Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Four Years Flew By...

As my career as an undergraduate has come to a close, I wanted to reflect on some of the coolest stuff I've gotten into during the past four years...

May 2016: Got my motorcycle license

April 2016: Successfully defended my DMP undergraduate thesis!

March 2016: Costa Rica road trip with Rebecca, Elyse, and Jessica
  • Slid down a waterfall
  • Climbed the inside of a giant strangler fig
  • Climbed to the top of a giant horizontal strangler fig
  • Rode on the back of a local's motorcycle at midnight to go up a mountain to sit and look out at the Pacific Ocean and talk about life
  • Get a flat tire in a random town and be given a huge bag of mangoes for using Tico slang

January 2016: New York and Quebec
  • New Years Eve on a Manhattan rooftop
  • Laid on my stomach in the snow and shot a gun (and hit the target!) in upstate NY
  • Flew in a plane piloted by my friend Dylan
  • Road tripped to Montreal and Quebec City with Dylan
December 2015: Survived first semester of Batten Accelerated MPP

October 2015: Fall break in NYC- fire escape roof climbing, Brighton Beaching, bridge walking

August 2015: got called "Shakira" multiple times while in the waterfront souks of Dubai

July 2015: Northern Caucasus
  • Hitchhiked from Kazbegi through North Ossetia, Ingushetia, and Chechnya
  • Had the most interesting day of my life in Vladikavkaz...
  • Highlights of Grozny: became friends with guys who were catcalling me, got proposed to 1.5 times, met Ramzan Kadyrov's English translator (maybe) and got offered a job to teach at his language school
  • Had a picnic in the drop-dead-gorgeous Ossetian mountains with a former world champion freestyle wrestler and his friends
  • Got interrogated by FSB on the border leaving Russia and had a heart to heart

June-August 2015:
  • Interned at the Parliament of Georgia, Committee on Foreign Relations
  • Met super cool people, including parliamentarians, the de jure presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and many friends I still keep in touch with!
  • Visited the border of South Ossetia (goal of this summer is to get inside!)
  • Rode a horse bareback around the mountains in Kazbegi
March 2015: Peru!
  • Hiked the Inca Trail 4 days to Machu Picchu
  • Learned about the indigenous Quechua culture of the Andes and made innumerable toasts to pacha mamma
  • Almost died on the 24 hour challenge
  • Met so many cool Peruvians and learned some local slang
  • Touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time
  • Ate guinea pig

December 2014: Celebrated my father and Tina's wedding

July/August 2014: Two weeks in Italy...


April 2014: Two weeks in Georgia (a somewhat spontaneous trip that has probably literally changed my life)

January-August 2014: Studied abroad on a Boren scholarship in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Played on a Russian baseball team!
  • Survived a Russian winter
  • Interned with Deti Peterburga- an NGO that works to help integrate children of migrants into Russian society
  •  Staying out all night during White Nights, and especially Alye Parusa!
  • Trips to Moscow, Tula, Vyborg, and Gatchina
  • Recording an entire audio guide to Venice (for actual money!!!)
  • Experiencing the truth of economic crises when I lost $300 to the sudden inflation of the ruble in August 2014

August 2013: Road tripping from St. Petersburg to Estonia with Roman

July 2013: Won an international essay contest and spent 2 weeks in Azerbaijan, all expense paid, luxury accommodations, carted around the city in roasting metal boxes (charter buses with no AC), and met some amazing people who I still stay in touch with 3 years later!

January 2013: Ringing in the New Year in St. Petersburg!
[Best plan ever: Christmas in the US on Dec. 25th, fly to Russian Dec 27th, New Years (celebrated very similarly to how Americans celebrate Christmas, so it's basically Christmas part 2!), Orthodox Christmas Jan 7th, Old New Year Jan home Jan 15th or 16th when everyone finally gets back to work!]

There are so many things I can't put dates to...Thursday morning coffee with Elyse and Jess, wine nights at Becca's or Delphine's, Rev Soup Fridays first year, struggling through Farsi class but being semi-accepted into UVA's Persian community, four beautiful Lighting of the Lawns, first year Newcomb brunches, countless late nights in Alderman library walking home in freezing weather, Fig Thursday night happy hours, hiking around Shenandoah, falling in love with Russian and the former USSR, learning to cook feed myself, learning to budget and plan spending, and so much more...

I met the most amazing people, made memories I'll never forget, built lasting friendships, and I grew up. I hope I can continue to be the person I've grown into over the last four years- full of curiosity, constantly seeking adventure, open to new perspectives and ideas, and I hope I can improve- be more punctual, be quieter, push myself harder, make smarter choices.

Even though I have one more year at UVA, my 5th year will be very different, and I thought it was important to mark the closing (even if only semi-closing) of a chapter...thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of my journey. Every person I've met has left a mark on my heart.

In the end, all I can say is:
"If you live a long, long time, and hold honesty of conscience
above honesty of purse;
And turn aside without ostentation to aid the weak;
And treasure ideals more than raw ambition;
And track no man to his undeserved hurt;
And pursue no woman to her tears;
And love the beauty of noble music and mist-veiled mountains
and blossoming valley and great monuments-
If you live a long time and, keeping the faith in all these things
hours by hour, still see that the sun gilds your path with real
gold and that the moon floats in dream silver;
Remembering the purple shadows of the lawn, the majesty of
the colonnades, and the dream of your youth, you may say
in your reverence and thankfulness:
“I have worn the honors of Honors.
I graduated from Virginia." "

Thank you, University of Virginia.


  1. Very well said Sam


      also damn, 2015 was a hella good year