What does the UVA student look like? This is hard to answer when we rarely look alike. What could connect us when we come from all different backgrounds?
Immigrants, legacies, first-gen students.
Students whose families owned slaves and those whose ancestors were slaves.
Out of state students, the NOVA kids, and those from just down the road.
We are students of all different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We all got here in different ways, some right out of high school, some after a gap year of travelling, others after working for a period. Not everyone graduates in four years, and we all will have varying levels of student debt. This is the first time some students are living without our large extended families, while for others, this is the first time we will share a room with another person.
What connects us is our passion. We all care strongly about something, whether that be about:
Running, parties in sweaty basements, or being the president of our club.
Playing the clarinet, talking about environmental justice, or listening to country music.
Puppies, the best Oreo flavor, or pulling all-nighters to do work for the next day.
Knitting, calling out the racism imbedded in our institution, or going on long bike rides.
Working to put themselves through school, singing in an acappella group, or doing research for biochemistry.
History, posting memes on r/UVA, or learning about the best way to teach children.
Being a pre-med engineer, talking about cars, or putting together the outfit that makes them feel the best.
Social justice, learning about the real history of our school, or mixing songs for fun.
Our small business, TikTok, becoming a therapist.
Origami, finding ways to make UVA more accessible, or baking the best bread.
Campaigning for a local political candidate, going to celebrating our basketball wins, or keg stands with shitty beer.
How to make the best full-glam look, being on a D1 team, or composting.
Creating ceramics, staying up late playing videogames, or becoming a Speech Language Pathologist.
Writing poetry, destigmatizing mental health, or knowing where to get free condoms.
Doing our hair how feels best, crocheting stuffed animals, or reading science fiction.
Supporting our family at home, creating spaces for queer students, or walking through the gardens.
Listening to podcasts about food, stepping, or discussing how to mix the best drinks.
Safe spaces for trauma survivors, taking care of succulents, or RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Tea, talking about intersectional feminism, or re-learning how the world works according to physics.
Working the system, bullet journaling, or painting our nails.
Figuring out how to fix code that hasn’t been working, watching Studio Ghibli movies, or playing soccer.
Survivor Hour at Bilt, mastering our 3rd language, or getting stains out of shirts.
Knowing how to get the best booth in Clem, horseback riding, or baking cookies for housemates.
Drawing cartoons, drinking coffee, or fixing our proofs.
Swing dancing, staying up late to study for an orgo exam, or tweeting @UVA about inequitable policies.
Knowing when to call home in another time zone, giving UVA tours, or sleep.
Writing a song for our partners, streaking the Lawn as much as possible, or being the lead of a musical.
Facetiming our siblings, creating comedy videos, or doing tech for a play.
Talking about if Corner Juice or Juice Laundry is better, watching Grey’s Anatomy, or playing tennis.
Painting Beta Bridge, designing new buildings, or sunrise hikes.
Figuring out what we want to do with our life, helping people find community, or graduating UVA.
And this list could go on. When we walk sit on the Lawn at convocation, or sit on Zoom watching President Ryan speak, we all do it having made it through the University of Virginia. Our paths to get there will have been different, and our interests are certainly not the same. Nevertheless, all of us have been passionate.
Writing is hit or miss for me—it either pours out of me like water or it’s a constant fight to get it out. This piece came out of me in one afternoon out of frustration. I had been struggling to answer the question for a while because it honestly doesn’t feel like there is one answer to it. I don’t believe that there is just one UVA student, just as there is not one UVA that we all experience. Every year since being here, I have become more disillusioned in our institution. The very idea of there being one student implies that we all love our school equally, that we all have the same faith that this organization will represent us and support our wants and needs. This is simply not true, and without radical change, not just at UVA but in the institution of higher education, it will not be true. In this piece, I attempt to problematize the idea of “the UVA student” by highlighting the diversity that we have at our institution.