Top 10 things I didn't expect from college

On Clemons, 5Ks and smoked salmon.

1. How little sleep I need to function:
Sure, I’d heard horror stories of sleeping in libraries and pulling all-nighters every night for a week before finals. I figured hey, I like coffee enough and could even handle an espresso shot — or 12 — if needed. But when a week with three tests, two papers due, a calculus WebAssign and your best friend’s birthday falling on a Tuesday happens, sleep is the last thing on your mind. A quick nap in Clemons at 4 a.m. became all I needed to make it through while still keeping my sanity — kind of.

2. How many events there are:
I don’t doubt that each student here participated in at least 30 charity or cultural events just to get accepted to U.Va., and this involvement hasn’t stopped since getting here. It seems like 10 minutes hasn’t gone by this semester without a Facebook invite to a 5K or a bar night. I knew people were involved here, but the impressive extent to which people sacrifice their time is amazing. Last weekend, I ran a 5K and ate an entire Vermonster in one day, all in the name of bettering the world. Who says giving back can’t be fun?

3. How I wouldn’t actually use anything I brought:
When you consider that Bed, Bath & Beyond and the Container Store are two of my favorite places on Earth, it’s clear I was already destined to bring way too much to school. But how could you possibly know before leaving that 25 T-shirts would be too much? How much was I actually going to do laundry anyway? Why not bring 3 powerstrips? What’s the harm in having six towels and every pair of jeans you’ve owned since sixth grade? None, until it’s April and you realize that 85 percent of your things have gone untouched and you have no idea how you’re going to get any of it home.

4. How I could have a total culture shock coming from New York:
Even the fact that NoVa could mean anything besides smoked salmon was a seriously confusing concept for me upon coming down here. What defines NoVa and how in the world do you all know each other? And maybe it’s a Westchester thing, but the only colors I ever wore were navy and black — and a few other dark colors if I was feeling adventurous. Imagine my surprise finding out that brightly colored sundresses were staples and people wore cowboy boots unironically. Cookout to me only meant a backyard barbeque, and I had never been to a Chipotle. It was a whole lot of weird in the beginning, but sometimes a “y’all” slips out of my mouth now, and I think I’m okay with it.

5. How quickly I would adjust:
I’m a sleepaway camp girl. Since fourth grade, I’ve been spending my summer away from my parents, so I’m not a stranger to living on my own surrounded by a bunch of girls. But a year is a lot longer than two months. The thought that I’d be grocery shopping, managing my own money and sustaining myself was a little scary. Surprisingly, dealing with a completely new environment turned out to be easier than I thought. There’s something about independence that makes you grow up quickly.

6. How quickly time speeds by:
It seems like the only conversations I’ve been having these days are about how crazy it is that school ends in three weeks. If you’d asked me a year ago if I thought I’d be where I was today, I confidently would have told you that was no way. To be weeks away from finishing a quarter of my college career is a scary and humbling thought. Can anyone really believe that St. Patrick’s Day was a month ago? That N2 has come and gone and the Class of 2017 has already been chosen? Didn’t I just graduate from high school?

7. How true “work hard, play hard” really was:
I say the same thing to my friends/prospective students when they ask what U.Va. is like. That kid you saw Friday night dancing on a table, shotgunning more alcohol than you imagined was physically possible is the same kid sitting next to you in class and acing every single exam. I don’t know how we do it, but even the frattiest of boys know how to hold their own academically. It’s humbled me — so many people are so smart here. We’re the number two public university in the nation and also the number one party school. Keep doin’ you, Wahoos.

8. How much I’d be learning:
When the biggest thing I took away from high school was how to rap the entirety of “Look at Me Now,” I can’t say I was expecting too much from college. School was just about taking tests and getting good grades, right? Coming home from Thanksgiving I found myself genuinely excited to tell my mom about some of the things I learned in my sociology class. It was humbling, dorky and exciting all at the same time. Is this what it’s like to be a real adult and talk about real adult things?

9. How small the school actually is:
Especially being from out of state, the first few weeks were daunting. I’d walk to class and see only unfamiliar faces, feeling totally lost in a sea of NoVa. Soon after, though, I started recognizing a few people, getting a few waves and nods of recognition as I made my way through Grounds. Now those kids to whom you gave funny nicknames because you couldn’t remember their actual names are your partners in Spanish class, or your date to formal. Everyone you meet knows someone you’ve met, even in a school of 15,000 undergraduates.

10. How U.Va. really is the best school:
I can’t say it enough — I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else than here. From spending sunny days tanning on the Lawn, to sunglasses and mimosa-necessary brunches at Pigeon Hole, to late nights divided between Club Clem and Club Frat, there is nowhere better than this University. Sure, we may be a little hung up on Thomas Jefferson and old dorms will forever remain at a constant 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but every school has its flaws. It seems like every other week we top another national ranking. Now we just need to get back to where we were in the ‘80s — when Playboy didn’t even include us in its party school rankings because we were in a “class of our own.”

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