Gabriel here, and after my first two weeks at the University of Virginia, I have so much to report back on! I’m on exchange with my best friend Brodie, so you’ll undoubtedly hear that name a lot. We arrived on August 20, and I immediately fell in love with the campus. In America, they have college towns with campuses that are exclusively student areas. So we’ve got Main Street with loads of exciting restaurants, and every store is student-managed and run. Another fascinating aspect of American colleges is Greek life. About 30% of students here are part of a fraternity or sorority, which are giant social groups which host loads of events for other students on campus. Live bands are playing at these houses every night, which has been amazing to check out.
I was nervous when we first arrived at UVA. We drove down from my parent’s house, four hours up north (I was born in America and moved to NZ for uni) and set up our room on day one. However, when we arrived at our dorm, my fears melted away. Brodie and I are staying in an international student’s college, so almost everyone else is also an exchange student. In the two weeks we’ve been here, we’ve already cobbled together a group of primarily European exchange students with whom we explore the area. One such adventure we went on was to Carter Mountain Orchard, which, as the name suggests, is an orchard overlooking the valley Charlottesville is nestled in. I’ve attached some pictures to this blog, which, although very pretty, still pale compared to seeing it in real life.
Different social clubs are also a big part of life here in Virginia. I got overzealous in signing up for them. I ended up in the following clubs: salsa club, WUVA (a new organisation), surf club, thrifting club, improv comedy club, and my favourite, gymnastics club. I’ve never done gymnastics before, but after two classes, I can now do a front handspring on solid ground. If you stay tuned, I’ll keep updating my gymnastics abilities as the semester progresses.
Classes are off to a great start as well. I’m a psychology, politics and communications major, and I wanted to dip into each of these degrees while abroad. I’m taking social psychology, which is run similarly to classes at UoA, with discussion hours and lectures. Public policy has the same structure and is another stimulating class. However, my other two classes, terrorism and counterterrorism, and persuasion and influence, vastly differ from classes in New Zealand. The former is taught by a retired Air Force colonel who worked in the Pentagon on counterterrorist operations. He’s incredibly articulate, and we’ve been learning the historical background behind different attacks. Persuasion and influence is fieldwork-based as we study human behaviour and what makes an argument convincing.
Safe to say, I’ve been enamoured by UVA up to now. The campus life is tremendous; my classes have been going great, and I’m in many clubs. I feel like I’ve been here far longer than two weeks, and I can’t wait to share my journey with you guys as it continues.