I drove into Charlottesville at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and my whole body relaxed. It was good to be back.
I started getting squirrely for Darden with about three weeks left in my summer internship. I’d had a great experience, but I was ready to get my student life back. I wanted to see my friends, hear Southern accents and even attend class.
Most of all I wanted to be back in the Darden environment, that unique combination of electric buzz, ideas and optimism.
God, I missed this place.
And here’s something I only uttered twice in the last year: I love my b-school experience much, much more than undergrad.
Normally that wouldn’t be a sacrilege thing to say, but I went to undergrad at UNC, a large state school with a great basketball team and a population that kind of believes the joke that God is a Carolina fan because the sky, honey, is Carolina blue.
People love Carolina. Love it.
I liked it OK. I had highs and lows, but my best experiences in undergrad were always away from Chapel Hill. So I didn’t have high expectations for b-school, especially at yet another large state school (albeit one with ugly school colors).
So Darden surprised me by making me fall in love with it. And since I’m feeling sentimental and a little drunk on Charlottesville, here’s a list of 10 reasons why I love Darden:
10. Everyone’s so nice. Everyone — from the woman checking you out at Café 67 to your Ops professor to the CDC staff. Everyone here is friendly and it just makes my day better.
9. Everyone’s so smart … and then some. There are a lot of bright people in the world but the bright-and-not-cocky are harder to find. Darden is full of that breed. It makes the conversation better when you can take a lot of the ego out of it.
8. We share. If someone has a contact at a company you’re interested in, has an idea for how to improve your business plan or can teach you a new concept you didn’t get in class, they’ll do it. And they’ll be happy to help. And you’ll be happy to return the favor.
7. We’re not afraid to be silly. I pictured b-school being full of stuffed Oxford shirts and serious faces. Not so here. We’re not afraid to laugh, perform in stupid skits, sing ridiculous songs or dress up in funny costumes. No one takes themselves too seriously.
6. There’s always something going on. I was skeptical about attending b-school in a small town. Why not spend two years in New York or Chicago instead where there’s so much more going on? But the Darden social scene is constantly spinning and every weekend and most weeknights there are more options than I could possibly get to. I’m never bored.
5. It’s a beautiful place. White columns, brick buildings, green lawns, sunlight streaming through tall windows. Every time I walk through the Darden campus, I’m struck by how gorgeous it is and that I get to spend two years here thinking and learning in such a pretty place.
4. It pushes me. Very few things in the Darden classroom come easy. As a result, I work hard and get a lot out of every class. I almost never leave a class feeling it was a waste of my time. More often than not, I leave with a whole new perspective or idea to ponder.
3. It’s full of ideas and optimism. It’s intoxicating to be in a place where everything seems possible and a lot of smart people are coming up with ways to make it happen. I’m an optimism/ideas junkie.
2. It doesn’t care that I don’t have a business background. In fact, a lot of my classmates don’t, and Darden is getting more and more nontraditional students every year. That diversity of background creates a stimulating environment and a chance to see the world from many different perspectives.
1. Most of us care about more than making money. Sure, we all like money and we’ll need a lot of it to pay off our student loans. But most folks here have plans to do something bigger than just make Benjamins. They want to make the world a better place too.