Friday, March 20, 2009

Let's hear it from the Brit!

Name: Alex
Major: Psychology (and hopefully something else too)
Year: 2011
Country: Born and raised in London, UK

Why I came to UVa:
It started out as a whole lot of totally random recommendations from friends of my dad. More and more people told me that UVa was an awesome place to spend four years of my life for a variety of reasons so I applied without really knowing much about it, except that everyone I'd met had told me either that they had been there and loved it, or knew someone who had been there and loved it.

Well I got in and still hadn't seen the campus (or as I was repeatedly reminded, the "grounds"). So my first visit before I made my college decision was for the Days on the Lawn. To cut a long story short, the day I came to visit was as beautiful a day as Charlottesville can offer, my tour guide was great and I just couldn't say no. I'm now in my Second Year here and haven't regretted my decision once.

Why I think YOU should come to UVa (especially as an international student):
You've read all the generic statistics about the academics, student life and probably a couple of interviews with students about the social scene - and I'll just give you my no BS account on what's good and bad (but mainly good) about being a student here.

1. Academics
It is said that there are 'no easy classes' at UVa. Not true. The vast majority of classes at UVa at least have their challenging moments, but there are one or two that are 'show up and pass'...actually scratch that, more like 'skim over the lecture slides the night before the midterm and final - and pass'. Having said all of this, there are some really, really, really tough classes here - right now it's 2:08am, I'm on the quiet floor of Clemons library, procrastinating from studying for a test that I'm going to take at 9:30am this morning and I'll probably be here all night, BUT there's hope - if you have somewhat good study habits, you'll be just so happens that I do not have good study habits.

With regards to the influence of being an international student on academics - really it's not a huge deal. The only point of note I have concerns language courses here at UVa...I didn't completely place out of my foreign language requirement and I noticed when I took my first French course that I was vastly knowledgeable in certain areas where U.S. students had no idea about, and totally in the dark about a few things that U.S. students had been learning for years.

2. Extra-Curricular
Lots of stuff to do here. If you're interested in something, chances are there's a club or society with like-minded people. The easiest way to get involved in ex-curricular clubs/committees is at the annual fair in which loads of the clubs etc. set up stalls and take your email address if you're interested. If you don't find what you're looking for - look it up on the internet and send some emails.

3. Social
In my personal opinion, the social scene at UVa is fantastic, although it's important to note that it won't necessarily come to you - sometimes you have to go and find it. Thankfully, this isn't hard. A lot of the social scene at UVa, especially for First Years, is based around the Greek System (Fraternities/Sororities). There is a large amout of drinking at UVa, and large proportion of it happens at frat parties (side note: If you're an international student, even if you hate the idea of going to a house full of inebriated and uninhibited students, I would recommend going to a fraternity party at least once, purely for the important cultural significance). If the frat party scene/drinking yourself to oblivion really isn't you, there's plenty of social organizations and groups around grounds that you can get involved with and have a good time with - it just takes an ounce more of effort to find them. Really though, a couple of the guys I live with don't drink or go to big parties, and they have very active social lives.

4. The People
As an international student who speaks English fluently (in my case it's my first language), I actually think I had it easier getting into the social scene than my American friends - from Day 1, EVERYONE was really friendly and wanted to get to know the British kid. In fact, the first question my academic advisor (a Philosophy professor) asked me was, "So you're from are you finding it here so far? Is it like Love Actually?". If you've seen that movie you'll know what he was talking about.

I'm not going to sugar-coat this; UVa definitely seems pretty homogeneous - the stereotypical UVa student is white, middle class and raised in Northern Virginia. That's not to say that there are lots of other cultures that aren't represented here, but again, they're a little harder to find. This leads on to my single most important piece of advice for all prospective UVa student but especially international students - DON'T CLUSTER. Sure, be friends with people from the same backgrounds (e.g. race, culture, language, socio-economic status), it's understandable because you find common ground with them but please, please, please don't let it completely dominate your social life - make the effort and meet new people outside of these groups, I promise you wont regret it!

Oh and for all you English guys who wanted to know the answer to the question my advisor asked me, I'm sorry but you'll just have to find out when you get here.

I love it here at UVa, and if you come in with the right attitude, you will too.

Good luck in your decision making - I remember it being stressful, but take solace in the fact that chances are, wherever you go, you are going to have a blast.

Have fun - these are supposedly the best years of our lives.


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