– Incredibly beautiful campus and countryside, lovely downtown area, mountains, vineyards, apple orchards, pretty colonial-style houses, red brick, white pillars, green lawns, white picket fences, etc., etc., ad nauseum.
– Student involvement. It’s so nice here that it seems every student is really involved in activities outside their classes, most in several. The number of clubs and societies is staggering and students are just so motivated and pro-active and energetic about them. I think most of them are running purely on caffeine with zero sleep. But they’re productive! I’m especially impressed by all the service organisations and volunteering that goes on – there are things like Physicians for Peace, Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders, Students Supporting Soldier Psychology, Linguists Helping the Homeless with AIDS in Darfur, etc. etc. (that last one doesn’t exist). Now I fully realise that most of the students at UVa are extremely high-aiming and driven and are trying to build up an impressive resume to get a good internship/job/place at grad school. But it’s still nice to be in an environment full of focused, productive, enthusiastic people who, at least on the outside, seem to really care about helping others. It’s not a bad thing.
– Free stuff. Free gym and pool access. Free university buses and Charlottesville city buses, plus a trolley (totally not shopping trolley. Kind of like a tram.) that goes from grounds to downtown that is free for absolutely everyone. Free entry to football games and lots of other sports matches. Free food, a lot. Free t-shirts and cups given out, a lot. It’s awesome. Well, with out of state students paying over $30,000 per year tuition, I guess you want to get something in return.
– The professors (the four I have, anyway, can’t speak for all of them) are really nice, interesting, clever people. They seem to really love teaching, as opposed to some of the lecturers we have, who seem to be an academic/researcher first and foremost, with teaching as an unfortunate but necessary secondary aspect of their jobs. Here they really want to you to come and speak to them in office hours and seem to love properly engaging with the students. It’s nice.
– The vast majority of students use backpacks for going to class. Not so at home – I guess some boys do but very few girls. Here even some of the most stylish girls are toting around a Northface backpack. I’m a fan of this. They’re so practical and comfortable. Therefore I have bought myself one.
– In every public toilet there is a gap of at least 1cm between the cubicle doors and the frames. Meaning that people can see in. Well, I don’t know how well they can see in, but you can most definitely see out. What is this all about?
– SALES TAX. My hatred of this began when I was in New York a couple of years ago, and it is still raging. I don’t get it, why in God’s name do you not add the tax into the price of the thing, like we do? It’s so infuriating when you are buying stuff and have the price worked out in your head in relation to how much cash you have or whatever, then you get to the till and it’s more than the listed price because of flipping sales tax. Meaning nothing is a nice easy $5 or whatever, it’s all awkward prices. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to this and accept it. I feel probably not.
– The tap water seriously smells like a swimming pool because it’s so chlorinated. It doesn’t actually taste too bad, but not as good as water at home.
– No proper cheese. All plastic-y stuff. Good for on burgers, but not for much else. I have actually found some real cheese at a fancy supermarket nearby but it’s like $8 for a bit of cheddar. I think I’ll wait until I’m really desperate.
– Even though Charlottesville is very pedestrian-friendly and has excellent public transport, still, for the first time in my whole life, I want to be able to drive and have a car. There’s just something about being in America that makes you seriously feel you need to be automobilised. But of course, it is not to be. Luckily a lot of people are in the same position.
p.s. I know people read this as WordPress gives me a handy little stats page. So perhaps a little comment here and there wouldn’t go amiss? Just saying…