Welcome to Virginia

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No – I haven’t fallen off the face of the planets, I was merely getting settled at the Mormon Hogwarts. They really don’t like us to call it that, but I find it very humorous, considering the age of the buildings and how low the fog hangs in the morning. It is very Hogwarts-esque. But anyway. 

After months of anticipation, nervousness and preparation, I am proud to say that I am finally a Southern Virginia University Knight! And it’s been really fun so far, I love almost everything about SVU and Virginia in general. The area of Virginia the school is located is absolutely gorgeous, the view is wonderful. Although the school itself is set a the top of a hill (Matthew 5:14-16 anyone?), over looking the [small] town of Buena Vista. The main buildings were built in the late 1800s to the early 1900s and personify the term southern charm. As do the people!! 

For such a small school – I overheard a few of the faculty talking about enrollment, we have about 750 enrolled students here at SVU – we have a quite a bit of diversity. There are a lot of Utah folk here, several Californians, as well as a mash of the rest of the continental US (I have not heard anyone say that they’re from Alaska or Hawaii, so this will stand until I find those people…). There are a lot of Returned Missionaries – you can tell who they are instantly – and some students from various countries or have lived overseas. All the professors I have had or have met, as well as the rest of the staff and faculty here, are stellar. They are so open and welcoming, getting to know students on an individual basis. You don’t get that at BYU (we also have a lot of BYU jokes here). 

One person I really admire is President Smith. He’s such an awesome person. The school held a pep rally for incoming students, and in walks Pres. Smith wearing bright green converse. Let me note that President Smith is… a man with a lot of life experience behind him. If the converse weren’t enough, he joined in teaching the new students the school anthem and cheer, jumping up and down as he clapped loudly. Seriously impressive. 

At the Institute get-to-know-you deal (none of us really knew what to call it, quite honestly), a missionary couple greeted all students as they walked into the ward building. We grabbed a dry-erase sign, wrote our names out, and an Elder snapped a photo of us holding our signs. A little like a mug shot – which was a little unnerving, considering we were in a church, after all – but once the truth came out, it was all okay. The photos are going up on President Smith’s office wall. My orientation leaders promised that he’d know each of us individually, with all the details, by the end of our time as students here at SVU. I don’t even really know him, yet I have a ton of respect for him. 

It is hard to express exactly how much I am loving it here. I love the little details of it all – how people smile at one another even if you’re all headed to a 7 am biology class, the awkward conversation lead-in line of  “so… where are you from??”, the spirit of classes, our individual wards, and the fact that you learn how to have fun in the most random places. For example, the other day I looked out the window of my dorm to see two girls sitting on the edge of the hill to the Lofts… fishing. With fishing poles. I have no idea what they caught. Locusts? Weeds? Men? (you have to admit that was funny, guys). 

I also really love my roommates. We are all from such different backgrounds, different sides of the country and each of us have a different personality. But we all have a very similar sense of humor, which I find amazing. We clicked at once, and we don’t get on eachother’s nerves too awful much. It’s only a little scary when you get a suspicious text message telling you that you aren’t allowed to return to the dorm until they’re “finished.” Our first Saturday here in BV, the school held a stop-light dance. Essentially, you wear red if you’re taken, green if you’re single, and yellow if (in Facebook lingo) it’s “complicated.” I returned to my dorm to find that my closet had been raided, my desk turned into a salon and my clothes laid out on my chair. There was no stopping them. Absolutely no chance. It made for a humorous night full of makeup and exasperated looks (from each person) and lots of giggles. 

Each of us are quite the individuals. You’d think with such strong personalities, we’d often clash, but so far there hasn’t been much more than a some-what playful, “Will you hush up already (insert name here)? I’m trying to sleep!” We’ve heard other girls (and RAs, for that matter) comment on how well we were getting along, and we merely gave them strange looks. Of course we’d get along – we’re all horse people. No one cares if you walk in smelling like stable. Heck, they’ll ask you how your ride was. A quick biography on the girls of room 206: 

Kelly hails from Provo, Utah. Hence I make Utah jokes. She’s a bottle of energy, except for in the morning. Our trainer, Ariadne, told me that she is never short of enthusiasm. She wasn’t lying. She jokingly tried out for the cheer team – and made it. We giggle over the fact, poking fun at the uniform. But never make fun of the hair ribbon – it has her name on it. She’s just a generally sweet person with a real passion for life in general. And frozen peas. I respect that. As long as I don’t have to eat them. 

Kaylee is from Northern California. And by North, I mean Oregon. After doing a quick google of her hometown, I vowed never again to complain that my town has nothing in it. Hornbrook wins over East Hampton every time. It’s tiny. No complaints here. Kaylee’s a real sweetheart – if a talkative one! She’s the early-bird of our room, waking us up every morning. She’s also quite the little massage therapist, and we keep her all to ourselves!! 

Courtney is hilarious. I love her to death. I call her Tennessee. I shout it at her when I want her attention, and no one else is allowed to call her that. She’s got the best facial expressions, all you need to know what she’s thinking is that when her left eyebrow goes up, she think’s you’re insane. And she won’t be quiet about it either. She’s always cracking jokes, late into the night. Just wake her up nice – she’ll tell you exactly what she thinks of you at that moment if you don’t. 

 

During the few hours of free time during our orientation, the four of us decided we would go on a photography expedition around campus. We felt like dorks, walking around wide-eyed snapping pictures left and right. But who has seen this campus and not wanted to take a million photos of it? It’s absoutely gorgeous, nestled in the mountains, just on top of a hill overlooking the town of Buena Vista (especially in my dorm, The Lofts, Matthew 5:14-16 is quoted a lot… we overlook the entire campus). Just a note on the pronunciation of Buena Vista – fondly referred to as BV – it’s not what you’d think it is. Back in the Civil War, BV was extremely wary of any northerners. They devised a plan to weed out any northern spies, which is really quite ingenius. They officially changed the pronunciation of Buena Vista from what most people say (“Bwena Vistah”) to one that no one but southerners would know. It sounds a little like this: Buunaa Vistuh. Northerners trying to pass as southerners would say it the traditional way, and they would quickly be identified. I found that a cool little fact about our little BV. Anyhow, here’s a quick tour of campus. 

 

 

 

This is Main Hall. Originally, before it became a college, it was built as a hotel (which was an epic failure). It became a girls college known as Southern Seminary. Now it is our very own main hall! I love how it personifies southern charm. The inside is just as beautiful as the exterior, filled with antiques and sculptures and paintings. Main hall houses various offices, dormitories, the ballroom, IT and the nurse. I love main hall. I think everyone does.

 

This is Durham Hall. I have the majority of my classes here: Western Literature, College Composition, and General Biology. I love it. There’s one particular room that I love best – room 201. It’s a corner room, so 2 walls are covered in wide windows that we keep open throughout class. There is a huge chalk board up front, and the walls are painted an cool shade of aqua/turquoise. I have Western Lit in there, and we all shove ourselves around the main table, in the desks along the wall and into the corners. Before every class, Professor Rodriguez comes in and steals the podium before our lit professor, Professor Cluff, arrives. Every time, we laugh. Although it is a huge class of around 25 (that’s really big for SVU!), we have a lot of fun in there. 

 

This is where a bunch of us from Orientation Group 7 meet up before W. Lit and College Comp. It’s right outside the Student Center, which houses the dance studio, the mail center, the game room, and Jonezzy’s Cafe. We crowd around that little table and study or chat, waving at people we know as they pass by and generally just shoot the breeze until class starts. There is a little pond just before it, filled with lily pads and koi fish, complete with a little fountain. Desperate for some sort of creature to remain in our lives here at SVU, my roommates and I adopted one of the fish in the pond. He’s a black and white koi with orange eyelids. We named him Pongo. He’s kinda old, so he’s slow, and we can figure out which one is which. We sometimes sit there while waiting for class, watching all the little koi chase the big koi around. It’s very relaxing to just sit and chat. 

 

This is our ward building. We have 5 wards here at SVU (it includes the community, too, so no worries), two meeting in the morning at 9 am, and the rest meeting in the afternoon. My ward, the 4th ward meets bright and early, starting off with Sunday School and Relief Society before we head off to Sacrament meeting. Our Bishop – who also happens to be the philosophy professor – is hilarious and very down to earth, I really enjoyed listening to him speak. He and his counselors organize our Family Home Evenings and any other ward events. It is so weird to see a Bishop with counselors that are in their early 20s, it kind of makes me laugh when I compare it to my home ward. We have a good sized ward, considering that we also have the Virginia Military Institute in our ward, as well as a certain part of BV and Lexington. I kind of feel bad for those who aren’t students here at SVU – do they feel like aliens? Stuck with all of us young adults? Something to think about. 

The church is also home to our Institute classes. Oh, how I love Institute! It is my very favorite part of the day when I have it, and my very favorite part of the week. My Old Testament class is small, but I like that. We have around eight of us (eight and a half, counting the fact that one of the couples in the class is expecting, due date this month), all sitting on one side of the classroom. No matter how stressful my earlier classes were, Insitite makes it all better. I was a little apprehensive at first, attempting the Old Testament (after all, who could top my seminary teacher??) right off the bat when most of my classmates are heading for Book of Mormon or Mission Prep classes. But Brother Moss is such a good teacher. We have fun, but still learn a lot. He’s teaching us to ask more questions, to look deeper into things. I’m learning more and more. And yet we can still have jokes and have fun. We sing and laugh and poke fun at one another. It is a good sanctuary to have on my Mondays and Wednesdays. I got upset when I realized I didn’t have it on Friday too – I was sad for the rest of the afternoon. 

 

This is where I live! This is the Lofts. The building is only about 3 year old, and all of us joke that it’s like living in a hotel. We have our own bathrooms in our rooms, an individual heater/air conditioner and wireless internet. Each floor has a large lounge area and a study area. The main floor has a little lobby type deal where the guys can come and hang out, and we have some vending machines, a ping pong table and a microwave. The Lofts are really nice – except for when your internet is broken and your hot water is non-existant. But that’s fixed now, so all is well. 

 

This is the view from our dorm window. Luckily we have a view of campus rather than the view of the fake rock wall that the girls across the hall have (it’s essentailly rocks poured into a fence, it’s weird). I snapped this after a huge downpour (that I walked through! There was thunder! And lightening!) that we had. I have to admit, I love the smell of rain. It cleaned up all the dust that had collected around campus and made everything sparkle and smell nice again. Obviously, there is the chapel, but to the right is some housing. Beyond that is the Stoddard Activities Center (commonly referred to as the sack), where we have a few classrooms, the basketball court, the tennis courts and any activities put on by wards or schools. I have my German 101 class in there which was seriously confusing on the first day of class. What were we going to do? Play basketball while he yelled at us in German? Turns out Herr Pendleton is the basketball coach. Question answered. 

 

As you have probably picked up, the mascot of Southern Virginia University is the Knight. On the side of this guy’s pedestal, inscribed in a metal plaque are the verses from Ephesians 6:11-17. He and his charge stand watch just before main hall. Our orientation leader told us that he was created in California, and because he was so large, the artist had to drive cross-country with him in the back of the truck all the way to Buena Vista. It got me to thinking about how many states we have represented here at SVU, then how many countries. It’s pretty awesome to think that there is that amount of diversity on such a small, close-knit campus. I find it exciting. It creates new opportunities and experiences. Not to mention his declaration of putting on the armor of God is pretty awesome in and of itself. 

Also, it is way cooler to be a Knight than an Owl. Last week our men’s soccer team went up against the Warren Wilson College Owls. I was so excited to go to the game, I dragged my roommates along. As much as I love them, they really suck at being sports fans. But I was way excited to be watching the game, especially since the last soccer game I watched was during the World Cup on TV. After going a full half without a goal for either side, the Knights scored one against the Owls (hooo? Sorry, couldn’t resist?). Even though the audience was small (lame soccer haters!), it erupted in cheers as our men ran a quick victory lap before returning to business. I had such fun getting into the game (my roommates quickly abandoned me to go make spirit tee shirts, and were sweet enough to make me one even though I was totally preoccupied with the game) and cheering them on. And snapping pictures!! 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can probably tell, I had lots of fun taking photos (and downloading Picasa and playing with them a bit), but my favorites are the… well, I posted my favorites, so I really love them all. I love that on the whole – not just the athletic teams – SVU seems to be a giant team. Everyone is so friendly, and the school is so small that you get the feeling that you aren’t part of the masses, you’re an individual. You have more than a student ID number, you have a name, a face and a major. You have a family back home, friends here and there and you have goals and aspirations. 

And I think one of the best parts is that we can have fun together, I mean, one of our professors is in a band! They performed downtown last Saturday when BV businesses opened up their stores and gave the SVU students major discounts. And by major, I mean major. We bought high quality, locally grown fruit for 50 cents a pound! Ice cream was a dollar, water 50 cents, pizza a dollar and still more. It’s nice to be loved by the town. There was a battle of the bands on the green beside Franks for the Memories (awesome name), and a bunch of SVU students settled down to watch Prof. Dransfield do what ever it is that he does. I’m still trying to figure that out. 

 

***** 

All in all, I’m doing well. I am excited for this semester, am enjoying my classes and my new friends. I’m excited to be here, to be learning and soaking up as much as I can (and I will ace biology, if only because that stupid lab manual cost $135!). If you’re trying to get in touch with me, just harass me. Chances are I’m looking for a way to procrastinate (just kidding!).  I will surely write more soon, and reappear with more photos than ever. Hopefully of the stable I’m riding at and my new buddy, Bean! 

A few more pictures to leave you with:

 

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