August 27, 2013 by Bailey Thomson
In two days, I am flying from Johannesburg, South Africa to Washington D.C. to celebrate my best friend Allison’s wedding in northern Virginia. This is the story of our “soul friendship” and the way that William & Mary inevitably introduces its students to the people they need the most.
Allison and I met in Morton Hall in our Comparative Politics class in spring 2008. Truthfully, we never really met. Allison approached me one afternoon, introduced herself, and revealed that she had orchestrated an interview for me to join her as a teaching fellow for a fall 2009 civic engagement seminar for Sharpe Scholars. (If this isn’t the definition of a nerdy beginning to a William & Mary friendship, I don’t know what is!) A few weeks later, I met with Professor Schwartz, was accepted for the position, and the adventure began. Allison and I were promptly joined at the hip inside and outside the classroom.
Allison has a penchant for intellectual conversation, surprises and relentless compassion. During our time together at the College, Allison and I found ourselves on sand dunes in North Carolina, exploring Rome over spring break, surrounded by friends at surprise birthday parties, celebrating holidays together with our families and eating way too many cupcakes. We talked without end about civic engagement, political theory, existentialism, feeling lonely and finding love. We were nurtured by many of the same professors and challenged each other academically. We were surrounded by friends who taught us to be better friends and family who taught us to love, to have patience and to persist.
After I graduated from the College and Allison finished her year as a Americorps Vista, we both moved to California. I began Teach For America in San Jose as an elementary school teacher, and Allison began her PhD at Stanford. For two years, we were pieces of home to each other though we lived 3,000 miles from our families and our beloved college. I had the pleasure of watching Allison’s relationship with her now-fiance Andy flourish. Andy moved to California to join Allison and proposed last year.
When you meet a soul friend, you know it. I moved to Johannesburg 13 months ago, and Allison is still one of a handful of people who know me best, with whom distance doesn’t matter. And while to William & Mary readers, this might seem normal, know that it’s not. William & Mary is a place where the relationships you cultivate last. As Convocation for the Class of 2017 happens this week, my hope is that these same important and lasting relationships have already begun during Move-in and Orientation. I am grateful that my alma mater is a place where great people meet and build a foundation for a lifetime of friendship.
Go Tribe (and congratulations, Allison!),