UVA Open House

At last, a post related to my Francophile life! I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, but I’ve applied to seven PhD programs in French. So far, Cornell, UMich, and LSU have accepted me; UConn has accepted me but only for their MA; Penn State has taken the silent approach after their interview; Columbia interviewed and then rejected me; and UVA is up in the air. Hence why I spent two days at their Graduate Open House.

At the end of January, UVA informed me that I was part of a small group of applicants invited to visit the campus. No pressure at all there. So Wednesday evening, I excitedly took a train from DC to Richmond (while bemoaning Amtrak’s lack of punctuality and missing SNCF), and then drove to Charlottesville Thursday morning.

After expertly getting lost, I managed to find New Cabell Hall and check in to a lunch with faculty, current grad students, and the six other prospective students. Curiously enough, only two of us didn’t have MAs (yes, including me), and some of the older applicants were married, had children, or were born in the 80s, all of which were bizarre concepts for lowly 23-year-old me.

After a long stretch of free time during which I explored the surprisingly small campus, I had a meeting with one of my former French professor’s advisors, and was called her academic granddaughter. The meeting went way overtime so I showed up to another one horribly late (oops), and then we sat in on a graduate course. Although the discussion-style class was different than anything I’d ever had at R-MC (where I awkwardly tried not to be the only one talking senior year) and I had no idea what was going on because I’d never read the Corneille text, it made me realize how much I miss academia.


The last event of the day was dinner with current and prospective students, and at the restaurant, the grad students spilled everything—all positive things, though, which bodes well. I’m very jealous of how close-knit the community was in comparison to my undergrad, and then all other coherent thought ceased because it was my 9:30pm bedtime. (City Year changes you.)

On Friday, we attended a presentation on teaching French in the department, and then we had lunch at the Maison Française with grad students and more professors. This time, they fed us Créole and Haïtian food and I nearly wept with joy. Also, apparently I’m famous for being my French prof’s student? The benefits of nepotism, I guess.

After food utopia, we observed an undergrad class taught by a grad student, and I watched in a mixture of amazement and horror as the TA led a perfect class—my eyes reached “I’ll have to do that one day?” size. A tour of libraries and the Rotunda wrapped up our time at UVA, and I love that I got to see and learn about so much of the department. Cordiality! A community and culture! French books! Not a single con that I can think of (aside from Richard Spencer, I guess).


Anyways, I’ll have to see what I think of Cornell and UMich when I visit them. If I like all three of the schools, well, I suppose I’ll have to lie down and cry about the life-changing decision that will affect the rest of my future. Or go the Hermione route and illegally appropriate a Time Turner so that I can attend more than one school.

You know you’ve been in France too long when…

  • You buy an almond croissant at the farmers market, get a weird look from the guy because you pronounce “croissant” the proper French way, and then almost weep tears of joy at the first bite because the croissant tastes like it actually came from France
  • Someone walks past and says, “See? This is why we need to live in France…” and you instantly whip around and whisper, “Hit me up”
  • At Lidl, you decide that the mini 29-cent pains au chocolat look legit, so you grab two of them for breakfast. The next day, still wary of being disappointed, you take a bite and then proceed to cry over how buttery and flaky they are
  • You start making strangled noises because you’re stuck at a conference and there’s a Paul taunting you across the street. I just wanted a French pastry, dammit. And then your group made things worse by saying that the Paul looked too bougie and went straight to Starbucks instead. Um, excuse you? Starbucks will never be superior.
  • Some of your teammates and you stumble upon a Christmas Market in DC, and though it delights you to no end, the white tents look wrong. Where are the little red or brown wooden cabins that you find in Europe?
  • The Silver Spring library sign says that they offer bilingual French and English story time, but you realize with great sadness that you won’t pass for a 2-5 year old. Maybe you should take your friend’s advice and borrow a child…
  • One day, the clouds are strangely formed to look like a mountain, and you realize that you actually miss tiny Laon
  • The morning commute to work takes you past several murals on the sides of buildings, and you feel a sudden intense nostalgia for Lyon and its fresques
  • Someone at the metro says, “Are you going to L’Efant?” and you want to scream at them and tell them it’s L’ENFANT. THERE’S AN N IN THERE.
  • Your teammates mock you (lovingly) for being a snob who refuses to eat Costco croissants
  • Your team notices that almost all the art at iHop is strawberry-themed, but you realize that one piece of artwork is blue, white, and red, just like the French flag
  • Someone at Target is speaking French on the phone, and you have to remind yourself that it’s socially unacceptable to follow them no matter how much you miss French

Things Kids Say, Pt. VI

Despite having once been a child myself, I will honestly never understand why kids say half the things they do:

  • Student: “When did you dye your hair black?”
    • Me: “I never dyed it black! What do you think my natural hair color was?”
    • Her: “Dark brown, like that strip right there.”
    • Me: *tries desperately not to laugh because she’s talking about my bleached strip*
  • Me, teaching: “Does anyone know what an antonym is?”
    • Student: “Stop using these white words!”
    • Me: “Do I look white?”
  • It was a student’s birthday, and I heard he was going to Chuck-E-Cheese’s, so I asked him, “Who do you want to go?” He replied, “You!” and I told him I wish I could but had to get my eyes checked because City Years sadly aren’t allowed to interact with our students at non-school-sponsored events. His response? A gasp, followed by, “You have to get surgery?!?”
  • Me: “Can you give me a synonym for ‘scary’?”
    • Student: “White!”
    • Me: …oh.
  • P, after drawing a smiley face on my hand: “It has glasses because you have glasses!”8B1B27C2-3FB0-467D-8B1F-4108BF77C2C2
  • Student, after giving me her indecipherable drawing: “It’s a pregnant plum in a blanket!”
  • Zohar: “K, you’re beautiful.”
    • K: “I know.”
  • Zohar: “A, do you like girls or boys better?”
    • A: “Neither! I want to be a bird because they’re beautiful. And I want to eat a worm.”
  • A student who’s convinced I’m wearing a wig: “Don’t touch me, Wiggy.” During the past week, she has continued to refer to me as Wiggy and her favorite phrase is now, “Let’s go, Wiggy.” When I told her to pull on my hair to prove that it’s not a wig, she declared, “You sewed it onto your head.”
  • I told one of my favorite students he’s a nerd because he asked if he could do his homework instead of doing something fun in afterschool, and he went, “I’m not a nerd! I don’t have glasses! And my pants aren’t rolled up!” (He is a nerd though. He likes getting homework.)


  • A, after placing a piece of broken lollipop on my hand: “Will you marry me?”
    • She’s so weird. We watched Hidden Figures in afterschool for Fun Friday, and during a romantic dance scene, and she turned to me and exclaimed “Ms. Sarena, only City Years can watch this. Kids can’t watch it. I know what’s going to happen next. They’re going to go to a hotel—” and then I immediately shushed her because why does she know this???

She’s also gifted Zohar and me with artwork—including a devil rainbow—and seashells:


  • Several of my students, instead of giving me high fives with their hands, use their heads instead…?
  • Not a direct quote, but my one of students won the K-2 spelling bee and went on to compete in the 3-5 spelling bee, and then she came in 4th place. So proud of my little 2nd grader!