Every Hoo Has a Story: Boomerang Lawnie

May 9, 2023 By Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu

Sanjeev Kumar was a little lost and a little lonely his first few weeks on Grounds. No one from his Georgia high school had ever gone to the University of Virginia. Most of the students he ran into were from Northern Virginia and they already had friend groups, so trying to find his place at the University was challenging.

“So, I was truly a blank slate,” Kumar said, “at a school where so many people come from similar high schools, similar places in Virginia, and everyone kind of had their own friends coming in.”

Kumar shared his experience as part of UVA Today’s “Every Hoo Has a Story” project. Just weeks from their graduation, we coaxed random fourth-year students into a director’s chair, set up on the Lawn, for impromptu interviews. They shared stories of the successes and letdowns, the highs and lows of their time on Grounds.

Related Story

But we also heard about the importance of first friends, of finding “your people.” And sticking it out until you do. It was something Kumar heard from UVA President Jim Ryan shortly after arriving on Grounds when Ryan first addressed the Class of 2023.

Thinking back a few years, Kumar said it was one thing to hear about the importance of making friends, but it was another thing to put it into practice. Then someone let Kumar in on a secret:

“There’s a guy you have to meet.”

The guy was Vilas Annavarapu, then a fourth-year student who lived in 25 West Lawn. Like Kumar, the upperclassman was an out-of-state student who was very involved in the Asian-American community. So Kumar paid him a visit.

Kumar didn’t know it then, but the visit would shape his four years at UVA. It was the start of a lasting friendship.

Living on the Lawn is a rare honor. Forty-seven of the Lawn’s 52 rooms are up for grabs to graduating students each year, filled through an application process. (The others are earmarked for specific organizations.) That means to score one, Annavarapu had to impress the selection committee with his grades, participation in clubs and organizations, and overall commitment to the University. Two-thirds of applicants don’t make the cut.

And it means, four years later, Kumar had to do the same thing.

Kumar did impress, in part because his friend and mentor stayed in touch with him and helped guide him through a successful UVA experience. So Kumar chose to complete his fourth year at UVA in the same room where his journey started: 25 West Lawn, where Annavarapu took a nervous first-year student under his wing.

“That was my first home.”

Media Contact

Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications