There and Back Again: A Freshman’s Tale

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After coming home from college, it often feels as if the whole year was a wondrous dream of quaint colonial vignettes and the never ceasing turning of pages assigned by the most knowledgeable of professors, quirky enough for any mad tea party. This past year certainly stole away faster than any I have known so far (all of those adults who said that your college years would go by in an instant were right!). Between moving-in and moving-out, I was constantly pacing out rounds on the stumble-inducing bricks of the W&M campus, chatting and laughing with remarkable and dear new friends, reading and writing until my I thought I would go blind, and loving every moment. The first year of college has been one of the greatest challenges I have faced, but it has also been the most exciting and enriching year of my whole 19 and a half on this earth.

How can I begin to summarize a whole year? Well, I know it would be absurd to pretend that I could. Anyhow, I will try to simplify things a tad. Here we go…

A Few Favorite Memories

Yes, I am that person who saves all of the playbills, programs, and ticket stubs.

Yes, I am that person who saves all of the playbills, programs, and ticket stubs.

  • Friday Night Movies: Starting just after Halloween, a group of us ladies from the Joint Degree Program decided to meet up every Friday night to get dinner and watch the historic and literary dramas we all love. These movie nights quickly became the highlight of my week and sometimes movie watching turned into taking a nighttime stroll through Colonial Williamsburg or ice-skating in Merchants’ Square; it was truly the best of times!
  • W&M Heritage Dancers: A few of us from the movie night crew decided that watching the elegant ballroom scenes from films like Pride and Prejudice wasn’t enough, we needed to learn to dance. Fortunately, we were on just about the only campus in the country that has an English country dancing society, so we joined. Trotting around in a bare little room in the student center while the hip hop music from the dance group next-door pounded away at the walls may have been a far cry from the candle-lit gatherings we swooned over in the movies, but we still loved it.
  • Shakespeare Road Trip: A friend and I decided to join the W&M Shakespeare club on a field trip to see The Winter’s Tale at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. It was mid-autumn and the slithering roads through the mountains carried us past a kaleidoscope of vibrant leaves. The trip would have been worth it for the drive itself, but the town of Staunton and the play did not disappoint either. My friend swore off coffee for two weeks after she drank two cups of coffee at a darling cafe and then had a bowl of coffee gelato. I loved the show, even if it was the oddest Shakespeare play I have ever seen. Following Shakespeare most unusual stage direction, one character exited “pursued by a bear.” Said bear received the more applause than the whole of the cast put together.
  • CCM Summit: In February, I went to the Catholic Campus Ministries Summit in Richmond. The entire weekend was spectacular and it was a beautiful experience and sharing of our faith and meeting new friends.
  • Virginia Orchestra Concert: During the first couple of weeks of classes, a couple of hallmates and I took advantage of a free concert from the Virginia Symphony Orchestra at W&M’s own Matoka Amphitheater. The atmosphere of the late summer evening by the lake was magical, and the music was equally enchanting. The program featured the best piece from the group’s season, including everything from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to a Looney Tunes medley.
  • Lunch With President Reveley: The Joint Degree Program students were given a chance to have lunch with President Reveley in his charming (and haunted?) house on campus. It was a lovely afternoon and a great chance to spend some time with our beloved president!
  • 20160123_173350Battling the Weather: My friends and I continually joke that we love getting caught in the rain because it prompts to imagine that we are trudging toward Netherfield like Jane Bennet or fleeing Thornfield Hall like Jane Eyre. Either way, precipitation adds a special drama to everything. Two experiences of the forces of the weather gods stand out. In February, a friend and I wanted to see Suffragette at the movie theater in Colonial Williamsburg. The day before we were going to see it, the campus was hit by a terrible snowstorm. Undaunted, we set out to the theater the next day in spite of the 6 inches of snow on every path. When we met outside the theater, we realized that it was closed! It was worth a good laugh, so we went to the used bookstore instead and got free hot chocolate from The Blue Talon Bistro (when it starts snowing they give free cocoa to the first 50 people who come in!).  The second ordeal was when I got caught in a thunderstorm one night during finals week. The pathways were completely flooded as I walked toward my dorm with some friends who lived nearby and it took a week for my clothes and shoes to dry out!13096206_851503961641854_998977297293116083_n
  • Blowout: The last day of class at W&M is marked by an extra festive atmosphere on campus. Since it was a Friday night, we convened the Friday movie night association to get dinner, wander Williamsburg, walk across the legendary Crim Dell Bridge arm-in-arm, and take lots of goofy photos in the colorful windows of the Muscarelle Art Museum.
  • Free Sample Rounds: And finally, every college kid’s dream: free samples. Any perfect walk down DoG Street must include stops at the candy stores and peanut shop to get free samples. The holy grail of the sample hunt is the Peanut Shoppe’s chocolate covered espresso beans!

The Coolest, Best, or Weirdest Things I Learned in Each Class

  • British Literature II: Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” actually has a logical interpretation! This astounded me. The poem is not merely the product of opiate dreams, it actually proposes that the poet is more powerful and fearful than the title king because he can build whole worlds with the decree of his imagination. There are still some passages that don’t make much sense, but this was an eye-opening piece of literary analysis. The substitute professor we had for this lecture actually taught part of the poem by doodling scenes on the board, an unconventional method which I truly appreciated.
  • Self and Other (Scottish History and Philosophy): Everything we think we know about life in the Scottish Highlands is probably wrong because Sir Walter Scott romanticized the highlands and tainted our vision of them for all time.
  • Latin 101: The Latin word for tear is “lacrima,” which is the root for lachrymose, meaning sorrowful, which Lemony Snicket appropriated as the name for a rather grim lake in A Series of Unfortunate Events (lots of authors take fanciful names from obscure Latin roots). Both are beautiful words, even if they are sad!
  • The Study of Language: After spending many afternoons flipping through Quizlet sets on places of articulation, I learned how we articulate all of our vowels and consonants. It sounds like it would not be that interesting, but it is thrilling to understand just what it is your tongue and teeth have to do to force out the sound of a “w”.
  • American Renaissance (literature): After my professor had graded our papers on the use of images of gardens and machines in 19th century American literature, and had gotten terribly frustrated with all of us for calling nature a garden as if it was cultivated, he told us that if we took one thing away from the class it should be this: nature is not a garden. So, there you go.
  • Art History Survey: After Michelangelo insulted one of his classmate’s sketches his classmate broke his nose in a fight. He also drew some great cartoons of himself crushed up against the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.
  • Love, Adultery, and Prostitution in Russian Literature: I love Russian Literature, it is so Russian, in every way. We learned so many strange things, but I guess one highlight was that every author we read—except for Count Leo Tolstoy—spent some time exiled from the country.
  • French From Word to Text: When one of my classmates asked our professor how she could say that a film had a “happy ending,” she explained that the French would just use the English phrase “happy ending” because the concept of a film or book ending happily is thoroughly foreign to them.
  • Scottish Contemporary Culture: Edinburgh is a beautiful city so long as you don’t get involved in the drug trade or try to steal money from a dead drug dealer.
  • History and Religion of Ancient Israel: There was a group of wanderers in the 13th century BCE who ravaged the Mediterranean region who were given the epic name of the “Sea Peoples.”

All in all, a better year could hardly be wished for. With one behind me, I look forward to the next three, knowing that, God willing, they will be equally memorable.

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