In a land not so far away, in the center and heart of Virginia is a city so beautiful and history rich that it can make anyone fall in love during any of the seasons. Charlottesville, Va was a college town I called home, on and off, for 2 years a half. In 2010, I moved back to the United States from Palestine after being away for 12 years and not visiting once. It was a huge change. A life changing change as some might say. It was life altering and the culture shock was immense. However, I had the privilege that not many people were granted, and that was I was on a full scholarship to one of the nations best schools, The University of Virginia and all that was asked of me was to keep a certain GPA, to enjoy college, and make the university a better, more well rounded place with my story and intellect. On August 17th, 2010, my journey at UVa began, starting with international orientation and moving into the all girls international dorm.
My first semester was difficult both socially and academically. I remember my first college party and I was so anxious that I had my friends walk me home at midnight. I felt out-of-place and like I didn’t belong at UVa. I wanted to go home back to my small hometown and back to my group of friends that knew me; I wanted to go back to my old life. In reality I knew that was impossible given that my parents worked their whole lives to get my sister and I into great schools so we can hopefully get the jobs we wanted one day. My sister, 2 years earlier, faced the same problems and difficulties at Duke University in Durham, NC when she was a first year there. If we didn’t decided to remain at each of our schools, our only option was to return to Palestine and enroll in university there, which to my parents would have been a huge disappointment. They had invested too much money into our education, sending us to the best private schools, and into us for my sister and I to go to a third-rate university and get third-rate jobs once we graduated. So it was basically impossible to even consider leaving UVa after my parents and I had worked really hard for me to get in.
The one positive thing that was going well for me at UVa first semester was that I had the opportunity to meet incredibly intelligent, intellectually stimulating, friendly people, who I have the honor of calling my good friends today. On move in day for the rest of the first years who were not international, I was helping my first year roommate, Maya, move in. while I waited for her and her parents to unpack I called my parents to check up on them and spoke to them in Arabic, when the best thing that had ever happened in my life happened. An older man, my next doors’ neighbor’s father, came up to me and asked where I was from. We got talking and he introduced me to his daughter, Reema Azar. We hit it off from the start. We spent the day together exploring UVa and it was set in stone from that day that we would be good friends. Now for those who know me, you know that Reema has been my lifeline at UVa. She has literally saved my life twice and has been my support my system from day one. Other gifts of people UVa has given me are Vedika, my first year best friend, and Rana, my first year RA. I remember walking home from psych 101 first year and having a conversation with Vedika about how the world works and we both came to appreciate that less than 2 months from that day we hadn’t known each other, yet now we are each others closest friends. We got on to talk about how we all came from different parts of the world ( her from India and me from Palestine) and yet we got along so well and how we had never imagined to meet people from such countries ever in our lives.
However with the good must come the bad, and towards my first semester at UVa I fell into a sever depressive episode that lasted way until mid summer of the following year. When spring came around, I rushed and joined a sorority, and found home at UVa. After my first withdrawal that semester from the university I went home back to Palestine for the summer. It was when I went home that I began to appreciate UVa and all that it has given me in the past year. I was a different person. I was growing up and maturing and despite the depression, I was a much happier person. I returned to UVa that fall for my second year, or second semester of my first year technically, and roomed with a lovely Jewish girl name Liz. I barely made it through the semester but I completed it regardless. That semester I met the guy I was later to fall in love with and that began. In the spring of 2012, I returned to UVa and I had fallen into another depressive episode. I encountered one of the many racist encounters at UVa where someone tried to pull off my headscarf in a bar. The university did nothing to help me. I attempted to take my life, or actually you can say I was screaming for help, by over dosing then I called Reema to come help me. My dean rushed to my side at the ER to make sure it wasn’t related to the event of racism I had encountered. This is where my relationship with UVa began to go down hill. They were more concerned about my suicide attempt “getting out” rather than how I was doing. UVa has an image it likes to keep and I appreciate that but it made me feel used and unappreciated as a human. I later took the semester off to fully recover. However I visited UVa once a month and got to see all my friends and sisters when I was in town.
That spring, my bipolar was also diagnosed and I began to seek treatment. I went home to Palestine that summer and returned to UVa that coming fall. What I did not know was that stress caused my mood swings to fluctuate. I was in a full-blown hypomanic episode for weeks and no one knew, even I didn’t know at the time. I got myself into trouble academically and socially. I didn’t go to classes and I partied all week-long. I got involved in activities that were morally questionable and dangerous, but when you are in a hypomanic state, everything seems like a good idea. I wish I would have known that before hand. By the end of the semester I had lost my scholarship at UVa and was headed towards another withdraw from the university. I feel back into a depressive episode and contemplated ending my life. This time the university told me to take time off for a longer time and reevaluate what I wanted out of 1- my life 2- out of college and let them know when I was ready to come back.
After taking 7 months off from school and UVa, I decided I was ready to return this past summer. My scholarship was being appealed and it was most likely going to be given back to me given that I completed my summer classes successfully. Once I got UVa, I fell back into old habits. I began to miss doses of my medication, mixing things with my medications, and just had healthy relationships. By early July, I was done. I couldn’t finish the SLI program I was in and I was ready to withdraw and take other classes in summer session III. My scholarship was approved and returned to me on the basis that I complete 9 credits over the summer. However, once I dropped the SLI program, I lost my scholarship once again. I stayed in Charlottesville until the end of July, not taking my medication, wasting time, and involving myself in self-destructive behavior. It was a really bad decision to go back in the summer but I did it anyway. It was my entire fault and I had no one else to blame.
Once I came home from UVa this summer, I feel into another depressive episode. My parents didn’t want me to waste anymore time so they had me enroll as a visiting student at university here in Greensboro. Last week, I spoke to my dean and she informed me that I could appeal to get my credits transferred to UVa despite having a low GPA and not many credits. So I appealed. Now, I said many times before that I was done with UVa and never going back but I always had the option of returning. Well, my appeal didn’t go through and I don’t have the opportunity to return again to the university I have called home. The doors to UVa are finally shut for good.
The doors to the Lawn and Academical Village are shut, the doors to being in a secret society and reading my fourth year testimonial during rush are shut, the doors to walking the lawn and having the honor to say “I have worn the honor of honors, I have graduated from Virginia” are shut. This makes me terribly sad and nostalgic for better days. It also makes me feel guilty. I was given a once in a lifetime opportunity and I blew it, but I need to accept that im never going to graduate from UVa and complete my undergrad degree from there. It is time to put UVa and all the sweet memories behind me and move forward. UVa gave me so much. It made me who I am today; it made me a better person, a better scholar, a better citizen of the world. UVa made me better. So to all my friends and readers, who are still at this great University, cherish the time you have and don’t let this opportunity pass you by. You where hand-picked to be at this school, so appreciate yourself and appreciate Mr. Jefferson’s University.
Once a wahoo always a wahoo at heart. Here is to you Dear Old UVa.