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Tour Guides

Walking backwards with enthusiasm since 1693.

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The Tour Guide High

December 3, 2012 by

After giving tours all this summer in the hot and humidity of Williamsburg, I have learned all about what I now will dub “the tour guide high”. No matter your mood, no matter the weather (thunder with lightning or 100 percent humidity), it is inevitable that tours make you be happy. It’s great going to a tour in a bad mood, because after two minutes, it’s impossible to stay upset when screaming to a tour group about all the best things William & Mary has to offer. Whether it’s reminiscing about my favorite memory on the Sunken Garden (which was mud-sliding across it, TO THE CRIM DELL!), or orientation (and how you really do make your best friends in those five days), by the end of a tour you’re ALWAYS SMILING and TALKING A MILE A MINUTE.

It’s also great when people can tell that you have just done a tour. The other day, I met with a professor immediately after giving a campus tour. The second I walked in she called me out for being in “tour guide mode”. I still had a smile plastered to my face and was rambling on like a crazy person. My friends are also very in tune to the side effects of my tour guide high and tend to see me as overwhelming when I get home from walking backwards around campus.

So in case you haven’t had the pleasure of the tour guide high, I’ll try to describe it for you. Usually it lasts for about 30 minutes after the tour. Side effects include: smiling nonstop, talking ridiculously fast, being jittery, and having your heart racing.

Honestly, I love giving tours (and telling everyone how absolutely amazing our school is), but for me the tour guide high is just as wonderful as giving the tour itself.

Rebecca Avison
Class of 2013


November 30, 2012 by

A student from my high school started emailing me a few days ago asking me all kinds of questions about William & Mary. It got me thinking… my time here is almost halfway over. People aren’t kidding when they say that college goes by in the blink of an eye. Now I’m panicking asking myself if I’m I squeezing every last ounce out of my four years here as I can. Let’s call this my mid-college-life crisis, shall we? Looking back on my experiences during the past year and a half, though, I don’t think I would have changed anything. Some of the highlights include:

“Battling the Elements”
During the first few weeks of school I discovered the joy of having to walk to class in the rain. (Invest in rain jackets, people. You’ll thank me later.) More importantly, I discovered how important Wawa was to my personal well-being. One night during September of my freshman year, a group of my hall mates and I were running around our dorm causing all kind of mischief–and let me tell you, this is hard work–so we worked up an appetite. We had a team huddle and knew what we needed to do: Wawa run. We got our wallets and shoes and walked out the door. BAD IDEA. Retreat! Retreat! Williamsburg is at it again! Unfortunately, Williamsburg’s mother nature decides to surprise us with unpredictable weather patterns, and on that night there were flash flood warnings. Wawa was still a priority, though, so we geared up, boots and all, and set off in search of food. We trekked all the way across campus to the almighty Wawa just in time for it to stop raining upon our arrival. We still ate our sandwiches with pride, knowing that we combated the downpour, and saw many of our friends in the same situation. It was time to go back home…when it started raining again. Of course. But, alas, we had to get home. We took off, but because we were already soaked from our first trip, we decided to take a detour. We danced in the middle of the streets because there were no cars out, we went mud sliding in the Sunken Garden, and we made a makeshift raft and floated down the overflowing Crimdell. I don’t think my rain boots have ever recovered, but I think it’s a sacrifice well worth it.

“The Swem Crazies”
As William & Mary students, we do take our studies seriously. We’re here for an education, after all. During the spring semester of my freshman year, I had an exam on East Asian Art that I’d been stressing over for a while. Though I had been studying, the night before the exam came, and I realized I didn’t know the paintings quite to the extent I needed to…CRISIS. One of my good friends joined my in a study room in the library and we cracked down. I reached a point where I just wasn’t retaining information, so my friend showed me a youtube video of a dance called “The Wop” (feel free to look it up—hilarious). Being the terrible dancer I am, I decided to give it a try. A video of me doing the dance that night in the Swem study room is now available on youtube for your viewing pleasure.

“OA Bonding”
Freshman Orientation is a huge part of the experience here. You always get the question, “Oh, who was your OA?” (OA = Orientation Aide) and then the conversation flows from there. Orientation not only allows freshmen to get to know one another, it also allows us as OAs to get to know one another. Little do you know, OAs get to school over a week early in preparation for the incoming freshman class, bonding, chanting, making up weird dances, and eating. Let’s be realistic—the two things William & Mary students value the most: free t-shirts and food. Now all this sounds a little bit odd, but many of the people I met as an OA have become my close friends. One morning during orientation, OAs had to wake up at 6am in order to help freshmen register for classes, and once that was over, everyone got a two hour break to recharge. My fellow OAs and I went downstairs to the dorm lounge and just sat there having life discussions. We quickly realized how tired we were and fell asleep on one another. Someone was kind enough to take a picture of the four of us while we were asleep. It now hangs above my desk.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not always the ‘organized’ activities that make your time here. It’s the people you surround yourself with. You’ll only be in this environment for four short years, so take advantage of the uniqueness William & Mary provides. If you’re a prospective student reading this, know that you need to jump right in and get your feet wet rather than tiptoeing through college. Disregard your vulnerabilities and take William & Mary by storm! (No weather pun intended.)

Joe Foster
Class of 2015

Why I Give Tours

March 27, 2012 by

One of my favorite questions on tours is often asked in jest: “What made you wanna become a tour guide?” often followed with a sneer and, “besides the paycheck of course.” Well, brace yourselves: we don’t get paid. We volunteer. One of the cool things about William and Mary students is that we’re so passionate about our school that the demand to give tours exceeds the need for tour guides. We don’t need any kind of additional incentive to ramble on for an hour and a half about how much we love it here.

That’s a pretty basic answer to their question I suppose, but the answer is really so much more than that. My first thought always is of the day I received my acceptance email, immediately followed, of course, by screaming, jumping, seven telephone calls (each with more screaming) and one unconfirmed report of dancing. That was a year ago today. And the reason I give tours now is because I’m still excited to be here.

While I no longer break out into spontaneous screams of pure joy, these words haven’t lost their power on me: I go to The College of William and Mary. I go to the school of Thomas Jefferson, ‘the alma mater of a nation’. I go to the school of my personal hero, Jon Stewart. Every day I surround myself with the future leaders of our country, and find humility and inspiration to count myself among them. And better yet, in only a few months, I consider them some of my best friends.

I go to a school where early morning coffee runs involve running into early 18th century plantation owners and afternoons include free musical performances on the beautiful Sadler Terrace. My alma mater hosts John King to interview our new Chancellor, Robert Gates, and gives him a special invitation from one of our secret societies. My bad days end in five minutes, either the time it takes me to get to the Sunken Garden, or Matoaka Amphitheater, to just sit, relax, and appreciate the glory of our historic campus. And my good days start early in the morning, with a bike ride to Jamestown Beach or a workout at our recently renovated Rec Center.

I was trying to describe what made William and Mary special on a recent tour when twenty nearby students suddenly started pretending to be animals. I still can’t figure out why they did that, but I think it answered the question pretty well, and led to a good transition to the Crim Dell story.

So, why do I give tours? Because I go to a university unlike any other in the world. Because within a week of arriving on campus in the fall, I was confident I was at home. And because I can look back at just one year here, at the students on my tour, and know that right there, standing in their shoes, I made the best decision of my life. It’s pretty fun to relive that experience once a week.

To those students who just received their email, congratulations. Savor the moment; never forget it. You’ll think back on it a year from now, when a prospective student asks you why you decided to go to school here, or what makes this place special. You can hold onto that excitement — that feeling of endless opportunity — forever, and let it drive everything you do here. You’ll feel it, like I do, every time I tell someone where home is: at The College of William and Mary.

Alex Greenspan
Class of 2015

Spring, finally!

March 2, 2012 by

Finally, it’s the time of year where you no longer have to take the tour guide’s word that our students are active. No longer do we have to say, “I swear, when it’s nice there are always people relaxing on the terrace” or “When it’s warmer, you’ll find students throwing a Frisbee around on the Sunken Gardens”. Finally, you can see it for yourself. It’s 74 degrees in Williamsburg and spirits are high. Not even the intimidation of looming midterms is able to get W&M students down today. All over campus, students are leaving the classroom not to return to their dorms but instead relax on the Sunken Garden for a few hours. Others are getting to-go boxes from the Sadler Center and enjoying their meals on the Terrace. Even students with midterms tomorrow are headed to Lake Matoaka amphitheater for a quiet, peaceful place to study. There’s no denying it, Spring is coming and the students here could not be more excited about it because one thing W&M students do well, is enjoy the beautiful Williamsburg weather.

Danny Anderson
Class of 2014

Press Pass

February 3, 2012 by

Yesterday was an exciting day for William and Mary … more so than usual.  On the eve of Charter Day–the day we celebrate our receipt of the royal charter from King William and Queen Mary–William and Mary played host to CNN’s John King.  He interviewed our new Chancellor, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is an alumnus of the College and hosted his show, John King USA live from outside the President’s house, with our beloved Wren Building, the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States, in the background.  William and Mary students, faculty and staff packed the Wren lawn and showed their Tribe Pride. There was even a massive cut out of our new Chancellor appearing on television.

Earlier in the day, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Mr. King. I mean,  John (he refused to be interviewed unless I called him by his first name).  It was a wonderful opportunity for this aspiring journalist to not only interview a news maker (yes he’s a journalist but he made a lot of news on our campus) but to also get to know a man who has been at the forefront of political reporting, especially in this exciting 2012 election.  John King was very generous, giving me a 10 minute interview – that’s a lot of time in television – during the most stressful and busy part of his day.  He had just wrapped up his interview with Chancellor Gates – the first since leaving his cabinet position – and was in the process of prepping for his show.

So what is something King’s viewers don’t know about him and his John King USA staff?  They drink a lot of coffee and always make it a point to celebrate the end of a successful show every night.  The CNN chief national correspondent is also extremely down to earth and has a great sense of humor.  To hear his advice to young journalists, get his take on 2012 politics including his headline-making exchange with Republican Presidential Candidate and Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in a recent GOP Debate, and see what John King is really like behind the scenes (there were plenty of laughs) watch my interview.

Happy  Charter Day, William and Mary!  It has been 319 years of friendships stronger than the bricks on which we walk each day, challenging academics and endless opportunities to broaden our interests.  I am proud to call this campus and its community my second home.

Lauren Stephenson
Class of 2013

William and Mary: Helping Students to Overcome Their Fears Since 1693

October 3, 2011 by

When giving tours, I am always asked to explain why I came to the College (and if you’ve been on my tours, you’ll know I wait until the end of the tour to explain). I’ll spare you the hour and fifteen minute tour and explain in this blog: I enrolled at the College because I felt it was the right fit for me. I felt more at home at William and Mary than any of the other schools I visited. A major factor was the personal attention: 11:1 student to faculty ratio, traditions like opening convocation and the overall sense that I would be valued as an individual and not simply a number. I felt that I would find my niche at William and Mary.

The funny part is I didn’t find a niche per se. There’s not one group of us that simply hangs out. Students at William and Mary value diversity on many levels and the typical student will have friends in many groups. My closest friends are all so different from each other and when people meet some of them, they think it’s funny that we became friends since we are so different. But our differences help to make us grow as individuals.

For example, last Friday was Busch Gardens Day for William and Mary students. I’ve never been the type who likes going to amusement parks. And the thought of me going on a roller coaster would cause anyone I know to laugh. You see, I’m not a big risk taker and my friends and family would describe me as Type A. Therefore, going on a roller coaster and not having control of where I’m going, how fast the ride is going, etc. is not something people who know me would have anticipated. In fact, I did not anticipate going on a roller coaster. Instead I planned to sit out, take pictures of my friends and laugh at how crazy they were.

But I surprised not only my friends but also myself. I wanted to try something new and go outside of my comfort zone. Why? I was with friends who are A) not afraid of roller coasters and are very different from me because they are more laid back and willing to take risks, and B) supportive. They did not pressure me to go on the roller coaster but reassured me that I would not die. My friends sat on either side of me so I wouldn’t be on the edge, and they kept saying funny things that made me laugh as we climbed up to the top of the roller coaster for the initial 210-foot drop. Throughout the ride, they gave me a play-by-play of what was about to happen (I’m pretty sure I closed my eyes for 95% of the ride). When the ride was over, I was in shock. I went on a roller coaster, didn’t die and actually had a good time.

Will I ever go on a roller coaster again? We’ll see. I’m not itching to get back on one but sharing that experience with my wonderful friends was incredible and a memory I will have forever.

So what’s the moral of the story? At William and Mary you have the opportunity to grow as an individual through the plethora of opportunities presented to you. Sometimes you have to take the first step and decide you want to try something new. After that, you have a diverse community of peers to help you achieve your goal. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth. Thanks to Tera Morris and Elaine Bevington for helping me to let go and take a risk…and for also contributing to the loss of my voice from screaming the entire duration of the roller coaster ride.

Lauren Stephenson
Class of 2013

Merging our real families with our Tribe families

September 26, 2011 by

This past weekend was Family Weekend here at the College.  As a junior, I still look forward to my parents arriving, showing them my favorite spots on campus, and of course– being taken out to eat every meal for an entire weekend!

Family Weekend at William and Mary is special.  It is not just for freshmen, in fact it seems as though upper classmen appreciate seeing their families even more as they have rigorous course loads and anticipate relaxing family time.  The College offers tons of activities for families to participate in such as an a capella showcase, a walk through of President Reveley’s home, Greek open houses, philanthropic endeavors, sporting events, and the traditional home football game with alumni tailgates.  The weekend is not complete without a stroll down DoG Street, lunch at the Cheese Shop, and a trip to the Prime Outlets.

Three years into my college career, I have found that my favorite part of Family Weekend is the opportunity to meet the families of the people who have become my Tribe family.  From my roommate to my sorority sisters to my classmates, I love meeting the people who have helped to make them who they are today.  Casual run-ins or planned lunches, it is truly special to merge our real families with our Tribe families.  Family Weekend comes at a time when we have settled back into college life and it is always a good reminder of who we are, where we come from, and how we got to where we are today.

Caroline Kotila, Class of 2013

Life as a Freshman RA

September 19, 2011 by

Here at William and Mary you are permitted to become a RA (Resident Assistant) as early as your sophomore year. I took full advantage of that fact and am now the current Freshman RA for Jefferson 1st East.

My freshman RA was excellent at what she did but as a senior she had an extremely busy schedule. I figured that being a sophomore would make it easier for me to stay involved with my hall. Of course, that was before I realized the magnitude of the job. As a resident living on campus it is very easy to overlook how much an RA does to make sure you have a smooth transition to college. Sure the bulletin boards are cool and the programs seem like fun, but can it really be all that much work?

For starters, an RA is responsible for checking rooms for damages, sitting duty at least once a week, providing fun and interactive programming, promoting hall bonding, putting up educational bulletin boards, and generally just being around to be a resource. All that in addition to keeping up with the academics of W&M as well as a social life and campus activities such as clubs can be quite a challenge. So why would I want a job as hectic as that?

It’s simple: I am happiest when I am teaching and helping people. Although I am not on an education track here at the College, I love sharing my experiences and engaging new people. Not only that, but the RA job plays to my arts and crafts personality, especially since I have free run of the Programming Resource Center to create colorful and interactive boards every month. To me, showing a resident something small like the Swem Signal (a way of letting people know where you are studying in Swem Library) is just as fulfilling as helping to resolve a roommate conflict. I don’t deny the job can be stressful sometimes, especially when 3 natural disasters happen in the first week of classes, thank you Dismal Swamp fire, earthquake and Irene, but overall the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps it’s still too early in the semester to be saying that I love my job and want to do it every year, but it’s true. I really do love being a sophomore at the College as well as a freshman RA.

Bianca Hamp, Class of 2014

Welcome class of 2015! Now lets find that class of 2016…

September 13, 2011 by

Well the school year is back in full swing and the class of 2015 has found their home. Now that things have gotten slightly back to normal (and by normal I mean everyone is back to trying to squeeze 50 activities into one day and still have time for food and swem) admission has reopened their doors and begun the search for the class of 2016! High school seniors are venturing onto our beautiful campus to check out everything that William and Mary has to offer. Giving tours has to be one of the best jobs on campus. You not only have a completely captive audience who actually wants to hear all of the random fun facts you know about the school and who will laugh at your ridiculous jokes even when they’re not actually that funny, but you also have an excuse to walk all throughout campus for an hour and a half on a gorgeous day. One of my favorite things to do on tours is grab unsuspecting friends who are just trying to make it to class on time, and have them stop for a minute or two and tell the tour their favorite thing about W&M. I’m pretty sure my friends start mentally preparing themselves to speak whenever they see me approaching the terrace with a tour group, but even if they hate public speaking they always do an amazing job of coming up with coolest things to say. Our student body is so diverse and everyone seems to be involved in at least two or three different extracurriculars, that I’ve never heard the same answer twice and I always end up learning something new about different research programs or club teams that I didn’t even know existed. Basically, the student body here is amazing and I’m unsure as to how anyone could not choose William and Mary after spending a day here!

Brooke Hummel
Class of 2013

So. Many. Lines.

March 1, 2011 by

As a Theatre major at the college it often seems that life is an endless cycle. I am forced to audition, consistently memorize lines, perform and then do the whole process over again. While I do love the process I must admit that it is very stressful at times. I have noticed that each play I do at W&M tends to get more complicated and I get even more exhausted.

Yesterday, I did my final performance as Lucentio in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and never have I been more exhausted. While I have done several plays before, this play was quite different. First, it was Shakespeare. At first it was extremely exciting to do Shakespeare. I feel that all actors should do Shakespeare once in their life and I was excited to finally have the opportunity to do so. But my excitement quickly subsided when I looked at the script. I realized that I had a huge amount of lines and that they were all in that old Shakespearean English. The older form of English made it nearly impossible to memorize lines quickly. I found myself memorizing the lines but attempting to add modern words and prepositions to make it seem more natural. Obviously, when I started to add in modern language it was clearly obvious and I often had to go back and re-memorize lines. This process was extremely tedious but when I finally got all my lines it was extremely rewarding.

A second reason why this play was different from others was the fact that it was entirely student run. My performance of “Taming” was part of a group called “Shakespeare in the Dark” which is a student run Shakespeare Company on campus. The fact that it was student run often made it difficult for all involved. For example, because “Taming” was not an official William and Mary Production we could not use much of the theater spaces on campus. We often had to rehearse in empty classrooms. We did eventually perform in a theater but we were only allowed to have it for a very short amount of time. This consistent change in rehearsal space often made it difficult to perform and we really had no place to store our costumes and props.

The third reason that this process was different was because of our rehearsal time. Because my cast members frequently had other commitments early in the evening all of our rehearsals were from 9-midnight. The time often made it impossible for me to get all of my homework done. I am also a government major and it became extremely difficult to read 75 pages of political theory at 2AM. In the last couple weeks of the play I had started to go to Wawa and buy a 24 ounce coffees just so I could stay up and finish all my work. All of my classes start at 9am so I had begun to live off 4-5 hours of sleep.

While all of this may seem negative, I assure that I would go back and do the whole experience in a heart beat. I had an absolute blast getting to put on a play with the few resources we had. Because we were all together my cast really developed a great bond. I was able to make some incredible new friends as well as strengthen old relationships. Also, performing in “Taming” was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at W&M. I felt that even through all of the late hours, hot coffee, and line mistakes I had a great time and I was proud to show off what my cast and I had achieved.

Nathan Alston ’13