Student’s First-Year Retrospective Video Goes Viral

Rachel Abrams admits that a minor coincidence had a hand in pointing her in the direction of the brick buildings with ornate columns that decorate the University of Virginia’s Grounds.

Groggy-eyed and in the back seat, she awoke as her mother’s car was arriving on the streets of Charlottesville for a college tour during her senior year of high school. The first thing that caught her barely focused gaze was a home labeled by the house number 1214 – the very same number that identified her home in Florida.

Pure coincidence or a symbol of fate, Abrams took the sign to heart. With aspirations to study English in an environment that would foster her creativity in the pursuit of meaningful change, she followed her intuition (and hundreds of interstate miles) from Gainesville to arrive in August at what would soon become her second home – UVA.

From getting to know her fellow Wahoos over a mutual admiration for the serpentine walls to becoming a member of Flux, a spoken word club, and the Beta
Alpha chapter of Kappa Delta, Abrams says there is only one word that can accurately sum up her feelings on being part of the UVA community: lucky.

To convey her passion and gratitude, Abrams produced a retrospective YouTube video that condensed two semesters into three minutes.

“I ended up here because I wanted a world that would nudge and yank me along into the best version of myself,” she says in the video. “I wanted to be challenged and inspired, and I wanted to graduate a kinder and more thoughtful leader.”

Abrams recently spoke with UVA Today about her video and how the University is guiding her on the journey to accomplishing that goal.

Q. What inspired you to make this video and what message do you hope it communicates?

A. I made a similar sort of video last year for an English final, so it had been on my mind for a while. The main goal of both of those videos was to show my appreciation for the people in my life and the places I had been fortunate enough to experience, and hopefully inspire others to reflect on what they’re grateful for in their own lives.

Q. What was the production process like and how did you choose the footage included in the video?

A. Deciding on the shot list was a pretty boring process – I basically sat down at my desk and listened to the song on repeat until I had come up with something for every line of the script. I didn’t really have any equipment aside from my camera, so there were a lot of very precarious set ups involving upside down trashcans and stacks of books, which determined what kind of shots I was able to include. It took about a month to plan, film and edit, and I honestly didn’t believe I would actually finish until the video was finally live on YouTube.

Q. Is there significance to the song playing in the background?

A. I happened upon the song by total coincidence a few months ago, but I immediately thought it would make for great background music. The song is called “Lucky,” and I think that sums up my feelings about the University pretty well. I’m constantly struck by how fortunate I am to be somewhere that makes me so happy, and the song definitely captures that spirit.

Q. Where is your favorite spot on Grounds?

A. There are a lot of ridiculously beautiful places on Grounds, but I actually really love the tables right outside of the second floor of Newcomb. It’s a great place to watch the sunset (which I took advantage of for one of the shots toward the end), and I have some wonderful memories of talking with my friends for hours over our Subway sandwiches. 

Q. What qualities about UVA make it feel like your second home?

A. I think our combination of a strong community and a long history of traditions created a really important feeling of belonging for me. I immediately felt welcomed and appreciated by everyone I encountered my first couple semesters, and though I’ve come across a thousand different types of people during my time here, I’ve always felt like we’re united under this common drive to do good and important things. There are so many small pieces that distinguish this particular student population and this particular school from the rest, and I think traditions like “The Good Ol’ Song,” our secret societies and Lighting of the Lawn create an incredible sense of camaraderie.

Q. What role do your professors and classmates at UVA play in the pursuit of your goals and dreams?

A. My professors and friends never let me stay in one place for too long. They turn my ideas upside down and inside out, and they encourage (and expect) me to pursue things I never thought I was capable of, like performing in a poetry slam or spending a month on a video. Most importantly, they’ve shown me endless kindness and patience, and I strive to return at least a portion of that back to them as often as I can.

Q. You now have one year as a Wahoo under your belt. What do you hope the next three will bring?

A. Surprises! There are so many places I haven’t gone in Charlottesville, and people I haven’t met, and things I haven’t seen, and I hope I continue to explore and find new parts of UVA to fall in love with.

Q. Based upon your experiences at UVA thus far, what words of wisdom would you offer the incoming first-year class?

A. Come into college with an open mind and a curious heart: introduce yourself to strangers, take a salsa class, get to know your professors and never forget how fortunate you are to experience this place for four years. If you leave your preconceptions and anxieties at the door, I promise you will have such a fuller time here.

Also, the best cereal is always at O-Hill.

Media Contact

Kaylyn Christopher

University News Associate Office of University Communications