Holiday Highlights


This collage represents my fav events in Charlottesville related to the season, such as holiday parties, cookie exchanges and volunteering.

Before returning to our families in our home state of Michigan, Michal and I did some celebrating in Cville. Plus, I was in the area a little longer than Michal because he was on Job Treks (trips to different U.S. cities that showcase specific companies B-school students could apply to), so I decided to keep busy until my vacation officially started. 

*Cookie cravings: I used to attend a close friend’s annual Cookie Day with her family back in high school in which we would bake or decorate cookies all day, so when some DPA members decided to hold a similar type of event, it felt like a blast from the past. I’ve never been much of a baker, so I went the safe route with Oreo balls and chocolate-covered pretzels for our cookie exchange.

*Dress to impress: I am always a sucker for holiday-theme parties, and this year was no exception. In one week, I had a work event at UVA President Sullivan’s Open House, a more casual get-together with Section B’s first (hoped to be annual) Ugly Sweater Potluck and Darden’s formal Holiday Ball benefiting the charity organization, Building Goodness in April. All these events had pretty distinct dress codes, which Real Simple magazine defined in an issue I received last month.

*’Tis the season for giving: While temp’ing for UVA’s HR, I served dinner with fellow co-workers at the local non-profit, WorkSource, which provides job training and employment to adults with developmental disabilities. I also helped make dinner with my church’s young adult group at PACEM, a shelter in downtown Charlottesville. Lastly, a friend in social work who I met through the DPA also directed me to to find other service projects and volunteer opportunities for beyond the holiday season.

If you’re a partner of a prospective Darden student and are wondering  what to do when your student is studying for exams and prepping for job interviews, you can at least look forward to some activities as described above!

Got other suggestions for the holidays, or want to ask questions about these events? Please comment below. 


Call Me a Cavalier


Top (left to right) – With a co-worker on the Lawn after touring the Rotunda and Academical Village. / Headshot for Darden Bloggers in Flagler Court. / Cavman at Alumni Hall during Homecoming. Bottom (left to right) – At a Darden Student Association tailgate. / First game at Scott Stadium.

We’re already half-way through the first year of B-school and the first round of Darden applicants for next school year get notified of admissions decisions today: It’s the perfect time to reflect and pass on some wisdom…

As the wife of a Darden student and an employee of the University, I have fully embraced my new identity as a Cavalier. (Although, let’s make it clear: I will never forget my Spartan roots from Michigan State University. Go Green!) While Michal was doing case interview prep for consulting jobs this month, I have worked on transitioning from my time in secondary education as an English and journalism teacher to working in the communication field within higher education.

My journey originally began with temp’ing in the University of Virginia’s central HR office when I first arrived in Charlottesville in August and will continue with a contract position in writing and editing online content for the Women’s Center website starting in January until the end of our time here. (By the way, if had I begun the job search in earnest before I moved here, my career transition would have most likely been quicker, but I was too busy traveling!) Although Michal and I have a lot on our minds regarding next-steps in our respective careers, we have managed to take the time to get to know more about our current culture and community at UVA, as seen in the above photos.

Parts of our experience here really remind us of our times together when we first met in undergrad at MSU. To the recently admitted Darden students and partners: Welcome to the next stage of your life. Michal and I are so grateful to be here, and we can’t wait to meet all of you!

Some of the UVA / Darden lingo and traditions I’ve discovered –

For a more comprehensive list, check out this link:

  • Get the grade right: Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University, didn’t use the terms freshman, sophomore, junior and senior to describe students because he believed in life-long learning. Therefore, students are First Years (FYs), Second Years (SYs) and so on.
  • Hit the ground running: Jefferson didn’t call UVA a “campus” but instead “Grounds.” When Darden students interview for jobs, they often talk about them happening either “on or off Grounds.”
  • Multiple mascots: Although the official mascot is the Cavalier, the Wahoo is an accepted alternative. Shortened forms of both, such as the Cavs and the Hoos, are common too.
  • Guys in ties and girls in pearls: Coming from the Midwest, I wasn’t used to this Southern tradition. Many of the undergrad students dress up for football games, as well as Darden students who are also recruiting at the sponsored tailgates. Mostly everyone else, like alumni, wear the usual jeans and T-shirt.
  • Partner up: Significant others (boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses) of Darden students are known as “partners.” The official organization, which provides resources and events to partners and families of students, is the Darden Partners Association (DPA).
  • Bird is the word: Darden FY students are organized by section (A through E) for their classes, and my husband and I are proud to be a part of Section B! Our section mascot is a small stuffed animal, Big Bird. Each week, the section votes on which student had the most “interesting” comment in class discussion, and the winner must take the bird wherever he or she goes the following week.
  • Game on: The Darden Cup events are much like Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter series. In a school year-long competition between sections, students and partners compete in varied activities from traditional sports like softball and soccer to games like poker and trivia as they pursue the coveted Darden cup trophy. (Section B won last year!)
  • Study session: Learning Teams (LTs) are small groups made up of students from different sections. They meet every night to discuss cases from class. While Michal is at LT, I’ve run into him a lot at Darden because of my involvement with organizations like the Darden Bloggers, the Cold Call Chronicle (Darden’s student newspaper) and, of course, the DPA.
  • Watch out for the Cold Call: The dreaded “cold call” in class is when professors call on students to speak without warning. The phrase is commonly used in other contexts like in the names of organizations (e.g. Cold Call Chronicle, Cold Call Chorus) or as the title of get-togethers for food and drinks on Thursdays after class in Darden’s Flagler Court or PepsiCo Forum.

Any questions or concerns, especially regarding life as a Darden partner? Want to share your excitement? Feel free to comment here. 

First Friendsgiving


These are a couple highlights of the various dishes and drinks Michal and I made over the week. I also included photos of a recipe and meal I got via FedEx courtesy of a friend back in the Detroit area. The bottom photos are of me and another friend who helped me set up our apartment in Cville for our get-together. I’m especially proud of the table setting ideas I found on Pinterest!

We couldn’t wait to go … nowhere.

Michal and I typically return to the Detroit area for Thanksgiving to celebrate with our families because we have always been close to them – both in proximity and relationship. When we were away in undergrad at Michigan State, our drive was only about an hour and a half. And, later, when we lived in the Chicago area, our drive lengthened to about four and a half hours, but still manageable after leaving work.

However, this year, being a five-hour plane ride away and having just been in Michigan for a wedding last month and with plans to visit for Christmas next month, the trip didn’t seem cost-effective. Not to mention, Michal was coming down with a cold and he had a lot of case interview prep and cover letters to do over break.

So, for the first time, we stayed right where we were and had a Friendsgiving.

It was a bit difficult anticipating Thanksgiving without our usual routine. We have always looked forward to the endless amount of Filipino, Polish and American dishes that we couldn’t emulate on our own based on traditions and expertise we have yet to learn. And we love reuniting with our high school and college buddies who are all usually scattered across the nation except on the holidays.

But as I ended my two-day workweek and Michal came home from class on Tuesday, we were relishing the ability to breathe a sigh of relief: We didn’t have to rush into the balmy weather, nor did we need to face the traffic resembling a parking lot out on Emmett Street. And we quickly discovered that we would not be as lonely (or as hungry) as we thought we would be.

In fact, we had around five different feasts within the week of Thanksgiving that brought our new friends together.

A Darden professor, native of the Philippines, invited us and other Filipino students and partners for a potluck dinner with homemade classics like the noodle dish pancit and chicken adobo. Michal’s SY-matched Learning Team hosted a brunch buffet for his group and partners. International students put out an open-invite on Facebook to hang out at the Pavilion apartment complex club house. Another FY couple with parents who live nearby organized a tailgate for the final home football game of the season. And, lastly, Michal and I invited friends from our church, my UVA co-workers and some Darden FY students and partners for appetizers and desserts at our apartment.

We discovered that we had absolutely nothing to worry about when it came to celebrating our First Friendsgiving. In the end, we were right where we needed to be – in our new home in Charlottesville.