I ran up the stairs of my porch on a chilly fall day, throwing down my backpack and pulling out my water bottle as I slumped into a rocking chair. The red and yellow leaves gently falling as groups of students wearing Georgia and UGA t-shirts walked past the picket fence down the street towards the running track. I kicked off my shoes and propped my bare feet up on the table across from me as I sank down further into the old, cushioned chair. I closed my eyes and tried to think. I had a decision to make about where I was going to apply to graduate school and I was confused. I knew I wanted to get a one-year degree in business. I knew I wanted to use that to go into advertising or marketing, but I didn’t know where to go. There are lots of great schools with great programs, I thought to myself, how am I going to pick one?
After some time, I looked up and noticed a family walking down Lumpkin street. The mom and dad were each holding a hand of a little girl between them. Her curly hair bounced in high pigtails as she squealed with excitement cantering down the street. She was wearing a bright red shirt that said “GO DAWGS!” and I discerned that they must be walking to watch the football team scrimmage that afternoon. It wasn’t until that moment that something occurred to me about Georgia. So much of how special it was to me was the tradition behind the school. My mother went to Georgia and I, like that little girl, had been going to UGA events with my parents since the time I was young.
But the familial traditions are something a lot of students at UGA understand. Anyone who has been lucky enough to call Athens, Georgia home for even a small amount of time knows how special of a place it is. Traditions are part of what makes Athens the Classic City. Moving into Brumby, ringing the victory bell, walking under the arch, spending Saturdays between the hedges, and sitting on the field during graduation are pieces of the tradition that students look forward to partaking in. As the oldest public university in the country, Georgia is a school rooted in long-standing rites of passage, and because of this Athens is much more than just another city with just another school.
It occurred to me that I loved Georgia for not only the education I received as an undergrad, but also for the community I was a part of there. When I began to think about applying for one-year master’s programs in business, it was important to me to find a place that felt as comfortable as Athens did. I wanted somewhere were the student body was connected by something greater than the classroom, so I started doing a lot of research about the schools that I was thinking about applying to. After many campus visits, talking to alumni of the business programs, and reading up on student’s perspectives who were in the program, it became abundantly clear to me that UVA offered the type of intangible community spirit and top-level academics that I was looking for.
I knew UVA was the place for me from the moment I walked the Grounds, saw the Poe room, and circled the perimeter of the Rotunda. Once school started, I knew I had made the right decision. Inside the classroom, I’ve been challenged to think about the world in new ways and from unexpected points of view. In addition to the intriguing subjects taught by incredibly intelligent professors, the program is full of bright and interesting classmates. We learned together in small class settings, we worked together in small groups, and explored the then unknown world of business together for months that flew by as fast as days.
In contrast to undergrad, the magical thing about grad school classmates is that we’ve reached a point where we all have similar goals. It’s an amazing feeling because I know that these people will be on a similar path as me for a very long time. It’s great to know that when we go out into the business world and start taking steps in our own careers that there will be 120 McIntire Hoos out there who are rooting for each other. It’s a sense of community that people will understand from their time at Georgia. The sense of tradition and importance of respect is paramount at UVA like it was at UGA. For me, there really was no other option for graduate school because although there were similar programs at other schools, none could parallel the sense of community the way that UVA and McIntire have. I am just as proud to call myself a lifelong Hoo today as I am to say I’m a lifelong Dawg!