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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Meet Griffin P, a #UVA Music Major on the Pre-Med Track from New Jersey

Today's blog post is full of great information about housing, dining, and weekend life, courtesy of Griffin P. from the great state of New Jersey (my own home state, if you weren't aware). 
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Hi everyone! My name is Griffin Perry, I’m a current third year in the College of Arts and Sciences from Little Silver, New Jersey. I’m on the Pre-Med Track studying music with a minor in Health and Well-Being in the Curry School of Education. On grounds, I’m involved in the University Guide Service, Greek Life, Alternative Spring Break, and Madison House.

When I’m not doing any of these things, you can find me hanging out on the lawn with friends, exploring all that Charlottesville has to offer, and fending off bad New Jersey stereotypes. I’m taking over the blog today to talk about everything you’ll encounter outside of academics and extracurriculars at UVA. I’m talking food, living situations, the social scene, and whatever else you may have questions about, all entirely honest from my own experiences here.

Dining at UVA 

Many Virginia schools do a phenomenal job of providing students with top-notch dining options you’ll find during your time here. Schools near UVA that many students find themselves deciding between are consistently nationally ranked for having unbelievable food in their dining halls day after day. Though I hate to say it, UVA is not one of those schools. We have three major dining halls — Runk, OHill, and Newcomb — two of which are conveniently located right in the middle of first year dorms, making them easy spots to go to as a first year. Newcomb is located more centrally on grounds, making it a popular option for all students to go in between classes to grab lunch with friends.

First year students are required to have an unlimited meal plan, which I was excited about coming in as a first year as someone who was always seemingly hungry. This novelty soon wore off as I ate the same three cheeseburgers every day, but I was happy to find other options included in the meal plan that weren’t the dining hall food. I will give UVA dining the credit it does deserve in doing their best to accommodate every dietary restriction or requests that students may have — they are incredibly receptive to recommendations and emails and do a great job in making sure UVA dining remains sustainable and accessible for any dietary need.

Outside of the dining halls, UVA brings in food trucks from local Charlottesville businesses which are open five days a week at the centrally located amphitheater, all of which can be accessed via the unlimited meal plan. Same goes for the Chick-Fil-A, Subway, Five Guys, and sushi restaurant found in the lowest floor of Newcomb Hall. Around first year dorms, there are convenience stores and late night options that can also be taken advantage of with that first year meal plan.

Beyond first year, it’s up to you whether or not you want a meal plan. I’ve had one every year during my time here, as I find it convenient to grab lunch on a weekday on grounds. Most people, however, will end up meal prepping at home as an upperclassman or just regularly eat off-grounds. There’s also something called the Elevate Meal Plan, which is a popular off-grounds meal plan which you can use at most of the restaurants on the corner. Needless to say, there are a TON of options in terms of food at UVA, and whatever your preferences or palate may be you’ll undoubtedly find an option that works best for you once you get here.

Living in Charlottesville 

 All first years at UVA are required to live on-grounds; all first years live in one central area with the only other people living there being Resident Advisors, or RAs. RAs are just upperclassmen students that are there to keep an eye out for you in your first year, mediate conflict, hold programming with your hall so you get to know other people in your building, and be there in case you ever need anything. In terms of what you can indicate on your housing application, most of the first year living situations are randomized. The main thing you can indicate is your roommate, which you can either indicate a specific individual or go completely random. Most people will find roommates by “Facebook dating”, in which they will join the UVA Class of 202X Facebook group (here's the Class of 2024 Facebook group) after getting in, post a generic bio about themselves (which I’m sure many of you have seen) and seek out someone with a similar enough vibe to them that they’d want to live together for a year.

As a first year, you can have a fridge/microwave/coffee maker in your dorm, and most dorms will also have a community kitchen and common areas to spend time as well. Beyond first year, about 50% of the class will move off grounds each year, so by the time you’re a fourth year about 12% of the class will still live “on-grounds”. Off-grounds and on-grounds is a bit of a misnomer with upperclassmen housing, as some of the “off-grounds” housing for upperclassmen is closer to your classes than the “on-grounds” housing is, depending on where you’re living and where your classes are. There is a rush to sign off-grounds leases each year, with most people signing leases within the first three months of the school year. I did this, and was surprised to find that the same apartment complex I signed in October still had leases available the following May, so don’t worry about not being able to find housing if you don’t feel like signing right away.

If you don’t want to live in an apartment or dorm, many clubs and organizations have housing associated with them. If you come to Charlottesville and drive down 14th Street, you’ll see the Ski Club house and the Lacrosse house — guides even has a house off-grounds. Other on-grounds options include Language houses and residential colleges. UVA has three residential colleges which you can apply to even going into your first year: Brown, Hereford, and the IRC.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about any of these in the comments section or direct you towards their websites. Lastly, First years aren’t allowed to have cars at their dorms, while most upperclassmen will have parking spots associated with their leases.


Weekends in Charlottesville 

On a number of tours I’ve given, people will ask me “what does a typical weekend look like in Charlottesville?”, and I’m lucky to go to a school where there’s not one solid answer for that question. There are too many things going on each weekend here in the best way possible, so most students (if not all) stick around on the weekends to take advantage of everything going on. Greek life does have a presence here, with about a third of undergraduates being involved in Greek life. At many other schools, not being involved in Greek life might prohibit you from having a social life here, and that is not the case at UVA. Like I mentioned earlier, many clubs and organizations will have off-grounds spaces where they’ll hold events, and many of the Greek houses are not incredibly strict with letting people into functions. The corner — the main stretch of bars and restaurants — is active during the weekends, with a number of great options for the twenty-one-and-over crowd. Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is a great spot with live music every weekend, fantastic restaurants, coffee shops, a movie theater, and space to walk around. Greater Charlottesville has tons of breweries, vineyards, hiking trails, and so much more that many students will take advantage of on their weekends here.

UVA has been described as a “work hard, play hard” school, and the environment during the week is definitely academic-centric. However, UVA students on the weekend love to let off steam and spend time with one another, and libraries don’t usually fill up again until midday Sunday. If (for whatever reason) you’d want to leave Charlottesville on the weekends, there is a major Amtrak station about a 10 minute walk from Grounds, Charlottesville airport about twenty minutes drive from grounds, and students posting in rideshares every weekend heading to DC, Tech, and other places who would be happy to get you wherever you need to go.

Why UVA 

When I graduated eighth grade, I became infatuated with the college process. I made a list of thirty schools and told my parents we were going to visit each and every one of them before I needed to apply to any, which was insane. My only criteria was that I was on the east coast, which is an awful criteria as there are so many phenomenal schools up and down the east coast. I ended up narrowing that list down to sixteen, which is the number that I ended up applying to (again, crazy). UVA wasn’t necessarily my first choice, but definitely ranked up there even though my process was so all over the place that I didn’t even have a clear ranking system. UVA was the first I got into (I applied Early Action) and the first I decided to visit after getting into.

The Days on the Lawn I came down for was rainy, and at that point in my process I just wanted it to be over, and wanted some sort of sign to tell me that UVA was the place. I saw the marching band play, got another Admissions tour, saw dorms, and never really got that sign, which bummed me out. I recognized how insanely beautiful grounds was, and saw other students walking around and could envision myself among that pool of people. Driving back up to New Jersey, for whatever reason I felt like I wanted and needed to be back in Charlottesville for at least another four years, so trusted my gut and sent the deposit in. I know that story isn’t helpful in the slightest, but why I keep coming back to UVA may be of more help to you as you navigate this process.

Since coming to UVA, I’ve been blown away time and time again by the things I find here. The students that go here are passionate about this place; they have a genuine love for the University of Virginia and it shows when you ask them about it. The other students I’ve come across here have impressed me beyond belief, and there’s a team mentality amongst us that I never experienced in high school. The people here are interested, interesting, and everything in between will be the individuals who elevate your UVA experience from great to unbelievable. When I was in your shoes four years ago, I couldn’t imagine finding a family and a home anywhere outside of my high school bubble and the experience there, yet UVA has so effortlessly given me that and so much more. I can’t put into words how amazing this place is, and though you won’t be able to come visit for DOTL, I encourage you all to reach out to students who go here, take note of how they uphold the energy of the UVA community even when they’re not in Charlottesville, and trust your gut — I did and it has done the absolute world for me.

Again, please reach out to me with any questions you may have about anything UVA related. My email is grp3yk@virginia.edu and I wish you all the best. Whether I see you on grounds in the fall or not, I hope you find in your college experience what I’ve found here.