When I started touring colleges in high school the University of Texas and the University of Virginia were high on my list. I loved how both schools were known for their academics and school spirit. I ultimately went to UT to pursue a specific Arabic language program, and I fell in love with the city of Austin.
Four years later, after attending a school with a student body of 50,000 and living in a city of about one million, I was a little apprehensive moving to a town of less than 50,000 people for graduate school. Despite this, I chose to come to the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) program at UVA to develop a business skill set that I did not receive in my undergraduate education. I graduated as an Arabic/International Relations major at UT, so I felt that this liberal arts background combined with a business focus would help me best in the future.
As an undergrad, I was unclear how to use my background to find a job that was best suited for me. While I tried to utilize the career services office at UT, I always left unclear on the types of jobs that would hire a person from a liberal arts background and felt lost throughout the process. The MSC program has a small class feel (with a student body of about 120 students) and a career services office (known as Commerce Career Services) specifically dedicated to helping people like me looking to transfer my skills in a real life setting.
What I found when I moved to Charlottesville was the diversity and passion for both the school and city. In reality, Austin and Charlottesville have a tremendous amount more in common than I could have ever expected. Like Austin, I was surprised to find that this city has an incredible food scene with lots of new restaurants to try each weekend. In fact, I had my first poke bowl here this past fall! There are also plenty of places to hike and wineries to visit- something I never did in Austin. The transition has been delightful. While each city is rooted in a different historical tradition, both offer great opportunity for those willing to explore.
Academically, there is a neat culture, love, and respect for the school, itself. Just as UT students love the Longhorns, UVA students truly love Mr. Jefferson and everything for which the school stands. All my classmates who attended UVA during their undergrad are obsessed with UVA academics, honor code, and athletics to name a few. I admire the school spirit and comradery that they possess and, about halfway through graduate school, I am beginning to share that same feeling.
The transition to UVA classes was an easy one. The small size of the program feels much more like my personal high school experience where I know all my teachers extremely well- and I am never afraid to reach out to any for help, advice, or simply seek an enjoyable conversation. The teachers have all invested genuine time in making sure that the MSC students are well prepared for the future, as well as the immediate classwork at hand. This is something I was looking for in a graduate program. After attending a huge university, I was seeking a school where I could not only get a great education, but also develop relationships with the teachers and alumni. It feels much more rewarding to do well on a project or test because my teachers recognize my effort and are able to put a face to my name as opposed to arbitrarily writing a grade on a piece of paper. I know that these people will continue to support me after my year in the MSC program, as well.
I know that I will leave the MSC program a more well-rounded student with real knowledge of what is going on in the business world. I will have a strong network of individuals from both Texas and Virginia, which I would argue is the best of both worlds. I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to attend two great state universities that are largely different from each other; however, what I’ve really learned is that they really aren’t as dissimilar as they seem. Both have prepared me for the future in unique ways and I am excited for what is to come as I work as a Client Relationship Representation at IBM in Washington D.C. next year. Hook ‘Em and WahooWa!