How First-Year Students Are Navigating Their New Lives at UVA & Making it Home

February 21, 2019 By Jane Kelly, Jane Kelly,

It can be hard for high school students to imagine what it is like to be a first-year student at the University of Virginia. The experience might be equally mysterious to parents and guardians of rising college-aged students, as well as transfer students.

Now that college acceptance season is coming into full swing, UVA Today reached out to a few first-year students to pull back the curtain on what first-year life is all about.

UVA’s regular application decisions will be released April 1 and all students offered admission have until May 1 to accept their offers. In the meantime, hear what these current first-year students are doing to make their experiences at UVA their very own.

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Carolyn Bennett (Photos by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

Carolyn Bennett, Mechanicsville

It didn’t take me more than a couple of days to completely fall in love with UVA. I love the freedom that it gives you, just being in college, being in a different atmosphere; being able to walk everywhere in between classes, because in high school you stay in the same building and you get boring views of walls. Here, it’s such beautiful scenery and you can walk everywhere and see so many different people and different things every day. But you can also construct your own schedule. I’m taking so many classes that I personally want to take, instead of being pressured to take “these classes” to get into “this college” or to fulfill “these requirements.” The learning style has been amazing. It just fits me a lot more than high school. It’s very autonomous.

There are so many different activities and people to meet here. They’re really good at making it obvious that there are things to do. The club fair at the beginning of the year was really helpful. All of the people here just have a common purpose, which is to be here for school, be here to learn.

But it’s nice knowing that you can take breaks and meet other people. There are a lot of fun events that facilitate that. I do the marching band. I play the snare drum on the drum line, so the football games have been really fun.

It’s been nice getting to be so immersed in the school spirit through the marching band. It’s been so much fun!

Jamison Stevens

Jamison Stevens, Herndon

I’m involved in a lot of extracurriculars already. I’ve really found a way to enjoy all of my passions here. I’m part of a Catholic organization, and I have research lined up because I really like working with computers.

There are always fliers hanging up, so I always check out the flyers to see what’s going on.

For me, most of the opportunities that I found, I just went to a professor and they were like, “Oh hey, there’s this opportunity,” so I joined things that way.

“And talking to professors offers other benefits for your grades and stuff.  So honestly, it’s like the best thing I’ve done so far in my time here. It’s kind of daunting, talking with someone who has been here for years. It seems intimidating, but remember they’re a person, too. And they have interests just like you and sometimes those interests line up.”

DeJon Mayo

DeJon Mayo, Cave Spring

The friends and the football games have made it great and the atmosphere is nice.

It is different from high school. You’re around a lot of people that care about their work, but they also know how to have fun, too.

I learned really quickly that you have to really work on time management. When you’re at home, you have to work around your parents’ schedule and my mom worked nights. When you are in college, it’s your own schedule. You don’t have to ask anyone else for permission for what you’re about to do before you do it. You know, it’s just a different feeling at first.

I’m really enjoying my classes in African-American studies and in abnormal psychology. I’m also a student manager on the track team. I just joined intramural basketball. I plan on doing that with my friends. I try to go to the gym pretty often, but sometimes you have to cut that out to focus on schoolwork and stuff. I’m enjoying UVA!

Surbhi Mathur

Surbhi Mathur, Ashburn

I loved meeting my hallmates. At first, I was really intimidated. But now, it’s like a really tight-knit group and we go out all the time to get cookies, dinner and stuff like that. So that’s nice and something you can really only do in with the first-year environment because you know you have O-Hill [Observatory Hill] and all the other dining halls right here.

I’m also part of the new college curriculum. I took a class called “Race, Racism, Colony and Nation,” and that’s been really interesting. It’s only first-years who take this course with you and people are coming with all different backgrounds and ideas. We are talking about big problems in our society, like racism in particular and how it’s been a problem here at UVA. I love seeing how, even though it’s been such a bad thing, now we’re trying to see how can we change it as first-years. It’s like the future of the school.

And then lastly, I joined the Bollywood dance team, “Sharaara.” That’s been a lot of fun. As a first-year, they take you out to do cool things with you. We got to perform for the president during his inauguration. There are so many things you can do.

Johnny Riordan

Johnny Riordan, Charlottesville

At the beginning of last semester, I joined the University Guide Service. Each semester, the University Guide Service brings in 28 new members and they’re called probationary members or “probies.” We have training all semester every Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and different speakers come in and talk to us. President Ryan sent in a video talking to us. Ken Elzinga, a famous economics professor, came and talked to us about the history of UVA and about goals for the future of the school that we should know about. It’s been a great way to meet new people and get to know people in different grades and my grade as well. It’s been really fun.

UVA is a place where a lot of people are focused on school, but then, also want to do other things outside the classroom. And so that’s been really fun. I played intramural basketball with some friends in my hall, which was great. I’m not good at basketball, but it was really a fun experience and we’re all going to soccer together this spring.


Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications