China. California. Virginia. North Carolina. Nevada. And Texas. These five states and one country were represented by my five teammates and I during my first semester in the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) program. Moreover, each of us had a different major (English, Economics, Government, Physics, Computer Science, and my major, Horticulture), which brought unique viewpoints together to solve the business problems assigned to us throughout the semester. This unique diversity found within the MSC program is just one of the aspects I have enjoyed most during my stay in Virginia. Moving from Texas A&M to the University of Virginia has been an enjoyable one. Discussed below are some of the similarities and differences between my experience at A&M and UVa.
The stars on the map above represent where each of my teammates were from: China, California, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada and Texas (click on the map to zoom)
From 58,577 students… to 21,985 students
I must admit that I had not realized my alma mater was more than double the size of UVa until looking it up right now while writing. Transitioning to a smaller school has been a pleasant change for me, personally. A smaller school means a smaller student to teacher ratio, which I have always enjoyed. At A&M, my favorite classes were always the ones with less than 20 students as it allowed for the students to better know each other and partake in livelier discussions. Not only that, but it also made for asking questions much easier. I remember sitting in large lecture halls with well over 150 students at A&M feeling anxious and debating whether I should interrupt the entire class with a question in fear that I may irritate people. Though this fear was usually overcome, it is nice not having to go through that moment of anxiety in the Commerce program. Classes are small enough that one can easily ask questions and contribute to the discussion, which leads me to my next point…
Clickers for participation points? Nope!
Remember that one large chemistry class freshman year where the teacher required you bring a clicker in order to fulfill your participation grade? Wasn’t keeping track of that clicker a nuisance? Oh, and what if you forgot it for that day?! Then you’d have to begrudgingly walk up to the teacher after class and convince them to give you a pass for the day. A nuisance, right? Well, fear not as you’ll never have to buy or rent one of those dreadful clickers at McIntire. Whoop! At McIntire, participation points are earned by sharing your thoughts and asking questions.
Participation is my favorite part about McIntire as the school greatly encourages us to voice our insights, opinions, and views on class materials. Personally, actively participating in classroom discussions has helped me really develop my communication and listening skills by improving my ability to communicate ideas and thoughts in a clear and concise manner. Class discussions have also improved my listening skills and helped me accept and acknowledge other viewpoints different from my own. Class participation represents a significant chunk of our grades here at McIntire. As an undergraduate science major, few classes counted participation as part of my grade. And for those that did, the mundane task of answering a question posted in the PowerPoint slides by clicking a button on a clicker was the only class participation required. Now, class participation means talking, listening, and engaging in stimulating conversations with professors and students alike. Now, on to one of my favorite subjects: trees and plants.
Live Oaks… THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!!!!
Every A&M student recognizes the tree above… yes, that is the Century Oak, where love prevails under its long, beautifully twisting, gnarly branches. As the legend goes, if an Aggie couple walks under that beloved tree, those two love birds will stay together forever. Ahh… how heartwarming… but wait… why is there a smaller version of the Century Oak IN NEARLY EVERY SINGLE PLANTING AT A&M?!??! I love Texas A&M… the traditions… people… professors… organizations… the MSC (Memorial Student Center), Kyle Field… What I don’t love, though… is our boring landscape. A&M needs to leverage its wonderful horticulture department to aid and improve the campus’ landscaping.
On the other hand, the University of Virginia is GORGEOUS. As a horticulturalist, UVa’s grounds represent a sort of plant heaven to me. The plantings, buildings, and architecture are beautiful. The landscapes are filled with a rich diversity of trees and plants. Additionally, experiencing fall in Virginia is an experience within itself. The colors of changing leaves here among Virginia’s trees and bushes are some of the most beautiful to experience and see. Driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains during fall is a must. Not to mention picking apples on Carter Mountain was quite the fun experience as well.
Well, enough about differences. Let’s now talk about the similarities…
Finding diversity is part of my modus operandi
My absolute favorite part about Texas A&M was the wide range of people one could find amongst their fellow Aggie classmates. The school really does attract people from all walks of life due to its unique familial atmosphere. That same diversity is found here within the MSC program. As said before, I found such diversity within my own group where each member had a different major and background. To me, having a diversity of thought, people, and values is extremely important. At both Texas A&M and UVa, finding such diversity was and continues to be easy and great.
Student honor is everything
UVa places a great deal of emphasis on instilling a sense of integrity and values within its students which is not so different from A&M. In fact, while talking to my new classmates who had gone to UVa for their undergrad, I was informed I could leave my backpack alone around the school and nothing would happen to it. Upon hearing that, I became excited and realized UVa was similar to A&M in that students respect each other and take great pride in being thoughtful, civil, and classy citizens. At A&M, I once left my backpack and belongings alone for two hours at the library, knowing nobody would steal or touch them. It was common knowledge that no Aggie would mess with your belongings. Additionally, both universities take great pride in churning out students who are committed to honor, integrity, trust, and respect. I am extremely grateful for attending two universities that hold their students to such high standards of character.
Traditions… Yup, UVa has them, too
Like A&M, UVa has many wonderful traditions and student life is deeply impacted by these traditions. From UVa’s lingo to the bucket list of things to do before you graduate, Wahoos take great pride in their traditions just as Aggies do. Perhaps I can teach my fellow Wahoos the magical words of “Howdy” and “Whoop!” I’m sure TJ would approve.
Besides these similarities and differences of my undergraduate degree at A&M and graduate degree here at UVa, I want to share a few of my favorite graduate experiences:
Visiting Washington DC. By far, this has been my favorite experience. Only 2-3 hours away, depending on whether you drive or take the Amtrak, DC is only a stone’s throw away. Furthermore, plans to visit Northeastern states such as New York and Philadelphia are on the horizon given Charlottesville’s close proximity to the Northeast.
Hiking Humpback Rock. The area around Virginia is gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are next door as well as the Shenandoah National Park providing breathtaking views. Below is a photo I took when hiking up to Humpback Rock, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Picking apples. Visiting Carter Mountain Orchard was a really fun trip full of apples and apple pie. Walking through the orchard picking apples on the hillside with classmates was a great experience.
Mmmmm. Charlottesville has some really good restaurants like La Michoacana Taqueria & Restaurant, Brazos Tacos, Himalayan Fusions, and Afghan Kabob C-Ville. Good food is always a plus and Charlottesville has many more local restaurants to dine at.
There is so much history around us here in Charlottesville. One day, I was running through Grounds and stumbled upon a Confederate cemetery. The sense of reverence, respect, and appreciation I felt for these soldiers who fought for their rights was a powerful experience. Being here in Virginia, where many battles and historical events took place has given me a powerful perspective on how far this country has come and what it took to get to where we are today. Furthermore, to attend a university created by Thomas Jefferson, a man who stood for states’ rights, individual liberties, and democracy, is an honor unto itself. The greatness of our nation and founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson is reflected by the Rotunda, one of the most beautiful and historical buildings on Grounds.
Look at that beauty…
Attending the M.S. in Commerce program was the best decision of my college career…
Along with studying abroad in Ecuador during my undergrad at A&M, deciding to do the MSC program is the best decision I have made in my college career. Receiving McIntire’s degree places me head and shoulders above other job applicants. I now have a solid business education that neatly compliments my horticultural knowledge that will set me up for success in whatever position I choose within the horticultural industry. Moreover, flexibility has been given to me with my master’s degree that will enable me to work for any marketing or sales position in most other industries besides horticulture. The University of Virginia is also a prestigious school with a wonderful reputation that helps my resume shine even brighter. Learning and improving my hard and soft skills while here at UVa is helping me fashion a foundation upon which I can build a successful, promising, and fulfilling career of my choice. You, my fellow Aggie, or any other reader, would do yourself a favor by attending another wonderful University that will help launch the life and career that YOU want.
Thanks, and Gig ‘em.