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Saturday, September 26, 2020

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The Senior Farewell Project: Part One

<p><em>Photo Courtesy of Bilal Hindi. </em>Graphic designs by Nina Joss</p>

Photo Courtesy of Bilal Hindi. Graphic designs by Nina Joss

You have probably seen Bilal Hindi somewhere on campus, whether he's riding around on his penny board, working a shift as a barista at 8:15 Cafe at Boatwright or hanging out with friends on the University of Richmond Forum, one of his favorite places on campus. 

"I didn't really get to visit [UR] or anything," Hindi said about visiting campus before he became a student. "I just came out of the blue." 

Hindi, who is from Lebanon, had not heard of UR until a friend from his boarding school in Wales told Hindi to apply, as his friend believed UR would be a good match. 

Hindi's first time seeing campus was on move-in day his first year. He was amazed at how beautiful the campus was and how friendly his peers were, he said.

During his four years at UR, Hindi held three jobs, was involved in several clubs, served as an international orientation adviser, did neuroscience research and, on top of that, still found time to hang out with friends.

Within a month of arriving at UR, Hindi secured his first job on campus at 8:15 Cafe at Boatwright, where he worked all four years, he said.

Hindi laughed as he recounted his first day on the job. It was a Wednesday opening shift and as he tried to figure out the register, the line to order coffee grew until it was outside the library doors, he said.

“I felt so bad, but I mean that’s the only way to learn — to be thrown into things, you know?” Hindi said.

Hindi also worked as an international student assistant at the Office of Undergraduate Admission and an Arabic tutor at the Academic Skills Center, he said.

In addition, Hindi said he participated in the rock climbing club, where he climbed at Peak Experiences at the Midlothian and Richmond locations, as well as different spots around the city of Richmond such as the Manchester Climbing Wall in the James River Park.

Hindi said he had been most passionate about participating in the UR Camp Kesem chapter, a camp for children affected by a parent's cancer. Hindi volunteered at the camp during the summers before his sophomore and junior years and helped fundraise at events such as Make the Magic, Camp Kesem's annual fundraiser, during the school year. 

“It was just an eye-opening experience honestly,” Hindi said. “It gives you a whole other perspective on how privileged we are. ... It definitely was an experience that I cherished during my time here at Richmond.”

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Despite all the time he dedicated to extracurricular activities, Hindi made time to explore Richmond, his favorite U.S. city, he said.

“I absolutely love Richmond," Hindi said. "So get out, go to the VMFA happy hour, go to Churchill, go to First Fridays. They’re all really fun events that I’ve done since freshman year, and I think they made my experience ten times better.”

Hindi said his favorite place in the city of Richmond was Strawberry Street, where he frequented Italian takeout restaurant 8 ½ and the ice cream shop Scoop right next door. He recommended enjoying this delicious food at Scuffletown Park, which is right down the road.

Although Hindi has loved his time at UR, he also felt a need for change on campus, especially when it came to UR's divided social life, he said.

“I was friends with a very diverse group of people, and it was a little bit upsetting to me that there wasn’t one social scene that put them all together,” Hindi said.

This semester, Hindi was a member of the Dean's Student Council for International Education, which was organized by Martha Merritt, dean of international education. The committee consisted of a diverse group of international and domestic students who discussed the social division on campus and what could be done to change it.

After spring break, Hindi wanted to meet with the campus deans to consider different solutions to the social disconnect between Greek Life and non-Greek life students, something he is hopeful can still happen despite not being able to meet in person, he said. 

Although Hindi's senior year was cut short, he is thankful for his time at UR and for the friends he has made in his four years, he said. 

Hindi advised fellow students to take initiative to start conversations with people they didn't know.

“I think we have an exceptional group of people on campus from different backgrounds, different social groups, different opinions," Hindi said. "If you just sit there and wait for people to come talk to you ... it’s not going to always happen, so get to know as many people as you can because it just makes the experience a little better.”

This is the first installment of a four-part series to be published about graduating seniors.

Contact news writer Maeve McCormick at maeve.mccormick@richmond.edu.

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