Congrats to the students and partners of the Class of 2014!

Graduation

As I watched the Class of 2014 graduates walk across the stage while their partners snapped photos, I felt more emotion than anticipated yesterday.

On Saturday, when I volunteered at Darden’s 29th Annual Pig Roast in honor of the graduates, I briefly chatted with a few SY partners in the midst of running around and refilling trays and bowls of food. But on Sunday, I could actually take in what was being said as an onlooker in the audience of the Final Exercises in Flagler Court at Darden.

I soaked up every detail, and in the course of a couple of hours, I felt emotions ranging from excitement and pride to sentimentality and nervousness. These emotions stood out the most to me:

    1. Anxiety – while getting advice about reserving hotel rooms and restaurant dinners as early as possible for out-of-town guests (some saying to even start now – one year away from when my husband will graduate!)
    2. Admiration – while seeing proud parents carry their infant children, born during the years at Darden, across the stage and knowing how much those students and their partners had to juggle with an already hectic schedule
    3. Awe – while listening to special recognition from faculty of students who contributed in a myriad of  ways to Darden, such as mentoring FYs and running different organizations
    4. Nostalgia – while taking a photo of the entire crowd of graduates in caps and gowns because the moment transported me back in time to when I used to work at the graduation ceremonies in my past profession as a high school teacher
    5. Mixture of sadness and gratitude – while watching students sing the Irish blessing “Until We Meet Again” and then while realizing that we are only one year away from this moment…
    • I grew tearful because not only was I finding it hard to say goodbye to certain SYs I’ve gotten to know, but I was finding it much harder to recognize that half of my time in Cville is now done.
    • Yet, I am grateful because this past year has truly made me a better person and because I at least still have one more year left in this place that has become my home.

(Summer) Separation Anxiety

Before Michal left for the summer last week, we spent our last weekend in Cville together enjoying everything we love about the area: gourmet food, local craft beer and the outdoors. I wanted some quality time because we were about to embark on one of the two hardest times during B-School for couples.

These times are:
1) Recruiting season during the first year (while balancing academics and social life)
2) Spending the summer apart (including classes abroad like the Global Business Experience, GBE, and internships in another state).

Side note: Check out this hilarious blog featuring gifs illustrating life as a partner of someone in B-school. This is not a Darden blog, but I did find it through an older Darden partner.

As soon as Michal’s spring semester ended, he began a class to prepare for his GBE in Israel. When he returns from traveling abroad, he will go directly to Detroit to begin working and will stay there pretty much until fall semester starts. In our eight years as a couple (three years married), we’ve never done long-distance. (I don’t count my student teaching year in Detroit while Michal was a senior at Michigan State in Lansing because that was only an hour and half apart.)  So you can imagine the trepidation I felt.

I tried to ignore the looming absence by making the best of the unexpected free time we had due to a rare weekend void of Darden-related activities by staying outdoors in the gorgeous weather and visiting places we’ve wanted to try: Charlottesville City Market, Know Good Beer Festival and Jones Run/Doyles River in Shenandoah National Park. Below are the highlights of each adventure:

Top row from left to right: Michal and I near the Starr Hill tent at the beer fest, tacos at the farmer’s market, popsicle stand nearby. Bottom row from left to right: Waterfalls in Shenandoah, Michal and Stephen admiring art at the McGuffey Art Center during the fest, Michal hiking

On Saturday morning, strolling through all the stalls and tents, we had to taste a little bit of everything at the farmer’s market from chorizo and steak tacos with freshly made tortillas to a Thai-style strawberry and coconut milk Popsicle. Everything we tried was yummy, but my all-time fav dish from our walking “brunch” was the hearty crab cake at only $8.

Later in the afternoon, we met up another friend at Darden who loves beer as much as we do, as he also brewed for the Three Notch’d competition that Michal participated in last month. We all agreed that this inaugural beer fest was one of the better we’ve attended as it focused on local brews – many that we had not tried or even heard of. Of the new ones I tried, I particularly enjoyed the smooth Wit at up and coming James River Brewing Company, the light 3 at the hip Flying Mouse Brewing Company and the refreshing Blonde Hunny at the slightly more established Wild Wolf Brewing Company. I prefer Belgian-style ales that are slightly sour, or session citrusy wheat beers that are perfect to sip and savor on a hot, sunny day. Bonus: Another unique aspect to this beer fest was the fact that it was at an art gallery.

The following day, we spent some time driving through scenic Skyline Drive and hiking through an incredible waterfall wonderland. The views, especially of the various falls throughout our hike, were breathtaking and reminded me our travels in Costa Rica and Thailand. It was a relaxing and peaceful hike, as we ran into other people sparingly. And on certain points in the mountains, we’d get respite from the heat with a cool breeze or dipping into ice water.

 

Part 2 of Family in Cville: What’s ‘Fun’ in Undergrad vs. Grad School

My cousin April and her husband Jake drove from Metro Detroit to Charlottesville the weekend after my in-laws visited. This family weekend had a different twist: April, Jake, Michal and I went through undergrad together at Michigan State University, so Michal and I were excited for them to experience another sort of college town.

The infamous Foxfield horse races could not have been better timed. We each anticipated this event as if we were preparing for Halloween by scouring for outfits we’d never normally wear, classified as “country club prep.” It was a total cultural experience for us to transform our usual, casual T-shirt and jeans combos to pastels and floppy hats.

All photos are courtesy of my cousin April (except for the group photo on the top left that a friend's husband took on my phone).  My husband Michal and April's husband Jake had actually bought the same shirt. Michal found a new pink one to match my searsucker dress.

All photos are courtesy of April (except for the group shot on the top left that a friend’s husband took on my iphone). Fun fact #1: My husband Michal and April’s husband Jake actually bought the same shirt in different stores. Michal later found a pink shirt to match my searsucker dress!

While we embraced the wardrobe change, we were a bit more wary of the actual event as we heard it would be similar to all-day tailgating. In the end, we were grateful to experience the races from the more civilized grad student area tents where Darden and the Law School were side by side in front of the tracks. The backdrop was breathtaking in the sun, the food was classic Southern BBQ, the bartenders made drinks to our liking, the music started with a live band, there were no lines to the bathrooms, and the tables had fresh, floral centerpieces.

Needless to say, the atmosphere was a lot different on the undergrad side.

Again: All photos are courtesy of April. Fun Fact: Michal worked with Three Notch'd this school year as a member of the Community Consultants of Darden.

All photos are courtesy of April. Fun Fact #2: Michal worked with Three Notch’d this year as a part of the Community Consultants of Darden. Jake enjoyed the beer there so much that he bought a growler!

Michal and I also spent some time showing Jake and April the differences between undergrad nightlife at the dive bars on The Corner vs. the local breweries in the more upscale Downtown Mall area. Although it was fun to be outside at the picnic tables at The Biltmore on a warm night, we decided relaxing in lounge settings with board games and higher quality craft brews at Three Notch’d, Champion and South Street was overall more enjoyable. We’ve each definitely grown more discerning with two home-brewers, Michal and Jake, at our side.

Ultimately, what we discovered is that we still like to have good time just like in the glory days … but now we just have higher standards.

All photos courtesy of April. We managed to include a hike to Elliott Knob and a walk around Grounds. Fun Fact #3: We purposefully picked out one of the highest peaks in Virginia to tackle with April and Jake because they're so adventurous!

All photos courtesy of April. We managed to include a hike to Elliott Knob and a walk around Grounds. Fun Fact #3: We purposefully picked out one of the highest peaks in Virginia to tackle with April and Jake because they’re so adventurous! At the top, Michal and Jake started a fire right before the rain hit.

Part 1 of Family in Cville: Blending past with present

When Michal's parents visited, we had a lot to celebrate: the Easter holiday, Section B's back-to-back Darden Cup win and Michal's first time in a brewing competition.

When Michal’s parents visited last month, we had a lot to celebrate: the Easter holiday, Section B’s Darden Cup back-to-back win and Michal’s first time to enter his home brew in a competition.

With Polish and Filipino heritage, my husband Michal and I have religious and cultural traditions associated with Easter. However, with limited vacation days for me and the onslaught of final exams for Michal, we decided to spend yet another holiday away from home.

Thankfully, my in-laws made the approximately nine-hour drive from Metro Detroit to Charlottesville with maintaining tradition as the major motivation.

In addition to celebrating Easter Sunday with a Polish brunch of kielbasas, stuffed/fried eggs and pastries, we celebrated Section B’s back-to-back Darden Cup championship with a crab feast.  My in-laws and I also supported Michal in the first home-brewing competition sponsored by Darden’s Wine and Cuisine Club. It was the perfect blend of old and new, family and friends, as my in-laws attempted to understand our daily life with Darden, with a reminder of where we come from.