Welcome Round 2 admits of Darden students and partners!

ImageA few Darden partners (significant others of students) are sporting our trademark Darden Partners Association swag of neon-colored sunglasses in the above photo. We can’t wait to meet all of you!

Are you new to the DPA and interested in hearing more from us?
Sign up on the DPA Website to get access to the Relocation Guide, housing leads, job listings and other Charlottesville resources. Join the DPA Facebook Group and follow us on the DPA Twitter Page to get up-to-date information on events. As the DPA Communications Chair, I would love to help you in this transition by getting you connected and keeping you informed!

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Spring Break – Part 2: Staycation in Cville

For five days of our Spring Break, we were so happy to host two of our close friends from undergrad who are married and live in our home state of Michigan. We met them through the same church where Michal and I met on the campus of Michigan State University, have stood up in each other’s weddings and have kept in touch with each other for almost decade. It was fun to take them around our new stomping grounds! Below are highlights of our time with them:

Tourist in our own town

Michal and I have been saving our visits to the area’s historic landmarks, such as presidential homes, for when our friends and family visit. Best takeaway tip that we discovered through our experience: Show your student ID at Monticello for a discount on tour tickets!

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It’s a good thing one of our visiting friends is a poli-sci professor because we did a very thorough tour of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and of Central and North Grounds at the University of Virginia. A 60-and-sunny day in Cville = summer in Detroit, so our friends were also extremely happy to be able to walk around without a coat. My favorite moment from our touristy times was our picnic dinner on the Lawn in the heart of the “Academical Village” in front of the Rotunda.

Snow day survival 

Ironically enough, our Michiganders didn’t escape the cold too long as we dropped down to 40s on Sunday and had a Snow Day on the Monday after Spring Break. It was a blessing in a way as Michal and I did not have to worry about school and work so we could focus on our friends.

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We kept entertained because the sudden change in cold weather had just the right timing with Selection Sunday for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day on Monday. We spent a considerable amount of time cheering on our alma mater in the Big 10 tourney, as well as watching UVA in the ACCs with a fellow Darden couple, and then consequently filling in our brackets. And we kept it low-key for St. Patty’s, creating a spiked hot cocoa bar and playing board games like Cranium and Imaginiff.

Michal and I cherish when our friends and family visit us, as we often hosted them when we lived in the Chicago-area for five years. We look forward to hosting more visitors in Cville!

What are your favorite ways to enjoy a Staycation in your area?

Spring Break – Part 1: Road trip in the South

In an effort to save some cash (and some of my vacation days from work), Michal and I passed on the big group, tropical getaways and kept it a little closer to home. For five days, we did a road trip to the Old South, visiting Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. We absolutely loved the warm weather, romantic scenery and gourmet comfort food. Below are highlights of this trip, but also check out our staycation in Cville!

Phenomenal food

Out of all priorities we have when traveling, dining is definitely #1. Michal and I always look for unique, cultural experiences from divey take-out stands to fancier sit-down meals. We love all types of cuisine but like to focus our efforts on seeking out places that make dishes and drinks we ourselves couldn’t make or easily get at home. In Charleston and Savannah, we had our fill of fresh seafood, pork products and bourbon-based cocktails.

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Splurge that was worth it: The Olde Pink House in Savannah

The ultimate traditional Southern experience: Servers were helpful and friendly, inviting us to tour themed rooms in the historic house-turned-restaurant that Thomas Jefferson helped to design. We enjoyed a feast that included classics like pecan-crusted chicken and scored flounder.

Best meal deal: Vickery’s Oyster Roast in Mount Pleasant, near Charleston

We hadn’t even planned on visiting this restaurant until a co-worker suggested it to me. So glad we didn’t miss out! For just $12, we got a ginormous bucket of fresh, steamed oysters. Not to mention, the views on the creek and marsh where the oysters originate, steps from the restaurant = priceless.

For full reviews of these restaurants and other establishments that we visited, check out my Yelp page.

Scenic strolls 

Hiking is our favorite pastime, as evidenced by my other blog entries. With this region, we more so experienced relaxing strolls through city and country life. Our favorite walks were through Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston and Tybee Island Beach near Savannah.

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Gardens: Expansive and breath-taking, especially with all the Spanish moss on the trees, bamboo forests and mazes of flowers. We took in a variety of picturesque views around every corner.

Beach: Very well-maintained, with clean, soft sand – perfect for walking barefoot. If we ever needed to take a break, we could grab a seat on the many swings lining the shore. Bonus water time: We rented a room in a house through Airbnb that had a convenient location next to a boat launch so we could easily use the homeowner’s kayaks!

This road trip is definitely one of our most memorable, and we hope to do more in this region as we’re here for only one more year! I’ve gotten suggestions for Asheville, NC, the Outer Banks and the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

What are other cities or places in the South that we should visit?

Bidding farewell to the ‘Bird’

Although students will no longer be taking classes with their sections after they return from Spring Break on March 17, it’s hard to drop the identity. As a partner of a student in Section B, I inevitably started proclaiming myself as “one of the birds,” becoming friends with students and partners alike in the group.

The experience of “being in a section” reminded me a lot of my cohort from my senior year and student teaching year at Michigan State University in the College of Education, or of the transition period when I went into my first year of teaching with a group of fellow novices.During an extremely stressful time, it helps to have the camaraderie, as well as the commiseration.

Paying homage to a couple of my favorite Section B traditions:

*Bird is the Word

As my husband likes to make funny comments in class, he tends to be in the running fairly often to take the responsibility of carting around the mascot for a week. Coincidentally that little, stuffed Big Bird seemed to find his way into our home on special occasions like my birthday during first semester and Valentine’s Day during second semester. Can we say #thirdwheel?

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The Bird on adventures with us on date night celebrations and gatherings with friends around town.

Thankfully, no one gave us a hard time when taking photos of the Bird at the Top of the Hops Beer Fest in downtown Charlottesville on my birthday, as many others were lining up to take photos with a gnome any way.

However, it was a bit more difficult to snap a pic when the Bird made an appearance while we sampled sweets from a local bakery paired with wine at Keswick Vineyard. At a slightly less casual atmosphere in the roped-off area behind the wine barrels reserved for Valentine’s Day couples, we didn’t leave him out in the open too long… 

*Dinner of 8

Bonding with fellow birds took on a variety of forms, including get-togethers like FY/SY mixers, themed events (e.g. costumes starting w/a letter B, ugly sweater), local adventures (e.g. apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard), post-Darden Cup celebrations and simply hanging out in smaller settings.

My favorite was the dinner party each semester that consisted of eight students in the section and was hosted at a volunteer’s home, with all randomly assigned to the group. Each semester was a different set of people. Of course, students could bring partners, so an introvert (disguised as an extrovert, most often) like me really looked forward to chatting in a comfortable environment.

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For the first dinner, the organizer ordered yummy Italian takeout from Bella’s. For the second, we did a potluck style meal. It was fun to get a taste of varying cooking styles and ethnic cuisine!