An Interview On
University of Virginia

Background

Interview Date:Winter 2018

Gender: Female
Race/Ethnicity: African-American/Black
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
High School Experience: Public school in Prince William County, VA with a graduating class of about 450 students. Around 80% of my school were African-American, and we had a high population of people on free or reduced lunch. A lot of the students went to college but were first-generation students.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Prospective major is Global Public Health, but I’m applying this semester so I don’t know for sure.
Minor: Drama
Extracurricular Activities: My first year I did a program called First Year Players. Last year I did another student-run theater organization called Shakespeare on the Lawn. I have only done theater at UVA because I haven’t found anything else really interested to me that I want to commit time to do.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
When I did First Year Players, it was a really good experience because when I came to UVA I didn’t know if I would fit in or if I would be able to do theater. It was a really fun experience to be with other people who are just as passionate about doing theater. The only issue I came to realize my second year is, even though they’re extremely inclusive people and they don’t discriminate at all, I just felt like I was the only Black girl most of the time and I felt like there was a lack of diversity. This year when we did an interracial version of Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare on the Lawn, and I really liked that because of the diversity. I realized that some student organizations don’t really put a large emphasis on diversity, so this spring semester I want to try to help address this issue. I think if we sent a message that we don’t discriminate and we accept anybody it will be better.

Academic Experience

Is there anything that you feel UVA has done especially well or especially poorly so far academically?
One thing they do well is the Global Studies Program will have a forum once a semester with people from different majors in that program. I went to one the spring semester of my first year, and I ended up talking with a girl that got into the major that I want and it was really informative. One thing that I don’t like so much is that applying to the major is very nerve-racking because the majors are so competitive to get into you need to have a backup, but why would I want to be in the backup? Nobody has really told me about the application process, like if there’s a waitlist, the best ways to get in, or what you do in the major.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I feel like it depends truly on what you’re in. As a whole, I think the environment at UVA is very competitive, and there is an elitist dynamic because a lot of the people who go to UVA are in the upper-middle class or middle class and went to more competitive high schools. At first, I didn’t meet a lot of people who were willing to stretch out a hand and help me. The classes tend to be on the harder side and people sometimes seem stressed. My first semester freshman year was laxer, but my second-semester I saw the more difficult side where I felt like it was a race not even to keep up with everyone else, but just for me to keep up with myself. [Socioeconomically, 49% of students at UVA come from the top 10% and 2.8% come from the bottom 20%.]

What is your least favorite class you’ve taken so far?
Introduction to Statistical Analysis, which is a 2000-level class. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I’m not a math-oriented person so parts were very difficult. I think it was my least favorite class because we had a lab portion twice a week on top of our lectures twice a week. For the lab portion he randomly assigned us to groups, and I was the one who did all the work in my group. There was no feedback form on how your other group-mates did, so when we all got the same grade I didn’t think they deserved that grade.

How was transitioning to UVA academically as a first-generation student?
I always knew I was going to go to college, so when I was in high school applying to colleges, I mentally prepared myself to have more independence from when I was home. Something that helped me transition was having a lot of close friends from my high school also go to UVA, so I didn’t have the struggle of trying to make new friends. I had other friends who were also first-generation college students, so they were people who I could really lean on when I was stressed out. It was nice to talk to them because I knew that we were going through the same experiences and we weren’t completely alone.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: At UVA there are Old Dorms and New Dorms, I lived in an Old Dorm called Humphreys with one roommate. My roommate and I got along really well, and our hall got along really well.

Sophomore: Lambeth Field Apartments with one roommate in my bedroom, but there are six people total in the apartment. We share a living room and a bathroom. It’s farther away than Humphreys, so one of the difficulties I had in the first two weeks was figuring out the bus system and how to get to and from classes.

What is your favorite living situation?
Probably Lambeth, but it is just slightly over Humphreys. I like it better because I don’t have to share a bathroom with as many people and it’s cleaner than my first-year living space.

How was transitioning from your hometown to Charlottesville, VA?
It felt kind of like I was going from the North to the South in a sense. Where I grew up was not super diverse, but I didn’t have to travel far to see a person of color, versus coming down to Charlottesville [about 66% of the population is White]. Part of the transition is coming down and being closer to the country roads and farms. It’s not a big transition, it’s just a little less diverse than I’m used to. I adapted very quickly.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on campus?
In terms of lock-safety, all you had to do to get into Humphreys was swipe in, and for the first few weeks, the back door was just open. An issue that conspired with that was there was a man who was caught going into the girls’ bathroom and taking photos of girls in the shower. [Editor’s note: no relevant news article could be found about this incident.] That was very unpleasant and they added locks to the bathrooms. Another thing is that when there were incidents, the emails they would send out were not very descriptive at all, they would just say that it was a White male. I realized that I need to be more aware of my safety than I was used to. [The violent crime rate in Charlottesville is 2% higher than the national average and the property crime rate is 8% lower than the national average.]

Pros and cons of being located in Charlottesville, VA?
Pros:
1) I didn’t want to go to a school super close to home, and it’s about a 2-hour drive away so there is space between my family and me.
2) Charlottesville is a nice area. It’s an aesthetically pleasing and quaint place to live.
3) We are close to Monticello, so if I wanted to visit I could easily go there.
4) There are hiking trails around Charlottesville.

Cons:
1) It’s less suburban than I’m used to. To go to Wal-Mart, I have to find somebody to take me or take an Uber. There’s no other way to get there. I feel that I’m kind of secluded away from everything.
2) I feel like there are fewer things to do because I am secluded form things. I don’t have a car, I don’t always have money to pay for an Uber, and the buses aren’t very time efficient, so I feel like I’m sometimes stuck and can’t go anywhere.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
My first year I went to parties way more than I do my second year of college. Most of what I do is hang out with my friends in their apartment and stay in and watch movies, or sometimes on Saturdays I go to parties with people.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Going in, I didn’t know much about Greek life. I didn’t know how much of a big deal people make out of rushing. It was hard for me because they’d talk about how their mom or dad was in a certain fraternity or sorority, and I didn’t share that experience. The second semester during my first year is when people rushed, and I had just never experienced anything like it and didn’t realize how seriously people would take it. I’ve never been that into Greek life before, so I don’t understand why people make that big of a deal of it.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I have not reached out to the alumni network yet. That is something I hope to do this upcoming semester.

To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
I have used the career office before, and I think the reason it didn’t work very well for me was that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. They do make a big deal out of the fact that they’re there and they’re a resource that’s available to use. I think the other reason they haven’t worked as well for me is that I haven’t reached out as much as I could have.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
I learned more about Excel in my Introduction to Statistical Analysis class.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about UVA before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I had known more about how Greek life does play a big part in going to UVA and how people interact with each other. [31% of undergraduates participate in Greek life.]

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
One thing I think people miss out on is going to Arts Grounds. If you’re a student at UVA you can go to plays for free as long as you reserve a ticket 24 hours before. I don’t think that’s a well-known fact around campus. I like the fact that UVA is a big school and you can be independent, but it’s important to know that people don’t find their place for a while. Not knowing where you belong is okay because that is part of the learning process of college.

Reasons to attend UVA:
1) UVA is a very good school. The name carries some weight and sets you apart from other people.
2) The school tries very hard to make student life a good time. When you’re a first year they make sure that you know about the resources that are available to you.
3) There are so many clubs and organizations for anything you could be in to. There are so many things you can do when you get here.

Reasons to not attend UVA:
1) I feel like UVA sends a message that they are working on diversity and being inclusive, but I think they just say it and don’t actually do it. [See article, skip to “UVA’s History of Slavery and Racism.]
2) The elitism here. I know I shouldn’t feel bad about my home situation, but sometimes I do because I don’t come from money and a private school education. [Socioeconomically, 49% of students at UVA come from the top 10% and 2.8% come from the bottom 20%.]
3) When I came to UVA I didn’t know that there were some low-income neighborhoods, and nobody ever talks about these neighborhoods or tries to connect with those lower-income communities. [Note: In October 2018, President Jim Ryan created a working group to build a stronger relationship between UVA and the surrounding communities.]

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