Call Me a Cavalier

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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: http://www.virginia.edu/deanofstudents/studenttraditions.html

  • 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. 

The Never-ending Hike

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All the twists and turns, peaks and valleys of my favorite hike this summer left me feeling exhausted yet accomplished – much like most significant experiences in life.

My husband and I experienced several peaks and valleys before getting to Darden.

When we stopped working at the end of May, we wanted to travel before our big move from the Midwest to the South. I had just completed my sixth consecutive year of teaching high school English and journalism, so I relished summer break. It meant even more to me this year because Michal rarely ever had the same vacation time as me while working.

For approximately two months, we traveled in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Our U.S. trip consisted of visiting friends in NorCal and SoCal and meeting family in Boulder, Co. On the other hand, our Southeast Asia trek encompassed completely new adventures on our own in Singapore, three regions of Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong.

Through our travels, we had common activities. We immediately sought out where the locals eat and drink for an authentic meal. (Can you expect less with two Yelp Elites like us?) We would visit historical landmarks highly rated in travel guides. And we always found a way to set out on some sort of a hike.

We traversed near the Hollywood Hills and within the Red Woods in Cali, we scaled the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado, we took romantic walks on the beach in Thailand, we immersed ourselves in the city life of Singapore, we got lost in the temples of Cambodia, and we ultimately climbed Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong upon recommendation from a fellow Darden FY.

Out of all our hikes, I most remember Dragon’s Back for the experience and the views.  It wasn’t like our other hikes in which we eventually reached the top or the destination within a couple hours, properly celebrated our journey with a few photos and then immediately went back. This hike lasted all day and into the night. It was true to its title, containing several peaks and valleys to simulate the back of a dragon. Each peak provided a different perspective. Distances between each peak were varied. And when we thought we were “done,” we ended up continuing on other trails that were linked.

Our memorable day of hiking in Hong Kong reminded me much of what our journey has been like since graduating from Michigan State University six years ago, where my husband and I met. I especially experienced those “valleys” of exhaustion in my first few years as a teacher, those “peaks” of my tenure when I was most proud of my students as I saw them grow and improve, and those uncertain moments of trekking through life when I wasn’t sure if I could continue on this “path.”

Now that I have left Chicagoland, and the profession of teaching, at least for these two years in Charlottesville, VA, I feel like I am beginning a new hike like that day in Hong Kong. I am not exactly sure yet what I will be doing while my husband is at Darden, but I can trust that there will be a peak in my near future because I will keep going until I find that next view.