As my time as a student of the University comes to an end, I can’t help but ruminate on the many things I will miss about this special place. From eating Bodo’s on a Friday morning to fall football games and Mad Bowl in the spring, the list could go on and on. For those of you who are fourth-year students, whether it be today or tomorrow or before you graduate, I encourage you to visit a place on Grounds special to you, do an activity that will remind you of this place and lastly, know that the University will always be a part of you.
1. Passing people on my way to class
There’s nothing that makes me happier than passing familiar faces on my way to class. At times, the University can feel so overwhelmingly big — and don’t get me wrong, it is big — but the number of recognizable faces I pass on my way to class reminds me just how close-knit it can really be. Whether it is one of my good friends, someone I’ve met a few times or a classmate I had a couple semesters ago, sharing a smile and wave with someone I know or recognize always brightens my day. While this is certainly something I missed during the pandemic, it will continue to be something I miss when I leave the University.
2. Eating Bodo’s Bagels on Friday mornings
You wake up at 11 o’clock in the morning, you’re still in your clothes from the night before, a half-eaten bowl of mac and cheese lies next to you and you’re trying to recount the sequence of events from the night prior. Your roommate comes into your room and asks the five magic words — “Want to go to Bodo’s?” You rise from the dead, toss your biggest pair of sweatpants and hoodie on and walk — or rather crawl — out the door. You arrive at Bodo’s and spend 15 minutes contemplating your order. Sausage, egg and cheese or bacon, egg and cheese? Should you just go with a plain and cream cheese? Hesitantly, you place an order, wondering if you made the right choice. When that perfectly fluffy, warm bagel lands in your hands, you take a bite and somehow, someway, everything in the world is good. If one thing’s for certain, I will surely miss throwing on an outfit equivalent to my pajamas, crawling out the door and taking a ridiculously absurd amount of time to decide on a bagel order from one of my favorite go-to breakfast spots.
3. Football games and tailgates
There’s something about gameday energy that is absolutely, undeniably unbeatable. As you make your way to Scott Stadium, amongst a crowd of hundreds of people all walking in the same direction, you can’t help but feel the school spirit radiating around you. When you arrive at the stadium and begin to make your way through the different lots, passing tailgate party after tailgate party, the blue and orange colors that surround you remind you just how lucky you are to be a student at the University.
After walking around for an hour and eating 10 too many of your friend’s family’s chicken nuggets, you enter the stadium and make your way to the hill. The fullness starts to settle in, your stomach begins to churn and you carefully contemplate whether or not you should have eaten the last five chicken nuggets. Minutes in, the Hoos score a touchdown and in that moment, all discomfort leaves you. All you can feel is pure bliss. It’s as if the 10 too many chicken nuggets you ate never actually happened. There’s not a doubt in my mind as to whether or not I will be returning for several gamedays — and there’s certainly not a doubt in my mind I won’t make the same mistake of eating 10 too many chicken nuggets.
4. Picnics around Grounds
It’s a random Wednesday night and all of your friends decide it's a beautiful evening for a picnic on Lambeth. Everyone entertains the idea of ordering out food from somewhere, but let’s be real — how are 15 different people going to decide on one place? It’s virtually impossible. So, someone proposes BYOM — short for “bring your own meal.” Everyone makes their way to Lambeth, blankets and puppies galore, and you end up sitting there for hours — eating, talking, playing frisbee and listening to music. Dusk begins to settle in and a beautiful sunset paints the Charlottesville sky. You look around and for a second, you can’t think of anything better than this moment. Wholesome moments like these surrounded by friends, food and beautiful Charlottesville sunsets that exist beyond compare are ones that I will miss the most upon my departure from the University.
5. Madison Bowl in the spring
There’s no better season than spring in Charlottesville. Well, unless maybe you have terrible allergies. There’s something about passing Madison Bowl on a warm and sunny spring afternoon that brings such a smile to my face. Maybe it’s the multiple dogs running around or the myriad of sports and activities taking place, but something about it is just so happy. As I leave the University and move somewhere to a new place, I can only hope that I find something that reminds me of these moments — warm, sunny days on Madison Bowl where there seems to be not a single care in the world.
6. Snow days
It’s a Monday. Your alarm sounds and you wake up thinking that today is going to be just like any other Monday in the winter — cold, filled with overcast skies and — to be blunt — long. You turn over to your nightstand to stop the ringing and you see a plethora of text messages on your lock screen, most of which read, “GET UP! SNOW DAY!” You peer out the window and see infinite snowflakes falling softly towards the ground which is already covered in five inches of snow. You hop out of bed, put on your warmest winter jacket and quickly head for the door. Let’s just say that from there, the rest is history. Next time I experience a snow day, I know I’ll be reminiscing on these days, wishing I was at the University sledding down Madison Bowl, slipping down fraternity staircases covered in melted snow and trudging to the Corner for dinner after a tiresome day full of snowball fights.
7. My professors
Saying that one of the top 10 things I will miss most about the University is my professors is an understatement. My professors over the past four years deserve much more than several lines of text in an article, but since that is all I have room for right now, it will have to momentarily suffice. As I leave the University, I can’t express enough how much I owe my growth and development not only as a student, but as an individual, to my professors. They have pushed and challenged me to think in new ways, to expand my horizons and to take risks. Because of them, I have become a more confident writer, a deeper thinker and a more multifaceted individual. As the semesters progressed and I began to enroll in smaller classes, the relationships I was able to build with my professors in these smaller settings were unparalleled. A piece of advice — attend office hours, do everything you can to get to know your professors and have faith in them, because they certainly have faith in you.
8. Charlottesville restaurants
I’ve had my fair share of Charlottesville restaurants, some that I prefer more than others, but I know one thing for certain — Charlottesville has some dang good food. One thing I will miss about the University is the luxury of being surrounded by such a strong food culture. There’s nothing I love more than getting to explore the multifarious arrangement of local restaurants, most of which are within walking distance of Grounds. In just a month, my taste buds will surely be craving Orzo’s warm pita and hummus, Tavola’s buttery carbonara and last but not least, Christian’s hot slice of pesto tortellini pizza.
9. Concerts on the Downtown Mall
Despite the temporary pause of live music during the pandemic, Charlottesville concerts are up and running once again. Two of my favorite venues to attend live music near Grounds are the Jefferson Theater — an indoor venue — and Ting Pavilion — an outdoor venue. Both located on The Downtown Mall, these venues host all kinds of artists, meeting a variety of tastes and genre preferences ranging from jam band to dance-pop, electronic, bluegrass and alternative rock. The best part about attending live concerts is immersing yourself in the larger Charlottesville community. There’s something special about being gathered in a large entertainment venue, surrounded by the familiar faces of friends and the unfamiliar faces of new people and it is something I will miss greatly.
10. Exploring Charlottesville
You wake up at 5 a.m., lace up your best pair of hiking shoes, grab a Clif bar, brew a quick cup of coffee and head for the door. You feel Charlottesville’s fresh morning air hit your face, hop in the car with a few of your friends and head for Humpback to hike the mountain for sunrise. From hikes and historical site-seeing to wineries and breweries, one of the many things I will miss about being a student at the University is being surrounded by such a vibrant city full of activities. Whether it’s exploring the Appalachian Trail or the Blue Ridge Parkway, visiting Monticello or exploring the wide variety of vineyards close by, I will certainly miss being in such close proximity to such adventurous and cultural attractions.