If I’d Only Known: Lawnies Offer Advice to New Students

August 22, 2023 By Alice Berry, aberry@virginia.edu Alice Berry, aberry@virginia.edu

As the newest cohort of University of Virginia students is finding its way around Grounds, UVA Today consulted some experts for words of wisdom to members of the Class of 2027 as they embark on their Cavalier journeys.

Hey, we get it. UVA is a big place with a storied history, and full of possibilities. Ahead of first-year students lie four years of study and exciting experiences at the only U.S. institution of higher education that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Lucky for them, residents of the Lawn – home to fourth-year students who have made extraordinary contributions to the University – offer advice and some insight for the new first-years.

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Olivia Pettee – East Lawn

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Major: American studies and media studies

Favorite spot on Grounds: There’s a beautiful tree right outside Brooks Hall with a bench underneath it. It’s a very peaceful spot. Keep an eye out for when it blooms in the spring!

Favorite UVA tradition: Taking the Marriage Pact at UVA. This is a newer tradition. The idea is that if, or when, you’re single in 20 years, you’re going to want a backup plan. So once a year, students fill out a questionnaire, and based on their responses an algorithm pairs them with their most compatible match on Grounds. It’s very low-stakes and always so fun to see who everyone matches with.

What I wish I’d known: It’s OK to let yourself relax. It’s OK to let yourself have fun. We all tend to fill up our schedules and be really busy, but definitely account for being spontaneous and just doing things on a whim, because that’s when the most memorable moments happen.

Tyler Busch – East Lawn

Portrait of Tyler Bush

Hometown: Newark, Delaware

Major: Department of African American & African Studies

Go-to coffee spot: Grit would have to be my favorite coffee shop. I get the London Fog every time.

A class I would recommend to all students: Any class with [African American and African Studies, Religious Studies] professor Ashon Crawley and [history] professor Chris Gratien. One specific class I would recommend for new students would have to be Race and Ethnic Relations with [sociology professor] Rose Buckelew.

What I wish I’d known: I wish I knew the importance of connecting with your professors. That’s something that would have helped me early on.

Bela Bhatnagar – East Lawn

Portrait of Bela Bhatnagar

Hometown: McLean

Major: Political philosophy, policy and law

Favorite spot on Grounds: I love studying at the Newcomb Starbucks.

Must-do activity: Get Bodo’s on weekend mornings.

What I wish I’d known: I wish I’d known that it was OK that I came in and wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. I thought that I had to come in and have everything planned out. Some of my friends had a spreadsheet of all the classes they were going to take from first through fourth year, and I realized that was not going to be me.

Daniel Bojo – East Lawn

Portrait of Daniel Bojo

Hometown: Virginia Beach

Major: Cognitive science

Favorite restaurant: Al Carbon has the best Peruvian chicken.

Must-do activity: Go to the farmers markets at the Downtown Mall or IX Art Park! There’s so much good food, drinks and art.

What I wish I’d known: UVA might seem like a big school when you first come, but once you start joining things and doing things that you care about with people who have similar interests, the school feels a lot smaller.

Manny Kenscoff – West Lawn

Portrait of Manny Kenscoff

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Major: Mechanical engineering

Favorite UVA tradition: There’s a tie between Lighting of the Lawn and Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn. There’s just this excitement that everyone gets with thousands of people on the Lawn.

Go-to restaurant: I think people should try Mochiko. It’s a Hawaiian restaurant located near the Wegman’s on Fifth Street that has excellent food under $20.

What I wish I’d known: To explore Charlottesville. I think a lot of first-years get stuck in the UVA bubble and the Corner, but if you go further into Charlottesville, there’s a lot of stuff that will pique your interest. This year I found out about a salsa club downtown.

Matthew Tepper – West Lawn

Portrait of Matthew Tepper

Hometown: Long Island, New York

Major: Architecture

Favorite hobby: Growing up, tennis was always an enjoyable hobby that I’ve continued while at UVA.

Must-do activity: Carter Mountain for Thursday Evening Sunset Series with live music and food is unbeatable!

What I wish I’d known: Even though there’s 4,000 or 5,000 students per year, there’s also a lot of smaller networks of students. … Be willing to try new things and find those networks.

Rachel Moore – West Lawn

Rachel Moore

Hometown: Virginia Beach

Major: Youth and social innovation

Favorite spot on Grounds: The window seats in the Rotunda to study during the day. It’s so pretty and is the best place to focus.

A professor I would recommend to all new students: Melissa Levy [education] and Jack Hamilton [American studies/media studies] both are such amazing professors. I would recommend taking any classes that they are offering.

What I wish I’d known: I started out pre-med, and I think I did it because I really liked science. I had a really hard time switching out of that because I just felt very pressured to stay with what I said I was gonna stay with. I just wished that I would have known that doing what makes you happy is the best thing to do.

Tichara Robertson – East Lawn

Tichara Robertson

Hometown: Alexandria

Major: Double major in Department of African American & African Studies and political and social thought

Favorite hobby: I love reading. I like to read a lot of mysteries, dystopia, cheesy teen stuff.

Any insider tips: This is kind of silly, but I would say romanticize doing your homework. Even if you don’t want to do an assignment, if you make yourself the main character or make it more special, then you’ll get it done.

What I wish I’d known: To spend more time your first and second years exploring Grounds. I’m in my last year now and I’m still discovering new things.

Kendall Scherer – West Lawn

Kendall Scherer

Hometown: Charlottesville

Major: Double major in kinesiology and global public health

Favorite UVA tradition: Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn. I have gone almost every year since I was a baby and can’t wait to be on the other side of it this year!

Must-do activity: Choose a time to just walk around and explore Grounds. Go into as many buildings as you can and discover all of the beautiful grassy areas and unique study spots. The sooner into your time at UVA you do this, the better.

What I wish I’d known: Be more confident and go out to meet people and just talk to more people. It was hard because of COVID, but I still feel like I could have done more.

Media Contact

Alice Berry

University News Associate Office of University Communications