New VCU: the thoughts of new and older students as the new semester begins

If you notice an increase in young people and sidewalk traffic you can probably take away that today is the first day of the new VCU semester. We talked to both new and existing students about what they thought about their school, their city, and their worries.

With the new semester beginning today, we thought we’d ask a few new and existing VCU students what their thoughts are about being a Ram, living in Richmond, and what their concerns are at the beginning of this, the new academic year.

Shannon Linford, a freshman, had this to say about her new city:

I’m a little intimidated by Richmond. It’s such a truly crazy city in a league all its own. I’ve lived in Chicago, Minneapolis, Baltimore, and the DC suburbs but I’ve never seen anything like Richmond. You go from old, decrepit row homes, to these brand new developments, to rusty old train tracks to Carytown. My mom and I spent a day just driving around and we kept laughing at the dramatic shifts.

Hieu Tran, a Senior, says:

I feel proud and privileged as a student and a resident of Richmond. I don’t have a sense of identity within an overarching VCU community, but then again, I’ve tried to create a healthy existence outside student life. There’s a lot more to be had here than being a VCU student. Not everyone feels obligated to explore this, but even those that socialize in VCU-exclusive spheres testify to a lack of identity. The University has definitely tried to establish school spirit and tradition, but it’s not as appealing and rich to me as other sources of pride.

Contrast this with Kiara M. McGowan-Powell, a Junior, who has a resounding pride for the VCU community.

I feel really proud to be a VCU student. VCU has such a good reputation for its programs here and it feels good when I tell someone that I go here and they have a small smile of respect on their face. I also feel proud to be apart of such a diverse community of VCU as well. It’s not just a school of one group or another, its a school of many.

Andrew Murray, a Sophomore, and who is a transfer student, is about to begin his first semester:

Being the largest public university in Virginia, placed in the biggest and most important city in the Commonwealth, this school is different than most in terms of culture, history, sheer size, but also in heart, diversity, and progression. I am incessantly excited to join the VCU community at the point in time of it’s history where so much is changing for the better that there is no telling what will happen next.

As with any change in one’s life, there are anxieties, and new students are in no way exempt from this, as Jennifer Reynolds told us:

My biggest concerns are struggling in class, not making friends, not being able to afford anything. My concerns about being in Richmond would have to be, finding places to hang out, possibly getting lost, and the recent occurrence with the lady on Clay street has definitely made me more…aware. In today’s economy it’s definitely scary thinking about “after college” and if you’re going to get a job or not but for right now I’m just going to focus on school and doing my best to prepare myself for the outside world and hope that things get better and that I become successful.

Freshman Shannon Linford, also has concerns:

My concerns are about adapting to this huge change. I had a very defined niche in high school and it’s going to be rough to transition. Not only that, but I’m painfully sheltered and there’s so much I have yet to experience. My biggest fears are about doing my laundry unsupervised and managing my classes. I’m going to take it really easy this first semester with 13 credits but I know I’ll be freaking out. AP teachers in high school always say that they are teaching a college class but I sincerely doubt that my college professors will want ridiculous dioramas and art projects.

Last season’s success of the VCU men’s basketball team seems to have had a largely positive effect on the student populous. Here’s Kiara M. McGowan-Powell:

It didn’t change how I felt about the school, but I definitely felt that we as a school got closer together because of it and we’re finally being put on the map in the sports world.

Andrew Miller echoes this point about what the basketball team’s success did:

I saw the student body being united in spirit over a great athletic achievement, and rally around the fact that the “little guys” can do big things too. It was amazing seeing a Virginia university (an extremely under-rated one at that!), beat all the odds and rise to the top and appear in national headlines. But I also witness a darker and more immature side of Richmond when they lost, and “rioted” on Broad street. The city and school both are complex entities that can accomplish big things when they want, whether it be for good or bad.

Hieu Tran, however, has a slightly different outlook:

Some people have their fingers crossed that it gives our diplomas some gravity. I dream of our educations speaking loudest here. I just worry that the tournament is going to come up during an interview and all I’ll have to say is that it was a good excuse to party.

It seems that, concerns aside, most students are excited for this new phase in their lives, as, Jennifer Reynolds summarizes quite enthusiastically.

I feel VERY proud to be a RAM. When you go to VCU you can feel the closeness, it’s almost like you’re coming in on a huge family. I cannot wait to meet fellow VCU students and go to all the basketball games and really become a true RAM!!


photo by Fire At Will [Photography]

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