Oh the places you’ll go!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!” –Theodor Seuss Geisel

One day, near the end of your time at UCSD, you’ll be walking through a eucalyptus grove or sitting on the cliffs wondering what life has in store for you.  I found myself there on those rocks, knowing that I wasn’t the first or the last that would use them for that purpose. After spending years studying philosophy I was confronted with yet another question – “What is next?”

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The brutalist spaceship-looking masterpiece that is Geisel library,

The answer came for me in the form of the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) program at the University of Virginia (UVA). It was an opportunity to take something I was passionate about, philosophy, and find new applications for the knowledge it had granted me. The program was rigorous, taught me valuable business skills, and introduced me to many lifelong friends. I enjoyed my time in Charlottesville and at UVA.

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That’s me in the middle!

There are similarities between UVA and UCSD but being fair they do exist in different ecosystems, with different traditions and attitudes. This represented a great chance to experience an environment, an atmosphere, a complete culture really, that while far different from what I was used to, welcomed me with open arms.

Coast to Coast

If you were to look at a map of the country you would find that Virginia is on the other side of the United States, bordering an ocean that goes east instead of west. Even with that though, there is plenty to find in Virginia that will make you feel at home.

The first and quite possibly the most important thing to any San Diegan is of course beer. Beer might as well flow through the rivers in San Diego out to the Pacific. It is the lifeblood of our city. And you’ll be happy to know that the area around Charlottesville has a robust craft beer culture, with breweries like Devil’s Backbone, Blue Mountain, and Starr Hill that would delight anyone who frequents Stone or Ballast Point.

Weekend jaunt to Blue Mountain brewery.
Weekend jaunt to Blue Mountain brewery.

But there is more to life than beer. The culinary scene in Charlottesville is top notch. The variety of restaurants on the downtown mall ranges from Mexican to Vietnamese to Italian. And with blocks after blocks of different options, the adventurous food lover will not be wanting.

Another significant similarity is the quality of the institutions. UCSD prides itself on being a cutting edge university, with the best professors and students from around the world. I am proud to say that UVA is more of the same here. I gained expertise in fields such as finance, marketing, and business technology I use to this day. Taking classes at McIntire exposed me to the brightest from around the world, and gave me direct access to professors who are leaders in their fields. The faculty was not only ever available, but also deeply invested in the success of the students. Pair this with beautifully kept facilities for graduate students and you get a really enriching educational experience.

The McIntire School of Commerce
The McIntire School of Commerce

While there were many similarities, there were just as many differences. The differences were good, as they were opportunities to experience things such as rich university tradition and culture, the beautiful wooded lands of Central Virginia which came complete with SEASONS, and opportunity to travel to new places.

That being said there will definitely be things that you will miss from San Diego, so let’s get the negatives out of the way first:

Coronado in December.
Coronado in December.
Can you hear those angels singing or is that just me?
Can you hear those angels singing or is that just me?

You will miss these. You will dream of burritos and crashing waves. There’s no way around it. There are benefits to sacrificing burritos and the ocean however. You trade the West Coast Chill for true Southern Hospitality and a number of new sights and sounds.

Jefferson’s Legacy

UCSD was founded in 1960. UVA was founded in 1819. That’s a difference of over 140 years, not to mention that UVA was founded by Thomas Jefferson, president and founding father of the United States. Those years have added so much history and tradition that lives on not just around campus but in the greater Charlottesville area. The campus itself is preserved from the time of Jefferson, as is his estate of Monticello not far away. It is different type of majestic than the untamed ocean, but the rotunda in fall is a sight to behold.

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These traditions extend beyond nice buildings. There are a number of school traditions, like singing fight songs at sports games, seeing signs of activity from secret societies, and attending events like the Lighting of the Lawn. There is frankly so much that it is quite a feat to try to attend everything in the one year length of the MSC program!

Monticello in the fall.
Monticello in the fall.

San Diego is renowned for, and proud of, having the best weather in the country all year round. It is endless summer and sun except for the few days of the year it rains. Though I do love this, it is impossible to deny the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in fall, when entire hillsides light up with orange and red as though they are on fire. It is awesome in the purest definition of the word – jaw dropping. And the abundance of hiking and outdoor activities makes it easy to enjoy.

Globe Trotting

Charlottesville is a two hour drive from Washington D.C. and Norfolk, and even closer to Richmond. It is also within a day’s drive to New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Charlotte, Baltimore, and Raleigh. Being in a new place meant seeing new things, and the prospects of being able to go to all of these major cities, let alone the number of national parks in the same driving distance, was epic in proportion and proved to really be challenging from a scheduling point of view (balancing all of these with the numerous events on campus any given weekend).

Meeting with business leaders, economists, and government officials.
Meeting with business leaders, economists, and government officials.


In addition to local travel, the MSC program has a unique travel component called the Global Immersion Experience (GIE). GIE is a multi-week component at the end of the program for students to learn about global business in-person around the world. I was on the Latin America track, traveling to Panama, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, while other classmates went to Asia and Europe. This was a defining moment in my time at UVA and what I was able to learn, as well as the memories I made, are going to endure a lifetime. Did I mention that I found a restaurant that had California burritos in Buenos Aires?

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Sunset over the Pacific signals the end of a day and the impending new one. It’s a phenomenon that Tritons witness every day, often times taking for granted while shuffling between classes and libraries. When the sun set on my time in La Jolla, it rose in Charlottesville. The single most important thing the MSC program armed me with was perspective. New educational perspectives leveraging my undergraduate degree, new perspectives on a university with its own history and tradition, and new perspectives on different cultures, not just within the US but across the world. If there is one thing I’d tell you it’s that your mountain is waiting. So, get on your way.

Regardless of what continent that mountain is on.
Regardless of what continent that mountain is on.
Wait… But then what?

During the MSC program I was able to land a job before graduation thanks to the herculean effort and support of Commerce Career Services. If it weren’t for them I would not be where I am today. I got a job in consulting at a technology company right outside of D.C., where I lived for a few years… until I made the move back to California. What can I say, too many dreams of burritos! I’m ecstatic to be back but I don’t think my life or point of view would be complete now without the time I spent in the heart of Virginia.

-Written by Angad Walia, M.S. in Commerce 2013

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