enter on the Common App - actually, no - scratch that, I’d rather not remember all of the long sleepless nights of editing my essays and trying to overcome “Senioritis”. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure – it’s all worth it in the end. Trust me.

Here I am now – a second-year student at the College of Arts and Sciences. I’m potentially double majoring in Biology and Art History (I know, two completely different things) and am considering medical school.
Blue-Orange man and Me at the first home football game (Totally new experience since my high school never had a football team!) We won. (P.S. Do you see the large expanse of orange behind us?.. That's just the tip of the iceberg.)
I’m originally from a city right across Manhattan, so if any out-of-staters have questions, shoot me an email! I live off campus and am involved with the UNICEF club here, volunteering at the hospital, researching at a Lab, and writing for the Cavalier Daily. I’m currently training to become an Honor Educator. As you can see, I love keeping myself busy and I assure you, you’ll find something you love, here at UVa, too. Second year is pretty challenging (thank you, Organic Chemistry) but it’s going.

There’s a lot I could write about in my first post – from why I chose to come to UVa to the place where students spend most of the time during exams, the libraries. However, I’ll talk a little about what has been keeping me busy. There is a tradition that is celebrated on the lawn every year – it is called “Trick or Treat on the Lawn” where children and parents from the local Charlottesville community come to … trick or treat. This year, UNICEF is hosting it’s annual Trick-or-Treat festival in the amphitheater at the same time right next to the Lawn, and we’ll be featuring a mix of recreational, competitions and performances by UVa student groups to raise funds for UNICEF's work for children around the world. As the Outreach Chair, I have been busy contacting different organizations around Grounds asking to participate (eg. acapella groups, service clubs, etc.) It’s going pretty well so far and I’m excited for how it turns out – a little more than a week left! Maybe, in my next post, I’ll be able to upload some pictures and videos of it to show you how it went!

Pie-eating contest at
UNICEF's T-O-T Festival last year

Until next time.
P.S. Happy (early) Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's always the small things in life...

Hey guys! Thanks for checking out the Hoo Stories blog! You won’t regret it—okay, I might be biased—but, seriously, I think you’ll find helpful information here as you read through some posts.

Here’s my quick blurb to introduce myself: I’m Christina Reynolds, a second year in the College of Arts and Sciences (CLAS). I’m hoping to major in Commerce and toying with the idea of majoring in Financial Math, too. I come from the sunny beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (if any of you OOS are curious about the transition, feel free to email me!) Although I do sometimes miss the sand between my toes, I absolutely LOVE living in Charlottesville and going to UVA—the seasons, the college town, the school spirit, and I could go on for hours, but I’ll save that for another post! I enjoy spending my free time working with Second Year Council and greening our community as a member of StudCo, as well as with my sorority and writing for you! (Here's a pic of me enjoying my first snowy winter with some sorority sisters—I'm the one on the right :)

It was difficult to choose one topic for my first post, but it became obvious as I went to the AFC (our newest gym, right between old and new dorms) yesterday—one subtle thing reminded me of why I absolutely love UVA and am so happy to be a Wahoo!

I’ve always walked to the AFC, as the commute totaled a whopping three minutes last year. Now that I’m living on the Corner, I decided to drive for time’s sake (gotta make it to class!) Anyway, I knew there was some sort of parking fee to park in front of the AFC, so I went inside to see what it was all about. As expected, it was a typical parking meter that I’d see at any garage or airport. I paid (thankfully, a reasonable $.50/hr), printed my ticket, and—as I do whenever I pay for parking anywhere—went back to my car to put it on the dashboard.

I was curious, though, because it didn’t say anywhere on the ticket “Please put this on top of your dashboard, so that it is clearly visible” or anything of the sort. I’ve parked in many garages in my day, and the parking receipt has always required that in order to prove your purchase. Weird. I shrugged it off, but as I swiped into the gym, I decided to ask the attendant about the parking ticket out of curiosity. “No, you don’t need to put that back in your car,” she told me, casually.

I was confused: I knew that I needed to pay for parking. Why would I not have to leave proof of my parking purchase at the AFC, when I must do so every other place that I’ve parked in my life?

And then it hit me. I am a UVA student. And as one, I am inherently part of the community of trust we have here at UVA, an idea unique to our university and a direct benefit of our Honor Code. There’s no need to go back to my car and prove I paid for it because all students are assumed to be honorable, such that we will not lie, cheat, or steal. The UVA community trusts that if I park my car there, I will pay for parking. In this case, it saved me five minutes after the clock started ticking. But what stands out to me more is all that this experience represents, especially knowing the kinds of standards that all UVA students are expected to uphold for themselves and their fellow students from the day they step onto Grounds. And in most cases, they do. These are my peers. It's awesome to be in a place where I am surrounded by so much integrity.

Without a doubt, our community of trust is one of the many reasons I love being at UVA. As a first year, I lost my wallet TWICE—yes, I may be a bit distracted sometimes—full of cash, all my credit and debit cards, and both my student and state ID. The first was in Alderman library, and a student immediately emailed me saying he had it. The second time I must have dropped it on the sidewalk while walking, and the grad student who found my wallet dropped it off in the psych department office and notified me that it was waiting for me. On the other hand, I lost my wallet with all its contents while I was home—not only was it not returned, but whoever found (or stole it) used my credit cards multiple times! Of course, I can't promise you that if you lose your wallet here, it will be returned to you, but I do believe that your chances are better when you are surrounded by the community of trust found here.

I'm looking forward to blogging for you! Feel free to shoot me an email about anything ( Until next time....

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Good Old Dorm Life

One of my biggest concerns about going into college was definitely the living situation. It is a total new set up. I would be living among strangers and for once share a room with someone. There were also so many possibilities of ending up in different dorms. So many rumored horrors of college revolve the living situations, i.e. living in a hall dorm, where it is always too loud, getting a monstrous room mate, or living with no air conditioning, and etc. Truth is that certainly everything has it's pros and cons, which vary very differently from dorm to dorm.

Room mates. When deciding who I was going to live with, I had a lot of worries. Most people live with someone that they don't know. Well, nowadays people fill out little surveys on the UVA Facebook pages and then people chose each other, but still, they are strangers. There is only so much you can learn of someone through their Facebook profiles. Anyway, what was hard was worrying about what if the person is a complete psycho, an incredibly messy person, an annoying person, a snorer, someone that parties too hard, and the list goes on. I actually chose a good friend from high school to live with. Surely, I am missing a part of the "real ideal college experience" of living with someone I don't know, but there are just some major worries relieved. Everyone in high school was like you guys are going to get so sick of each other, you guys are going to hate each other, that is such a bad idea, but I'd argue that it is very nice to know someone that you can already trust. We have similar styles, tastes, and enjoy the same type of fun. I didn't go into college worrying about some weirdo watching me sleep and stealing my stuff. If we don't end up being friends forever, it won't be because we lived together, but rather because growing apart with people is a natural process that happens. There are so many great people at the university that it is not something to fret about.
Dorm rooms. I am now living in Echols, one of the McCormick Rd. residences, a first-year dorm. It has no air conditioning and yucky plastic tile floors, but I love it to death. My room mate and I get along very well and we love our room. Throw in a nice rug and get a comfy floor, a floor lamp for some nice ambient lighting, and various other things to make it more homey. Wall decorations are definitely a must. If you're worried about the heat, it'll only be a problem for the first month. We haven't turned on our fans in very long, but we just leave the window open. It really isn't all too bad at all. The location of Old Dorms is also really the most ideal place to live at, because it is right among everything. The other first-year dorms are really nice too, although a little bit further from Central Grounds. Some of them are the Alderman Residences, Gooch/Dillard, and Hereford. These have air conditioning (minus some of the Alderman Residences that are going to be renovated) and if I remember correctly they have carpet as well. These suite-style residences are nice, because it's almost as if you had little apartments with a couple of people. There are rooms and then a common area that connects all of them. Suite-mates can become really close friends, but so can hall-mates. Everything is really about how you make out your experience living in any place with any people, as opposed to having to deal with the living arrangements you are assigned with.
I hope that this can relieve at least some worries about living in dorms at the university, because quite frankly, as a first-year you have no choice but to live in them. It's really not a big deal at all, because everywhere you go, you will find great fellow Wahoos. When you come visit, make sure you get a look at some dorms, but remember that you can keep it how you want it (as long as it coincides with the fire code). With it being the Halloween season, I leave you lovely readers with this:

Be safe! =)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Did I Choose UVA?

Hey everyone! Just a little bit to introduce myself - I'm Mike Howe, from Earlysville, VA (a small town outside of Charlottesville). I'm a second year in the College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in Computer Science and Economics. Outside of classes, I enjoy being involved in the Greek scene at UVA through my fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, and I also participate in Admissions Chats for prospective students. In my spare time I enjoy doing anything outdoors, especially swimming and hiking.

Anyways, onto the topic of my post:  why I chose UVA.

The Academics:  I knew that I wanted an academically challenging school, where I could expect to work hard.  UVA is just that - students push themselves, and take their work seriously.  It's competitive, but not overwhelming.

The Value:  Being in-state, UVA offered a great value over the out-of-state schools I was looking at. Even for those who are out-of-state, UVA is often less expensive to attend in comparison to other similar schools.

The Activities:  UVA students are incredibly involved outside the classroom - we have literally hundreds of student-run clubs and groups.  There's a club for almost anything, from a capella groups to brewing societies.

The Size:  I knew I wanted somewhere that was big, and where I could constantly meet new people.  At the same time, I didn't want a school that was so large that I felt like I knew no one.  UVA has the perfect balance - it's large enough that you're always seeing new people, but you still see familiar faces everywhere you go.

The Setting:  UVA has a beautiful campus - the pictures in this post don't do the setting justice.  The weather in Charlottesville is fairly moderate, not too hot and not too cold.  Being right by the Blue Ridge Mountains offers many opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities.

A view of the rooms on the Lawn, right by the Rotunda

Serpentine walls by the gardens

I'm extremely happy here, and I'm positive that I made the right choice.  If you're considering UVA you should definitely come to visit!

Friday, October 8, 2010

You'll just LOVE UVA!

Hello readers! Thank you for stopping by this site! I hope that your college search is going well. I can hardly believe it's been two years since I was in your shoes. The saying "time flies when you're having fun" has certainly been true for my college experience.

Anyways, I had a hard time making a decision about the topic of this first post for the year (tossed around the ideas of the AFC-gym, the beautiful fall weather, and my favorite little town nearby, Crozet & the pizza place there), so I've decided just to give a little intro about myself this go around. I'm a second year (how did that happen?) student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In the spring, I will apply to the Commerce school, but I am still interested in possibly doing an Economics and Religious Studies double major. By the end of this year, I will have declared a major. Whoa!

At UVa, I'm involved in Reformed University Fellowship (a Presbyterian fellowship), my sorority, and Abundant Life (a community outreach program to a local neighborhood). With school and friends on top of those activities, there's rarely a dull moment!

This weekend, we have fall break here at UVA. There won't be any classes on Monday or Tuesday. In a few hours, I will be leaving for DC to stay with a friend there. Many of the in-state go home for fall break and take their out-of-state friends (like me, I'm from Texas) home with them. After we get back from break, Pancakes for Parkinsons week will be in full swing. Pancakes is a rather unique event to UVA, enjoyed by all. I will probably write my next post about it.

That all being said, best of luck with the college search!I am looking forward to blogging for you guys this year. Please email me if you have any questions! Enjoy the pics of me with some RUF friends.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Write Club

The Student Activities Fair gathers about four hundred clubs into one spot on the Lawn for one purpose: to impress students and encourage interest in the club. Some of the biggest recruiting happens here, and it's not just for first years. I go every year, and it was there that I ran into an old friend and roommate of mine Jessica Hatch. Along with Anna Kovatcheva (another friend and suite mate who is not pictured), these two formed Write Club.

My favorite product of Write Club is that it fills a much needed niche. Fiction Writing classes at UVa are small and amazingly popular. Snagging a seat in one of those few classes can be tricky, but for this CIO, there isn't a minimum. Anyone with a desire to write is welcome, regardless of talent or experience in writing poetry, novels, or short stories. It's a setting that is informal enough to attract the shier writers but undoubtedly structured enough to be a positive experience for any level of writer.

In their own words:

What We Do: In the fall term, Write Club supports National Novel Writing Month participants through October Boot Camp - meaning that we spend the month of October working up to writing 2,000 words a day - and through a writing buddy system. Like having a gym buddy makes you exercise more often, having a writing buddy helps you get through NaNoWriMo more easily. In the spring term, we host a series of fiction writing workshops to provide an outlet for feedback on short stories, novel excerpts, and the occasional poem. We have also, at various times during the year, organized scavenger hunts, open mic nights, and charitable bake sales.

For those of you a few years off from applying to college, no worries, because an Exec Board has been established. It really is a great group of people running the show, and they do so many activities outside of just writing that Write Club ceases to be simply a writers club and instead turns so much more dynamic.

If any of you have any questions about Write Club, feel free to post them or email me, and I can forward you on to them.

Some other pictures from the Fair:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hi, my name is Jasmine, I'm a UVAholic.

Hey HooStories readers! Thanks for stopping by and I hope that my posts will further your interests in coming to the best, UVA!
My name is Jasmine Le and I’m a first-year in the College of Arts & Sciences originally from Germany, but now from Herndon, VA. I have been here for a little over a month and I don’t regret coming here whatsoever. Truth be told, UVA wasn’t even my first choice anymore once the application process during senior year rolled around, but I am glad that I chose to come here and would have majorly regretted it otherwise! The great thing about this place is that there are endless things to explore.
I’m a German-Vietnamese-American space and time traveler, professional eyeliner-mustache drawer, hard rocker, fashion enthusiast, and SUPERHERO! Just kidding… kinda. I just like to think of myself as very adventurous and I am always seeking new things to try—next thing I know, I’m with Virginia Skydivers. I like going to concerts and getting bruised up in the pit, and spending time in between classes online shopping instead of doing homework. I want to learn plenty more languages on top of the three that I already know. I want to see the world and explore anything and everything!
I think that napping on the top of the Rotunda steps on a beautiful day is the best. The University is incredibly beautiful. Old architecture, new architecture, a lot of green, a lot of space, a lot of freedom. There's not much else I can ask for here.
Anyways, if you read on you’ll see how even more awesome I am, so I hope I’ll hear from you. Even if you just need a bedtime story, I will tell you one (except it’ll only be Brothers Grimm versions of fairytales). Feel free to shoot me an e-mail, I’ll answer anything!
Go Hoos!

Monday, July 5, 2010


Food. Every tour someone asked, "So, how is it?" I never quite understood it. To me, no matter where you go, you have to eat, and of what's offered, you're going to like some of it and there will be meals you don't like. Regardless, you'll find something to eat that you like.

I get it now.

This is the second summer I've had to fend for myself, and I've had two truths reinforced:
1. The microwave is that one friend that you enjoy hanging out with but you know is a bad influence on you.

2. There is a lot more to consider with meals than I thought.

The Basics
At UVa as a first year, you are required to have a meal plan with no fewer than 13 meals. It's a beautiful idea. You don't want to have to worry about a history paper and where the next meal will be. There are three dining halls, all buffet-style, and any student can visit any of them.

Along with every meal plan come Plus Dollars. I've heard them called Monopoly money, but they can be used at UVa food shops like the on Grounds Pizza Hut, Chick-a-fila, Wilsdorf Cafe, Sbarros, Greenberries, the Castle, and West Range Cafe. Plus Dollars are great for adding variety or for a quick snack when the day is busy.

The Cost
Most meal plans at UVa cost the same amount of money whether they are unlimited meals per week or 10 per week (available after the first semester). The reason is that the fewer the number of meals per week, the more Plus Dollars that come with the plan. Athletic and Residential plans cost more but that's because they also include perks such as banquets and for athletes, an additional dining hall to choose from (it's closer to the practice fields than the other three).

Roughly speaking, the cost per semester is $1800, and when I heard this the first time, I started counting in my head. Now, I'm no math major, but I said to myself that's for four full months worth of food (half of August plus half of December). Living on my own, I spend roughly half of that at the grocery store, so what gives?

Well, there are certain unavoidable truths that convinced me to sign up for my third meal plan in a row:
  • They cook really well, and I don't.
  • They provide an excellent variety of food.
  • The dining halls are much closer to me than any non-UVa store.
  • I don't have to spend time cooking, shopping, preparing, or cleaning up.
  • They're open from 7am to 10pm most nights, so the hours are great.
  • Variety, variety, variety. And far more culinary creativity than I have.
  • Theme Meals. Yes.
Theme Meals
Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, random happy days--these are the best reasons to get a meal plan. For Halloween each dining hall had a massive sheet cake that must have been about four feet by six. This Spring Runk Dining Hall bought a fifteen foot strawberry shortcake that was unbelievably delicious.

Every dining hall has a salad bar, some sort of soup, and at least three main courses to choose from for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is fairly standard (but still good): eggs, potatoes, waffles, omelets to order, pancakes, cereal, juice. For vegetarians and vegans, there are options at every meal. The same goes for celiacs, and if anyone does have an allergy, he or she can talk to a chef about tailored meals. In general, they're very good at taking care of students. Also, UVa Dining is very good at making meals catered to certain religious restrictions (Passover, Lent, Ramadan). The head chefs are also highly visible and love to hear feedback. I know that's how we had grilled salmon for dinner one night.

If you ever want to know what each dining hall is serving for each meal for a given week, just go to UVa's CampusDish website. The dining hall names (Newcomb, O Hill, and Runk) are on the far left side next to other on Grounds establishments. Click on each to see what they're offering. I'm not sure if the menu is open in the Summer, but it is definitely operational during the Fall and Spring.

Other Amenities Included in a Meal Plan
In addition to Plus Dollars, meal plans come with guest swipes. These extra meals come in handy if your family comes to visit, or if you run out of meals in a week. Typically, meals have about ten guest swipes per semester. I should note that the number of meals per week does not roll over; they will not accumulate. Plus Dollars roll over from Fall to Spring but not from Spring to the next Fall.

As for which meal to pick, I strongly suggest fifteen meals per week to start. It's a solid number that comes with a decent amount of Plus Dollars. Typically, a student won't go to three meals per day. Either they wake up too late for breakfast, skip lunch, or use Plus Dollars to grab a snack rather than use a meal swipe. Also, if you find out you don't have enough meals, you can upgrade your meal plan at any point (a perk of each plan costing the same price); however, you can only reduce the number of meals per week for the first two weeks of each semester.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Picking a School

So in talking to a good many students who attend various schools ranging all along the east coast, I've discovered that there are many ways to pick a college. Some of them scare me.

First, choosing where and how much to apply
  • Apply to as many as possible
  • Only apply to the favorite school
  • Apply to eight schools (two safety, four mid-range, two reach) and visit the top two most interesting
  • Visit as many schools as possible in the summer and apply to the four most liked
  • Choose a college that has a community college, go to CC for two years, and then transfer to the larger college
  • US and World News Rankings decide which school to visit
  • Hearing about a school from a friend or a teacher who went there for undergraduate
  • Talking to graduate students and seeing where they went for undergrad
Choosing/ Final Decision
  • Choose the highest rated/ most famous overall school
  • Parent's choice
  • Picked out of a hat
  • Visited, stayed the night, talked to professors
  • Choose because it had the best rated/ most famous program they wanted
  • Picked based on number of better than average majors (for flexibility should they want to change majors)
  • Picked based on price tag and Financial Aid offers
Yes, I do know a girl who picked her school out of a hat; she just couldn't decide which to choose. In hindsight, though she loves her school, she did discourage anyone picking a school like that.

My approach was a little disorganized. I didn't visit a school until the end of the summer leading into my senior year. It just hadn't been on my mind or part of my priorities. (Furthermore, the squirrel pictures were some I took while on tour, which made showing my mom what Grounds looked like very difficult; however, I could vouch for it having a very healthy and robust squirrel population). I love UVa, but it's the only school I toured, the only school I visited, and I can't honestly say that that was the wisest move. It's something that worked out great for me, but I'd be hesitant to recommend it to others. In fact, I don't. I applied to schools I was fairly certain I could get into, and I shopped a lot based on cost and travel distance. I wish I hadn't been so limited. Financial Aid should not be the reason not to visit or apply to a school. There are so many scholarships and grants and programs out there like AccessUVa that can help students. Moreover, students really shouldn't fear loans so much. I have several out right now, and it's not the end of the world. I'm getting a great education at a quality school with the kind of culture I love. That's what's important to me, and whenever possible, follow your heart rather than your purse strings.

If I can finish off with one piece of advice I heard last summer from a brilliant man: it doesn't matter where you go to school. What matters is how you did where you went. Did you take chances, use available resources, make the most of it? That's what matters. Make the most of looking for colleges. Don't discount a school because your friends haven't heard of it or because you think it wouldn't look cool as a bumper sticker. Give colleges--old and new, famous or not--a fair chance. You never know what you'll find.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Things UVa Has Addressed

An important aspect of a school is progress. Is it changing? Can it adapt? School updates, changes, and renovations are a fairly good way to measure the responsiveness of the school to student needs. Here are a few examples of changes in the last two years:

Textbook Help

I won't lie: textbooks are expensive. They are, and if you're in a science field, you probably have to buy a new edition because the older ones don't have the cutting edge information. UVa understands this situation, and so they offer both used and rental textbooks for those who don't want to buy brand new ones. Also, they have guaranteed buy backs for textbooks. These services really help out in keeping cost down. Now, a lot of people talk about using Amazon or textbook exchange websites, but I'm a little wary of them. I know people who've ordered books that didn't come in for three weeks. Some accidentally received the wrong book or ordered the wrong book, and that costs time. For me, I want to keep it simple. The Bookstore might be a bit more pricy than ebay, but at least I know exactly what I'm getting at the Bookstore and I'm getting it immediately.

New classes
I've commented to several people how large science classes can be, and so I wanted to follow up those comments with news: several departments have responded with new courses that not only sound awesome but are also much smaller. BIOL 4120 When Good Cells Go Bad is a new three credit course offered through the Biology Department that focuses on major neurological diseases and will have around thirty students. There are also a handful of new biochemistry, psychology, and chemistry courses. Another biology course is Microbial Genomics, which will highlight microbiology fundamentals as well as principles of bacteria life. The change is tangible proof that the administration is flexible and willing to work to address student concerns. Actually, to be fair, I'm not entirely sure who to thank for new classes, but it probably is a mix of administration and department. Oh, and for students interested in other classes offered, the full catalog can be found by going to the UVa homepage, clicking on SIS, and then selecting Course Catalog. Moreover, I do want to emphasize that there have been several new classes outside of biology as well. As a scientist, I tend to focus around my field, but there is a new Bengali language course that I've heard very good things about, as well as a handful of anthropology and religious studies classes.

Wilsdorf Cafe

In addition to people like Dean Groves (who is incredibly available and aware of student concerns) working to help students, Student Council seeks ways to improve student life in a variety of areas. This year, they asked for and achieved later hours for Wilsdorf Cafe. As a regular in Wilsdorf, I can assure you that it was much more convenient and very much appreciated that the hours were extended. StudCo is also the group that provides free water on hot football game days so that students stay hydrated.