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A reflection on human connectivity in street art and community

How a semester abroad impacted my view of community at the University

<p>Yasmin Teixeira is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Yasmin Teixeira is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Two hands meet in a lattice structure of blues, yellows and reds depicting a very human form of connectivity in the center of London. This mural of two holding hands embodies the different forms of connecting with others — introductions, new friendships and human contact. Here, connectivity refers to the ability to communicate, relate and bond with others. During a semester in London through the U.Va. London First Program, I was able to reflect on what community means to me and how connectivity relates to my understanding of community.

A street art tour I went on highlighted the most relevant communities represented in the murals, specifically that of the artists and residents. To me, community has always been about a sense of support, inclusivity and belonging gained from being in a group of people.

In London, I noticed how I would often go back to this idea of community in every reflective exercise, whether it be an assignment or just meditating on my own. It became a recurring theme for me. I was always able to relate this idea of connectivity and community to all of my experiences. It was evident in the essays I wrote, the books I read, the pictures I took and the cities I traveled to. It was constantly on my mind.

But why? Of all thoughts that could have intrigued me so deeply, why community? My relationships stem from a desire to connect with others, which has helped me develop a receptiveness to connectivity. 

My life in London relied on others as much as it relied on my independence. This was the first time I had been on my own and this sudden change — paired with this being my first year in college — led me to easily feel immersed in this new community of University students. We were all responsible for cultivating our own relationships and connecting with others.

My friendships and interactions both in London and at the University have been paramount to my experiences in both places. The people I was with and the friends I made allowed me to acclimate to my new surroundings. In a similar manner, my environment also shaped how I viewed my relationships. 

I was able to grow on my own while being part of a group. I was able to preserve my individuality while having priorities to connect with others since we were all in a similar position of balancing our newfound independence with making new friends. In a way we were all on this personal journey together. 

Particularly at the University, I’ve learned that community can exist in the brevity of interaction. The University Transit System is a testament to the brief shared connections in a university setting. Similar to the London Underground, at any given moment you are traveling to the same place at the same time with a group of strangers. On the bus, I’ve exchanged glances, conversed with others and been puked on. These brief interactions with strangers made it clear that as students at the University, we are not all so different.

At the University, I have further contemplated the meaning of connectivity since I have had to form new friendships, yet maintain the ones I developed in London and back in my hometown. I spend the majority of my time with my friends, whether that be studying, eating or just sitting in the presence of each other.

Whenever we were apart for long periods of time, we had to meet up again just to see each other. In the spring semester, we would have group dinners with one of our London professors just to maintain this sense of togetherness and continuity. 

Now in the era of Zoom meetings and social distancing, my friends and I have managed to maintain this sense of community by continuing to have dinner over Zoom and ensuring we check in with each other every week. Although distance can strain relationships, we understand the value in maintaining our friendships while being apart. We’ve missed each other.

Home has been an ever-changing concept for me in a similar manner to how street art is constantly changing. The theme of connectivity present in the hand mural permeates the boundaries of community and speaks to a much larger and hopeful trend of universality, unity and support that exists outside my own individual communities.

Although my vision of community may be idealized, I’ve drawn these conclusions based on my positive experiences thus far. Over time, I have developed a fond appreciation for my friendships and the sense of community that has only grown during my time at the University, and I doubt that will change.

Yasmin Teixeira is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at