Today is two weeks since I arrived in Charlottesville. In some ways it feels like I’m pretty settled in to life here – everything is sorted and set up, I have everything I need, I’m enrolled in all my classes, I know my way around – and in other ways it feels like I’ve just arrived and it’s all still quite surreal, and I keep thinking I’ll be going home any minute, like this is just some kind of holiday or summer course, instead of an actual year-long thing. It’s been a busy two weeks, though. Here are some of the things I’ve done:
- WORK. They do not hesitate to throw you in at the deep end here. Especially since all my classes are third- or fourth-year level classes so everyone is expected to be used to the college workload and what is required of them. I did fully expect to be doing a lot of work here, but it’s still a shock! Hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading a week (and it seems that students here don’t only do the reading, but they totally highlight it and make notes and come up with questions for discussion, essentially making me look woefully underprepared in comparison), films to watch, assignments, research… it certainly keeps you busy. I have already made friends with the three main libraries on central grounds, since these are now my new home, apparently.
- Gone to Walmart. They really do have everything.
- Attended ‘Rotunda Sing’ – essentially a concert by all (12ish?) a capella groups at the university that takes place on the steps of the Rotunda, the centrepiece of grounds. These groups are seriously flipping good. A capella is taken very seriously here.
- Been to a frat party. HA. This was interesting. Basically, a party in the basement of a frat house, with a DJ and club-type lighting, and drinks served in one corner – the choice is between beer and ‘punch’ (no idea what was in that. Apparently kool-aid – whatever that is – plus alcohol of some kind. Ominously mysterious). Plus the classic American college drinking game of beer pong played outside (quite a simple game really. Try to throw a ping pong ball into a cup of beer and your opponent has to drink it. Not a huge amount of thought and strategy required). Apparently we were at one of the lamest frat parties though (why we were taken there I have no idea, but being new you kind of just follow along) so things can only get better. But an interesting experience!
- Eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, BBQ pork, Lucky Charms, Kraft mac’n’cheese and an assortment of other classic American foods. Plus, you know, healthy stuff too. You do realise, though, how incredibly easy it is to eat unhealthily here. It’s not that healthy food isn’t available, it’s just not nearly so available as the abundance of junk food everywhere. But students here seem to make up for it by just exercising a LOT.
- Experienced an earthquake, a couple of aftershocks, and a hurricane. Well, the hurricane didn’t actually affect us aside from giving us one rainy day, but the earthquake was most definitely felt, on the first day of classes. That was quite a way to begin the school year.
- Attended two meetings of the First Year Players, a drama club who puts on two musicals a year, with a cast solely of first-years (or first-year transfers). I’m going to be getting involved with tech for them, and in a couple of hours I have an interview with the technical director for one of the positions. If I get one, my semester is going to get extremely busy extremely quickly, but it’ll be worth it to be involved. The people all seem really nice and seem to have a great social scene. And, you know. I need friends. Especially drama ones.