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UVa class of 2026 celebrates return to Grounds, classes and friends

Members of the University of Virginia’s class of 2026 who turned out for a little fun in the sun over the weekend all said they had one shared goal for this academic year: getting more involved.

A welcome-back party was held for second-year students on Saturday at Lambeth Field. Students braved the heat in temperatures that hovered at 90 degrees, racing their friends down bounce house obstacles, listening to music and playing lawn games on the grass.

“I was excited to start the year, meet new people, catch up with old friends, so I came out,” Daniel Dapaah told The Daily Progress.

Dapaah said he learned about the Welcome Back Bash through an email and his roommate.

He said it was a great head start for one of his goals this academic year: socializing more.

“First year, I was a little nervous,” Dapaah said. “I didn’t really know what to expect and I was new, so [I’m] definitely joining more clubs, being out there, being more social.”

Alina Alfaro agreed that coming back to campus this year has been a bit more difficult as she and her classmates are growing up, taking on more responsibilities and getting ever closer to life off Grounds.

“I don’t have a full meal plan, so I have to cook, so you have to make time for that,” Alfaro said. “It’s like another transition to adulthood.”

Despite the difficulty of change, Alfaro said she hopes to get more involved with clubs on Grounds to make her second year better than her last.

“I hope to join another club,” Alfaro said. “I’m in a salsa club right now. I hope to branch out into different areas and push myself out of my comfort zone and also meet new people, make new friends.”

Julia Lynn said she hopes to do the same. She also said she wants to spend more time on Grounds.

“I went home a lot on the weekends, so I want to stay here more and go to more football games,” Lynn said.

There were two things all college students seem to love that gave second-years an incentive to come out over the weekend.

“I was just excited for the free merch and food,” Lynn said.

Upon arrival, second-year students filled their “emergency kit” string bags and UVa canvas totes with shirts, pens, stickers and a “2026” fan to battle the heat.

Students also received a voucher for free food. Vendors included Sombrero’s, Got Dumplings and It’s Poppin Time Kettle Korn.

“I think all these activities are really special for them to be able to come in and to bond with each other and make new friends and to have a good time right before they have to knuckle down and get those studies going,” Phil Tatton, owner of It’s Poppin’ Time, said.


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