Going to UVA has been the most miserable experience of my life

I’m a first year out of state student at UVA and I can honestly say that this last semester has been the most miserable experience of my life. At DOTL and junior year visiting and orientation, I had a strong feeling that this school was not for me. I came because this school had one of the top programs in the country for what I wanted to study. Over the last few months, I’ve made a strong effort to get involved. I am a member of a variety of interesting and prestigious clubs, I have a good Gpa, and I go to social events. Yet, this school has fundamental problems to the point where it caters to only a few types of student:

  1. The culture at this school is 100% toxic. This is a huge non-stop party school, with the dorm completely emptying 4 nights out of 7. Every club has a hard partying component, and if you aren't a smoker or a binge drinker or a vape user, you basically have no chance at fitting in and bonding with people. When a club devoted to a sport that advocates against substance use has bar rolls, you know you have a problem. This is heightened by the fact that there is very little to do in Cville other than eat and go to bars. It's a booze soaked hellhole.
  2. The school has no infrastructure to support students who practice most minority religions, mine included. Furthermore, there is no house of worship for my religion within 20 miles of UVA. The MSC is of no help in this case. As well, the MSC is incredibly alienating. They push a specific political agenda and if you do not conform to that agenda, you will be shamed. Your views will be constantly belittled by MSC staff and coordinators, including those on UVA's payroll such as the assistant dean that works at the MSC. You will be told that you do not deserve to be a student of color and that you are a shame to your heritage. I've been called a coconut, an Uncle Tom, and "brown on the outside" by other students who ostensibly fight for "social justice" . The people at this school have effectively made me unable to connect with my religion and my cultural heritage through activities on grounds.
  3. Few accommodations for students with dietary restrictions. As a first year student, you are forced to pay into the expensive unlimited meal plan even though it would be cheaper and easier to cook in my dorm kitchen or eat out daily. The school does not offer a variety of options for students with dietary restrictions. 5 out of 6 entrees will have meat, including at meal exchange and there is little variety in the vegetarian meals. Meat entrees, in contrast have wide variety. You can kiss the international section goodbye if you're of a lot of minority religions, as this school somehow manages to incorporate pork and beef into traditional Indian and Middle Eastern dishes 90% of the time, and the other food stations are the same. I've complained to the dining hall 4 times between email and facebook, without success or change. The lack of basic health standards in the dining halls, such as the touching of raw meat and then raw vegetables with the same gloves further increases my unease towards the dining hall. I've spoken to friends at colleges across the country, including those at colleges who use the same company, and most of them have said that their schools actually do are an effort to help out vegetarian and diet-restricted students by separating elements like bacon bits and chicken sauce for students to put on top if they like, which leads me to think this is a UVA problem. As well, popup dishes at UVA are always meat based. I have visited every restaurant pop up hoping for change and only one has had a vegetarian entree alongside the meat one. I've lost 15 lbs since I started at UVA. The lack of food available has sapped my energy and my spirit.
  4. Most of the faculty here are not helpful. I've already discussed the MSC faculty issues. In addition, when I tried to discuss some of my difficulties with my academic advisor, he scoffed at me and dismissed my worries. As well, when I did not understand some of the requirements for the major I want to do, I went in to speak with the major advisor for undergrads. He proceeded to rant on and on for 10 minutes about how double majors were terrible and how if I wanted to double major I shouldn't even think about becoming a student in his department. I left his office in tears. My academic dean is fantastic, but she has very little knowledge of the programs that I am interested in and thus cannot serve as a clear source of advice regarding all the nuances of classes and program requirements.

To all the incoming students, I highly encourage you to think carefully before committing yourself to this school. Choose wrong and you’ll be stuck in a year long nightmare.

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sounds like you chose a school the exact opposite of what you should have.

maybe instead of a big, public school try a smaller liberal arts college. one with more personalization

I’m sorry you are having a bad experience.

Your story is the perfect example of the importance of research and fit to all high school students looking and applying to colleges. Things like nearest house of worship, cafeteria selections, and ease of double majoring can all be researched in advance.

OP: It would be interesting to know your major so that posters might help direct you to a more accommodating school.

The first semester is often very challenging on many levels. I encourage you to hang in there, keep an open mind, and continue to persevere. You may be surprised to find more kindred spirits than you think. And of course, nothing is written in stone. You hold the keys to your happiness. If you feel like this is a bad fit for you, then you can research other schools and transfer to a place that you think will make you happy. Either way, I promise it will get better.

I’m sorry you’re unhappy. Maintain your high GPA and it should be easy to transfer to a better school for you.

You’ve learned a great lesson though. Never ignore your strong feelings. Being great for your major is pointless if you’re going to be miserable.

My daughter is a 2nd year at UVA. She is a young woman from the northeast and of a minority religion. While no school is perfect, she has had an overwhelmingly positive experience at UVA, both academically and socially. UVA is a special and amazing place, but no school is a fit for everyone.

I have not heard any similar complaints from my daughter, her friends or their parents.

I think it’s quite unfair for you disparage a terrific school, its student body and its staff just because you’re unhappy.

I hope you find happiness elsewhere, but your accusations are wrong and uncalled for.

We aren’t all victims. Sometimes we need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for our situations. Good luck.

Your comments about the MSC are very alarming. Does your school have a university ombudsman? I would seek their help in going to the dean about this. School organizations should be inclusive, rather than divisive. It sounds as if they need a top to bottom shakeup of the MSC, with a warning that their goal is to support ALL students seeking a welcome there, not just those who ascribe to a certain bent of political activism.

This is why college counselors often insist that instead of just going for the most strong program for the major, you focus on finding a school which offers overall good fit as well. College experience involves a whole lot more than just keeping head down and learning 2+2=4.

You should give current school some time to see if you can adjust with time, meanwhile explore transfer options and procedures.

If you go ahead with transfer, try to find a smaller urban school, don’t go to the other extreme of a teeny weeny school in a teeny weeny town.

That was true before you registered to attend, and it is not UVA’s fault. If you want to start an organization or request space for your group to meet, I’m sure UVA would help you organize it, but they aren’t going to do the footwork. Contact the house of worship that is 20 miles away and ask if they can sponsor a satellite group at UVA.

First off, I am sorry that you are having a difficult time. Freshman year can be challenging even without the issues you have mentioned.

While you may not have been able to foresee some of your difficulties, it seems that you did not do your homework as far as dietary accommodations, campus culture, access to places of worship, etc. But I get it! I’m from VA and everyone assumes that if you get in to UVA, you’re going! Even if it’s not a good fit.

I really encourage you to take the remainder of the year and focus on positive changes. I personally know a number of students of minority religions attending UVA and they have had very different experiences than yours. I hope that it’s just a matter of you finding your community. That’s going to take effort and an open mind on your part, but that’s part of the learning experience of college.

Wish you the best! It will get better!

OP- two thoughts for you on the food issue-

1- Set up a meeting with a member of the nutrition office. No college wants its students going hungry and losing 15 lbs per semester unless they were trying and needed to. My family also has religious dietary restrictions and we have found that the nutritional experts on the payroll (airlines, college, hospitals, etc.) can make change happen that just complaining to the “person in charge” won’t accomplish. Every large commercial food service operator is going to have one or more of these people- at a minimum, to prevent a lawsuit if something labeled “nut free” kills someone. You will find that person enormously sympathetic to your issue, AND very skilled at getting you meat free options at every single meal. But you’ll need to set up this meeting yourself.

2- Have a meeting with the Director of the Hillel House about switching to the kosher meal plan- if you are already on the U’s meal plan, I believe there is no extra cost. Not every meal item will be appropriate for you, but Jews who keep kosher do not serve meat (or anything with a meat product, however miniscule) at a meal which has milk or other dairy products served. The preparation is entirely separate, and thus you can be guaranteed that if the meal is lasagna and salad and garlic bread, it was prepared using utensils that have not been used to make chicken or beef. At most Hillels, even meat meals have vegetarian options since many kids who grew up keeping kosher become vegans at some point (either permanently or temporarily).

The Director of the Hillel likely has connections to the religious leaders of your faith in the region and it’s worth asking if he/she can help you connect to their organizations.

Can’t help you with the rest, but a big hug to you.

Agree with you on #1. Social culture here is terrible and I’ve never regretted any decision I’ve ever made more than coming here