The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

A love letter to the Class of 2026

The University community can’t wait to meet you!

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Leaving home for the first time may be one of the most fear-producing things that you do in your lifetime. Or, perhaps, it might not be. For me, I wanted nothing more than to leave the small town I had lived in since I was six years old and embark on my next great adventure. The University was a beacon of light for me, an opportunity to start anew, and I counted down the days into hours into seconds that I would meet my roommate in person and move into Gibbons dormitory. 

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the imposter syndrome that I would experience shortly after settling in. I was acutely aware I was a small fish in a big pond — the student body that surrounded me was composed of all vastly talented and intellectually gifted individuals, and I believed for quite some time that I didn’t belong among their ranks. However, that belief could not have been further from the truth — as I quickly learned, there is a place awaiting every student admitted to the University. The only difficult part is finding it — but once you do, the experiences you will have will be transformative and will make your time at the University beautifully memorable.

Trust me, I will be the first to tell you that the whole “finding your place” thing isn’t easy. It unexpectedly requires resilience and optimism in ways you’ve never needed before. I personally flitted through a number of student-led organizations, friend groups and even classes until I was able to find my niche. Though a rather grueling process, I wouldn’t change a single decision that I’ve made to this point — what I’ve learned about myself and what fulfills me has been so invaluable to my development as a University student that I don’t think I would be where I am today without that period of uncertainty. My best advice to you would be to embrace the chaos — university life will feel overwhelming when you first dive into it, but take it in stride and play the long game. I promise that every confident step toward the unknown will ultimately lead you to where you are meant to be. 

Another thing I’ve realized whilst being here is that every photograph of the University’s picturesque landscape that you will encounter online is unable to capture the true essence of being a Wahoo. A captivating picture of the Lawn will not provide you with the magical feeling of gathering on the Lawn with your class for the first time at Opening Convocation. A portrait of the amphitheater will not match the excitement of your first concert at the University or the serenity of sitting on its steps with your friends on a sunny day. A snapshot of John Paul Jones Arena or Scott Stadium will never be able to describe the unforgettable gameday experience that the University has built around its faithful and spirited supporters. All of these photographs, yes, will allow you to conceive an idea of what the University looks like at its best —  but the true wonder of being a student here is the core memories that you will undoubtedly make in these places.

Now, not every day will be shiny and new. Eventually, you will acclimate to university life and be just another student here. You will experience fighting with your friends or significant others, you will know the crushing feeling of failing your first exam, you will be scrambling to get assignments turned in on time and you will miss home. I want you to know that these are all normal things — all of these are indicators that you are growing up. Beginning a new chapter of your life is scary, and finding your way in the world alone is one of the most difficult processes you will undergo. However, there are so many people here that will be there, waiting with open arms, to catch you when you fall and help you climb back up to success. The only thing they ask is that you recognize when you’re struggling and come to them for help with an open mind. Every person at the University wants you to thrive and is more than willing to help you do so — you have no reason to be afraid when surrounded by this community.

Even when you believe you’re alone here, you never truly are. The University is ready to embrace you as one of its own and welcome you into its community of trust. It will always invite you to come as you are, flaws and all. I know that I, as a soon-to-be second-year student, cannot wait to meet you and show you all of the love and genuine care that I was met with upon entering this wonderful place. I am beyond excited to watch you grow and become the people you are meant to be, contributing to the University in ways unimaginable and changing life on Grounds for the better. 

Among you are our future leaders, advocates, innovators, dreamers, go-getters and revolutionaries. Being at this University is the best place for you to grow into these roles and go out to change the world — though I may be slightly biased. Whatever you do, whoever you become, just know that we are all ready and here to uplift, encourage and support you in all of your endeavors. That’s the real magic of being a Hoo — the camaraderie that you are granted simply by being here. It reminds you that you, now and forever, belong here.

As I said before, I can’t wait to meet each and every one of you, even if you might be taking my class’s place as the newest class of baby Hoos. Welcoming you home and helping you navigate this new world will be my greatest honor. See you soon, Class of 2026 — I have a funny feeling you’ll come to love being here just as much as I do.

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