Thursday, May 22, 2008

Graduation Recap

There haven’t been any posts in over a week, not because there was a lack of things to blog about, but rather because I was in fact out of town, more precisely: back in Charlottesville for Graduation. I flew out last Wednesday, waking up way too early so that I could catch the bus into town, and then take the airport bus back to the airport, which is actually located quite close to the apartment, but which has no way of getting there on foot (taxis are quite expensive). The flight itself, via Zurich, was uneventful, and arriving in Washington I saw my parents in the immigration line (they had arrived on a different plane from Frankfurt). We rented the biggest car we could in anticipation of the load of luggage we’d have on the way back, and drove down to Charlottesville.

Thursday, I stopped by the lab and went to group lunch with my labmates, exchanging stories about what we had been doing the past two months. After dinner, Kristen and I went to the weekly tango practica that we had been attending regularly in Charlottesville. I hadn’t done any dancing so far in Florence, so this was a good opportunity to get back in the game. Unfortunately, I think I’ve forgotten all the moves we learned in Buenos Aires. Then Friday evening we had a little party at our apartment in Charlottesville. It was good to see many of the people that had made my time in Charlottesville so enjoyable. Thanks everyone for coming out!

Most importantly, though, Sunday was Graduation. In previous years, I had done everything I could to get out of town on Graduation weekend, but this time it was the whole reason for being here. I walked with Kristen to the Lawn before the ceremony and then made my way to the meeting place for the Graduate School, where I found a few other physicists already hanging around. Unfortunately, it soon started raining some, though luckily we were waiting underneath the covered area in front of the lawn rooms. At 10, the procession began and we made our way through the light drizzle down the Lawn. After getting to our seats near the front, we had to wait some more for the thousands of undergraduates to make their way down from the Rotunda. The speeches that followed were okay, I guess. The graduation speaker was Hunter Rawlings, a classicist and former president of Cornell, who did have a lot of classical references in his speech and complained about Wikipedia. That’s pretty much what I remember of his speech. UVa does not pay the speakers or give out honorary degrees, so you won’t see too many celebrities at Graduation. Afterwards, I made my way to the Physics building, where the diploma ceremony had been moved to due to the weather. Here I got my diploma and was hooded by my former advisor. Now I can fly! In the evening, we went out to dinner with my parents and Kristen’s parents to Mono Loco, which was one of the few restaurants that did not have only an overpriced fancy graduation menu.

The rest of the time in Charlottesville was mostly spent packing. Even though I had already taken three suitcases of stuff back with me in March, I still had a lot of books, CDs, kitchen equipment and other things in the apartment, of which I wanted to take as much as possible with me. Luckily, my parents had used their frequent flyer miles to get business class seats, so they had a higher baggage allowance, but still we had to buy an extra suitcase and send two packages of books. You can imagine that the rental car was filled up quite high with all that luggage. In the end, it all fit, and Tuesday we got it all checked in and flew back. This time, I did take a taxi back from the airport, which was around 11 Euros for a 3 minute ride, since there are extra fees for leaving from the airport and for every piece of luggage that you bring.

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