At Norfolk Academy (NA) there exists a sort of stigma in attending U.Va. You won’t make any new friends. It’s the same culture as Academy. As a senior at NA, I believed these rumors and as a result turned in my deposit last April with a hint of reluctance.
More than half a year later, I realize the absurdity of those rumors to which I and many other students subscribed. Wrapping up my first semester at the University, I couldn’t be happier in my college choice and, if I had the chance to travel back and run the college admissions gauntlet again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
For starters, coming from Norfolk Academy made life as a U.Va. student incredibly easy. Entering U.Va. from NA, one joins a smaller community of Norfolk Academy alumni who make it their mission to ensure your smooth transition to life in Charlottesville. Clueless in a new environment, I was greatly comforted by former NA students answering any and all questions I had about classes, clubs, or social life at the University.
As for the commonly heard lament that those who matriculate to U.Va. from Norfolk Academy have trouble forming new friend groups, I can confidently state that such a rumor is false. If anything, arriving at U.Va. with my friends from the NA community made making new connections considerably easier. Some of my greatest friends at U.Va. I never would have met had I not been introduced by fellow NA alumni.
Meanwhile, not only did my NA origins facilitate meeting new friends, but they also made my transition into the University community and culture very interesting. Some facets of the culture are very similar to NA’s: the honor code and the competitive drive to excel shared among students. Other aspects of U.Va.’s make-up, though, gave me a small sense of culture shock. It took me a while to get used to not recognizing even one of the hundreds of faces I pass on the way to class, not to mention the 300 or so students in the class with me. Soon enough, however, I began to love U.Va’s status as a mid-sized university, and can’t imagine attending a school much smaller, or for that matter, bigger.
The last major misconception of U.Va. I’ll put to rest is that everyone at U.Va. is the same. I cannot stress enough how far from the truth such a statement lays. With such a wide array of students at the University, there exists an equally large number of clubs, opportunities, and events. For this reason, my life at U.Va. differs wildly from others’ lives at U.Va., creating a thriving, challenging, and eclectic atmosphere that evolves every day.
I’m writing this at my house on Thanksgiving break, and, oddly enough, I’m excited to go back to school. I miss walking to class, turning to my left to see the lawn and rotunda, and then, a short time later, turning to my right and ogling a scenic expanse of yellow and orange speckled mountains. I’m excited to return to a community of genuinely kind and driven kids. I miss Charlottesville- my friends up there, and, believe it or not, learning about such a crazy spectrum of topics like the neurochemical mechanisms of the brain one day and Aristotle the next.
At the very least, come and visit Charlottesville and her University. The three-hour drive is just far enough to make it feel like a journey, but just short enough to make the distance easily drivable. Pictures can only do the sight of the buildings and grounds so much justice. I’m telling you, there is a place at U.Va. for everyone, and in my past three months at the University, I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t become just as infatuated with U.Va. as I have. That’s not by accident, U.Va. really is just that great.
Norfolk Academy Class of 2013
University of Virginia Class of 2017