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.


9 thoughts on “UVA Open House

    • Sarena says:

      Thanks, I actually found out that they accepted me today, so it’s going to be a really tough choice now! I’m curious, what were your favorite classes while you were there?

      • Anne Donnelly says:

        I wasn’t a french major, but took a fair amount of classes. My favorites were a history of Paris class with Janet Horne and a lit class on “Le double”: twins and doppelgängers in french literature and films with John Lyons (love him!!!)

    • Sarena says:

      Hi! So after weeks of deep, agonizing introspection, I ultimately went with Cornell for a number of personal reasons. I think UVA’s program is incredible, and as much as I would have a loved a more traditional French program, a part of me realized I would be happiest at Cornell despite the cold. Please don’t my choice influence yours, the grad school decision should be unique for everyone! I’m happy to talk more in detail via email, if you’d like.

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