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Students anticipate their first year at U.Va. with excitement, nerves

Undergraduate, graduate and transfer students look forward to a becoming involved and finding a sense of community during their first year on Grounds

<p>While many new students look forward to the strong sense of community at the University, others feel that meeting new people is intimidating.</p>

While many new students look forward to the strong sense of community at the University, others feel that meeting new people is intimidating.

As summer ends and the University administration prepares to welcome students back to Grounds, first-year undergraduate, graduate and transfer students prepare for the transition to the University. Amidst nerves about finding their place and adjusting to the demands of college education, students remember what attracted them to the University in the first place.

First-year College student Delia Hughes — who is originally from Northern Virginia — hadn’t initially planned on attending an in-state school, but she became attracted to the involvement of students when she visited Grounds.

“I went on a really nice day, and I just saw so many people on the Lawn,” Hughes said. “Everyone seemed so happy to be there and really involved… it just seemed like a really good fit. I was like, ‘they must be doing something right.’”

Graduate student Nikki Kain noted that speaking to current students grew her enthusiasm for the University and her Master’s program in the Frank Batten School of Public Policy.

Kain — who holds a bachelor’s in elementary education and a master’s in literacy education — decided to pursue a Master's in Public Policy for additional quantitative and research skills after several years of working at a literacy non-profit.

“Really, [the] location [was] how I stumbled upon U.Va. because it was already so close to me,” Kain said. “But then talking to more people on Grounds — out of any of the places I talked to, this is a place that everyone seems the most invested in helping students succeed.”

Second-year College student Katie Rose Milone — who transferred from Northern Virginia Community College — agreed that seeing how students felt about the University shaped her own expectations of her experience. 

Both Milone and Hughes noted that one source of excitement was the sense of community and support they saw at the University.

“I feel like everyone [is] so excited to be there,” said Hughes. “And especially with the sports — everyone seems really supportive and wants to support each other, which I think is really cool to be a part of something — all of the traditions.”

Milone hopes the University will become more than just a school for her.

“I expect it to feel like a second home,” said Milone. “Oftentimes it seems like the people that I know who go to U.Va. can’t wait to go back whenever they’re in [my] hometown again. I want it to be a place that’s difficult to say goodbye to, and it seems like that’s a given when you go to U.Va.”

Although Kain is also looking forward to the start of the semester, she acknowledged that she is nervous about finding her place in the University.

“I'm really excited about being part of such a strong community again, like I feel such a strong sense of community where I'm living now,” Kain said.  “I guess that [I am] excited and nervous. It seems like there's a really strong community here, but it's been a long time since I've been like the outsider.”

Hughes was also nervous about meeting new people, noting that the University’s larger student body — over 18,000 undergraduate and 9,000 graduate students as of last year — can be daunting to incoming students.

“I know that even though obviously, I went to a really big high school … it feels like a lot more people,” said Hughes. “So you know, being able to talk to people and make friends I feel like is a little intimidating.”

For Milone, however, the nerves represent new opportunities that come with the challenge and flexibility of being in college.

“I am nervous — but everything that I’m anxious about has an aspect that I’m really excited for,” said Milone. “With a challenging workload comes interesting course content, meeting people means making new friends, moving from my parents comes with a stronger sense of independence. It’s just a new experience that I’ve built up a lot of anticipation for.”

While first-year graduate students in many different programs — such as the school of Public Policy and the Darden School of Business — have already returned to Grounds, first-year undergraduate students will begin returning Thursday and Friday, with incoming transfer students following Saturday. 

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