An Interview On
University of Virginia

Background

Interview Date:Winter 2018

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Straight
High School Experience: Catholic day school in Massachusetts. My graduating class with about 300 students. It was a college preparatory school, so most students graduated and went to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Have not declared yet. Will apply to be a Creative Writing major at the end of the upcoming semester.
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: Greek life, Ski and Snowboard Club, volunteering at Relay for Life, and giving presentations about sexual assault awareness with an activist group at school.

Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
All three for sure. Fraternity life is critical to having a social life at UVA, it’s a big Greek school. The sexual assault awareness group I’m in, One in Four, has been a really eye-opening experience. It’s very educational and has helped me become a better public speaker.

Academic Experience

Have you taken any classes towards Creative Writing?
I’ve taken a few literature seminars and a Creative Writing class which have all been interesting, and is why I’m pursuing this major.

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
In those classes, you don’t see many exams, mostly essays. You may see a midterm essay, a final essay, a portfolio, and some short writing essays throughout the semester. There are usually also short readings. We’ll also have discussion-based activities in classes.

Is there anything your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I think they have a great staff. All of the professors I’ve learned from have all been fantastic. There are also graduate students in the Creative Writing program who teach introductory or lower level classes. They’re very intelligent and [undergraduates] are able to make connections with them. Overall, one of the perks of the Creative Writing program and the English department is that they are really well staffed.

How would you describe the learning environment?
For specifically the Creative Writing program, it’s very small so it has very competitive admissions. At the same time, you’re going through your classes with the same people and collaborating on projects or in the same organizations.

How accessible have your professors been?
Pretty much all of them are accessible. Their office hours are lenient, and they’re always willing to schedule an appointment to make something work. I’ve always had an open dialogue with all of my professors, and they’re friendly and intelligent. I’ve had a great experience with my professors so far.

What made you choose the Creative Writing track? Are you happy with your choice?
Yes, I’ve always been interested in writing, specifically writing for entertainment. I was between the Creative Writing major and the Media Studies major. I’m also interested in teaching and education, and the Creative Writing major would help me become an English teacher one day. That’s where my mind has been. The Creative Writing program has been really enriching. I’ve been doing a lot of writing which has helped me become a better writer.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived over the past two years?
Freshman: Watson-Webb, one of the new dorms. The way UVA works is there are new dorms, old dorms, and “new/old” middle ground dorms. New dorms are the larger buildings, farther away, have air conditioning, functioning elevators, and are tall. That’s where I was situated with 1 roommate. My room was small but in a nice building with nice study rooms. I had a good experience.

Sophomore: This year, I’m in an apartment that is much closer to my classes. It’s also right behind the downtown area, so it’s very accessible to go to bars, to get food, to study at libraries, and to go to classes. I’m living with 2 other people in a 3-bedroom apartment.

How was transitioning from Massachusetts to Charlottesville, VA?
The biggest part for me was moving away from the ocean. Other than that, Charlottesville is very pretty so it was not a big culture shock. The hardest part is that UVA is a state school, so the majority of students are from Virginia and knew each other already. It was a little difficult in that regard. Other than that, it was an easy transition and a gorgeous college town. [69% of undergraduate students are from Virginia.]

Can you describe the level of safety on and around campus?
Charlottesville is very secure. I don’t know anyone who has been physically assaulted walking home at night or anything like that. There may be some unsafe places off-campus. As far as on the grounds, some Ambassadors are public safety officials who stand post at most corners during the night and evening hours. There are police chiefs who have correspondents who send emails with any public safety incidents that are occurring. Most people feel very safe in Charlottesville.

What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
I really like ASADO, it’s a taco and wings restaurant with great food and drinks deals.

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Everything happens around campus which is a good thing, and I’ve always enjoyed it. I am part of the Virginia Ski and Snowboard Club, and I like going to Wintergreen, the local skiing mountain that we will either take a bus or go up to with friends.

Pros and Cons of being located in Charlottesville, VA?
Pros:
1) Charlottesville and UVA are rated one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country and the world.
2) It has cool history and traditions which brings everyone together. It has secret societies and cool quirks.
Cons:
1) You’re in Charlottesville, and you won’t be leaving much without a car.
2) It’s not near the ocean.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend or nightlife activities do you like to participate in?
I go out to bars and have parties at my fraternity every weekend. It’s an active bar and nightlife scene at UVA if you want to participate in that. I’m usually at friends’ houses or bars in Charlottesville.

What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
You get to know the drink specials for certain nights at various bars. For instance, Tuesday night at the Biltmore there is “Survivor Hour.” Wednesdays are usually quieter. A lot of people go out on Thursday and Friday nights. Saturdays there is usually a day party activity, and some will go out Saturday night.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It’s pretty heavy, but I know people who are not interacting with Greek life who are still going out and having an active nightlife. The majority of people who are going out at night are most likely stopping by a fraternity house beforehand. Then people will transition to the bars which are very close to the fraternity houses.

Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year? How did it differ before and after you joined a fraternity?
It’s a huge difference, you don’t really know anyone or where to go yet. You’ll follow people around to whatever parties they know are going on and make every connection you can. Usually, you can get into a fraternity party. Most fraternities are looking into new members and want to get a good impression among the first years. Usually first years can get into parties if they’re on the list or know someone who knows someone. I would go to fraternities, not knowing their reputation or anybody in the fraternity, and not feel ostracized. I went to bars more freshman year just because I didn’t really know as many people in Greek life.

Do freshman boys have trouble getting into parties?
At UVA it’s list-based [to get into a party]. If you know someone, you can usually get in. If you can get into one fraternity party, you can probably get into others. If you’re not on the list, you can’t get into a party.

How happy are you with the nightlife? Would you change anything?
I’m happy. You can go all out if you want, party every night of the week, or you don’t have to participate at all. If I wanted to, I could party all week or study for a week. It’s nice that my life is up to me. You have control to go out as much as you want.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my friends through the fraternity rushing process. One of my friends from high school also went to UVA and we became close, then I started hanging out with his fraternity. There are a lot of intra-fraternity relations. My closest friendships are from fraternities and roommates.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
Overall, there’s something for everyone. I know people who are not interested in Greek life and people who are not going to the bars, who can have an active social life. One of my friends is involved in a service sorority and she still has a lot of fun. She will do camping trips and things like that. The fraternity route has been an awesome route for me. I love the bars, and it’s nice to grab a meal with friends and drink on the porch. It’s a great atmosphere. Everyone is friendly and willing to have a good time.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
One problem with UVA is it is relatively white. The school has only about 6% African-American students, which is not representative of a 20% Virginia demographic. I think there’s a measure of self-segregation at UVA. If you go to a fraternity house, it’s many more white people due to the demographics [of the fraternity]. However, there still are queer alliances, [like the Queer Student Union]. I’m friends with people who identify as gay, queer, or have more fluid gender or sexual identities, who have found a home in alliances or theater or music productions. There are Black and Hispanic fraternities and sororities. However, as I said, it’s self-segregated and these groups might not mix with the predominantly white fraternities. It’s unfortunate, but it’s how it’s worked out.

How would you describe the student body?
UVA is very preppy. There’s a large demographic from Virginia Beach, where you’ll find some surfers. Some southern students bring traditional politeness. But I’d say for the most part, there’s a northern Virginia crowd from outside the D.C. area that’s very friendly and dress nice. [In 2017, of the 2,537 in-state students, 1,057 came from Loudon County (252), Fairfax County (676), or Prince William County (129), all of which are suburbs of Washington, D.C. in Northern Virginia.]

How do you like the size of UVA in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [UVA has about 16,000 undergraduates.]
It’s great. I can’t imagine going anywhere smaller. Once you get boiled down into a social scene, you end up seeing the same people everywhere you go. I like being able to go to bars and meet new people every time I go out. You tend to drift through the same social scene of the same people, probably around 200 people, it’s not massive or not too small.

Careers

Have you done any career preparation through UVA?
I have done one career planning seminar in a first-year seminar. I’m not that familiar with it other than there is a huge career center. We have one at the offices behind our football stadium, and there’s also a social study space/restaurant where students can go to the top floor where there is a career center and you can learn about internships, but I haven’t participated in that yet.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about UVA before you entered as a freshman?
I knew a lot about UVA because I had a friend whose older brother went here. It was valuable to hear from him that it wasn’t as southern as I thought. You can find some of that culture, but if you’re from the north, you will have little to no problem fitting in and finding a crowd.

What is something a prospective interested in Greek life may want to know?
I recommend Greek life. Greek life provides opportunities for a generally more well-rounded social life, an active social life, but it’s also great to be able to text anyone during the day to study or hang out. I study or play football every day with members of my fraternity. Greek life is a valuable resource at UVA.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I’m a musician and I wish they had taken me down to the basement of Old Cabell. There are these really cool practice modules with pianos and you can check out these pods and just play. That was amazing. I wish I’d known about it when I visited it the first time. I discovered it on my own and I was blown away. I recommend any musician to check them out.

Reasons to attend UVA:
1) Excellent academics
2) A work hard, play hard environment
3) Beautiful campus
4) Active social life
5) Safe campus

Reasons to not attend UVA:
1) Not a diverse community [In 2017, about 56% of students were White and only about 6% of students are Black.]

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