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.”