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Student Profiles

Jose Argueta

Jose Argueta

Year: 2012
Hometown: San Salvador, El Salvador
Major: History and Philosophy

What was your first impression upon arriving at U.Va.?

First impressions aren’t all they’re stacked up to be, I think. At first I thought U.Va. was an intimidating place. I visited the school halfway through my senior year and the first thing I saw of U.Va. was the Rotunda around 1 a.m. It was an awesome and awe-inspiring sight. Then, as an international student I had and added layer of cultural differences to navigate. Add to that the facts that (a) U.Va. is a fairly large place and (b) students work very hard and you have the recipe for a place that can be intimating. But once the dust of moving-in settled things began to become less cumbersome and far more manageable than I had ever expected.

What are some of your intellectual interests?

I am a double major in history and philosophy. I’m interested in many things, but if you really want to catch my attention then talk to me about something theoretical—I am very interested in historical theory, general ethics, political philosophy, etc. That being said, I’m also very interested in post-independence Latin American history, European intellectual history, and American legal history (I am considering writing a thesis on the latter for my Distinguished Majors’ thesis in history).

Describe one of your favorite learning moments while at U.Va.

One of the most interesting learning experiences I’ve had was the recreation of Charles I of England’s trial in a discussion section for my History of England to 1688 class. Most precisely, what I loved is with what ease everyone started to take the monarchist side and how hard it became to defend the idea of executing the king.

How would you describe the students who attend U.Va.?

I think it’s hard to create a single description that will encompass all students at U.Va. I came to U.Va. with the impression that everyone would be “preppy” but I have found that image to be largely untrue. There are several types of students at U.Va.—a type of personal diversity, if you will. Students do work hard around here, and they are contagiously passionate about whatever it is that they enjoy doing.

What is your favorite memory of U.Va.?

My favorite memory would be cooking a feast (if I may say so myself) for the Washington Society’s History Dinner in the spring of my second year. A friend of mine and I headed a team of about eight other members—all cooking a five-course meal for a group of about fifty people. The food turned out great, and the process of making it along with the company was a lot of fun!

What kind of independent projects or individualized learning have you partaken in at U.Va.?

The summer between my second and third years I traveled through Europe and wrote a collection of short stories exploring different aspects of interpersonal relationships in cities. The summer before that I carried out some research on mid-twentieth century Colombia under the supervision of my advisor.

Who is your favorite professor, and why?

I think the professor who has made the most impression on me has been Herbert Braun in the history department. He has a very engaging teaching style—even at 8 a.m. he has your undivided attention and has you thoroughly engaged in a class debate on Latin American history.

What strikes you about the classes at U.Va.?

What strikes me about the classes is the dedication that both students and faculty put into them. This is especially true in smaller classroom settings, where professors tackle students’ questions directly. On that note, I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite the school’s size, a fair amount of my classes are in a small-to-medium-sized setting. And even when the class is too large, professors are always willing to sit down with you in office hours or by personal appointments. Overall, then, what strikes me the most about the classes at U.Va. is the accessibility and level of care.

Are you involved in community service? How?

I am a Program Director for Migrant Aid, a program within Madison House. I've been working with this program fro two years now, and I've enjoyed it very much. My program serves communities of migrant workers by helping the children of migrant families with their academic work and the workers themselves with English language skills.

What are your favorite things to do in Charlottesville?

I really enjoy going to the downtown mall every now and then. Frankly, I like to restaurant-hop around town. Charlottesville has an amazing food scene and I really like exploring it.

Where are some of your friends at U.Va. originally from?

I have friends from across the United States (Utah, Virginia, California, Maryland, Massachusetts off the top of my head). I also have friends from across the world, including some from Canada, India, El Salvador, and Scotland.

When you're on Grounds, you can be found . . .

at the International Residential College.

 How would you describe the Jeffersonian spirit at U.Va.?

Jefferson is ubiquitous at U.Va. I think at one point I thought his presence was excessive, but now I think that the fact that he seems to pop up around every corner says a lot about him as a political and an intellectual figure. I took a class on him my second semester and I was simply amazed by the breadth of his inquisitiveness. I think U.Va. as a whole reflects that personal trait of Mr. Jefferson’s, and that is very cool.

What would you tell a high school junior or senior considering applying to U.Va.?

I would say, do it! U.Va. is an interesting place because it combines the size and demeanor of a state school with the personal attention that you could get at a smaller private school. If you’re afraid of coming to U.Va. because you think it would be too large, don’t be. It’s hard to get lost on grounds (literally and metaphorically), and when you do there’s always someone willing to point the way!

For you, what marks U.Va. as different from other institutions?

I think what makes U.Va. different is that it remains a good solid base on which to build a foundation for your personal life. Because of its size you will find very different people, which means you are exposed to different ideas and perspectives constantly. However, its structure allows it to focus on its students a lot more than would happen in a big school traditionally. The fact that you get the big school experience while avoiding becoming just another number in the system really sets U.Va. apart from the rest.

Where can you get the best food in Charlottesville?

Pigeon Hole, by Para Coffee, has the best brunch food. I don’t even like brunch and I still like this place a lot!