Moving South for Graduate School

The transition from the north to the “south” has been quite interesting. I know Charlottesville is not technically the south, but it felt a bit that way coming from Michigan. Being raised in Michigan, there are certain experiences that are typical of the great lake state, like spending my summers on a lake, or in a cornfield for a ultimate frisbee tournament. I went to Michigan State University for my undergrad and absolutely loved it. There are very few things that compare to being a Spartan. Between game days, the Izzone, Red Cedar river, Pinball Pete’s, and the MSU’s love of trees, there was never a boring moment. Fun fact: You can get a misdemeanor for hammocking on campus because the entire campus is an arboretum.

Red Cedar River during the fall.
Red Cedar River during the fall.

There are very few things that compare to Spartan game days. I was fortunate enough to attend when both our football and basketball teams were good. During football season, the campus is flooded with generations of Spartans, who are all very excited. Like, VERY excited. Not only for the game but also to interact with the current students. The Midwestern stereotype of being friendly with your neighbors is very accurate. It is expected that on your walk to Spartan Stadium, a few older Spartans will stop you and ask about your time at MSU, and share a one or two wild stories from their time. UVA football game days aren’t quite the same. I am attending my first basketball game next week, so we will see if the student section can match the Izzone.

Spartan stadium with my roommates.
Spartan stadium with my MSU roommates.

The whole concept of “forever bleeding green” was something I thought would be a temporary feeling during college, but I have carried that feeling with me to Virginia. I was nervous moving ten hours away from home, but it was also exhilarating. Change is always something that I have looked forward to. I don’t exactly understand why, but placing myself in a entirely new environment and being able to meet novel people is electrifying. The M.S. in Commerce program at the University of Virginia was the perfect fit for me. It was such a unique combination of courses, it would help me learn to apply my undergraduate studies to any business problem.business

First UVA game day.
First UVA game day.

McIntire prides itself on the diversity of thought and utilizes it to push students to have a holistic view when preparing a business solution. This mentality was typical of upper-level major courses at MSU, but beyond that, I wasn’t constantly being nudged to further my thoughts about course material past the surface level. MSU is a massive school with a 50,000 student population. Quite dissimilar to UVA, which only has 24,000 students (and only 116 in our program!). So it was easy at MSU to get lost in the mix if you wanted, which many students did. At McIntire, it wasn’t that easy. The professors take a genuine interest in who you are as a student, but also outside of the classroom. It was uncanny not having to attend office hours regularly in order to build a relationship with a professor. This still applies to UVA, but can be seen through assignments. McIntire professors have a unique insight that not many other professors I’ve come across have.

The M.S. in Commerce Secret Santa party.
The M.S. in Commerce Secret Santa party.

The M.S. in Commerce student body is a tight-knit group. You spend so much time in McIntire during the first semester that it is easy to make friends. I was lucky enough to find people who liked food, breweries, and Settlers of Catan as much as I do, which is quite the feat. Since most of my close friends within the program aren’t from Virginia either, we have explored much of what Charlottesville has to offer. I have also been able to push myself outside of my comfort zone and build friendships with people I have few things in common with.

At a winery in Charlottesville.
At a winery in Charlottesville with fellow MSC students.

My grad life experience has been a bit different from my non-UVA  peers. One of the best decisions I made at MSU was to join the ultimate frisbee team, the Infamous InfaMoose. I made wonderful friends, had the opportunity to travel, and met numerous people from around the country. The ultimate community is small in comparison to other sports and is unlike any sports community I have ever experienced before. I knew coming to UVA I wanted to play. The women’s team at UVA, Hydra, has been a dominate force in the Atlantic Coast region for years.

Teammates turned roommates.
Teammates turned roommates.

As rewarding and brilliant my grad program has been thus far, my experience at UVA would be drastically different if I didn’t have Hydra. There aren’t words to describe how much Hydra means to me. Moose made MSU  incredible, but I still have yet to figure out how only being on Hydra a few months has made such a strong impact on me. There is something so extraordinary about being on Hydra. It gives you this sense of pride, belonging, and love that is so distinct to this specific team. Between time spent practicing on Carr’s field, the long car rides for weekend tournaments, and the intoxicating intensity during a close game against Pittsburgh or UNC, my teammates have become a crucial factor in making UVA feel like home.

Queen City Tune-Up Tournament
Queen City Tune-Up Tournament

I never thought I would love UVA as much as I have. Moose and MSU provided an unbelievable undergrad experience. However, my teammates, both on Hydra and in the M.S. in Commerce program, have helped me create timeless memories, both on and off field, that have given MSU a run for its money.

-Written by Brandi Skanes, M.S. in Commerce 2017

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