May 16, 2010 by Alisan VanFleet
I’m sure we can all agree that throughout our years together at this extraordinary place, our minds have rapidly expanded. We read, we write, we can spin any random thought into a brilliantly-worded thesis. That particular skill, impressive at may be, is, perhaps, the typical byproduct of many college experiences.
But, let us not forget people. This is the College. There is only one William & Mary. At this singular institution, over the course of the same busy years, incredibly, our hearts have managed to keep pace with our heads. We raced for a cure and escorted friends across the Sunken Garden. We sang for Haiti, golfed for Avalon, built houses, raked leaves, tutored, and brought countless smiles to this country’s and the world’s most depressed regions. We arrived caring, but inspired by each other, we learned to engage our hearts in action.
Unfortunately today, my very well-trained head and my very-well trained heart are not agreeing on much.
My head is blaring that today is a great day! I know this to be true because people keep congratulating me. And “congratulations” is a great-day sort of word. Later, I think I’ll get some presents. Also great. Thank you, Mom.
My heart, however, is appalled by my traitorous head; to paraphrase a friend, my heart feels that this whole circus is akin to a large-scale and inappropriately-toned exciting symposium… on our collective execution. Yeah, that’s… serious.
And right now, my heart is so sad to be parting with this place.
Because it is here at this College that I have met all of you. Passionate, kind, and loyal friends who made adventures out of everything; fellow students who managed to challenge all of my assumptions while respecting all of my beliefs. And I have learned from all of you, professors who devote your time, your minds and your hearts, to your students. You all are not just incredible teachers, but really incredible people and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to sit in your classrooms.
And here, as a member of this Tribe, I have found truths that have left indelible impressions on my head and my heart alike.
I know that in the midst of limited resources, greatness is possible. When money runs short, character can sustain any budgetary crisis. I know that in the midst of email, gmail, gchat, facebook, facebook chat, MySpace, skype, texting, and BBMing a truly extraordinary community can flourish. I know we’ve each earned a place amongst the elite of an intellectual and academic world, but I know just as confidently that we haven’t forgotten our place and responsibility amongst the world’s less fortunate.
So today, appropriately, it is one newfound truth that placates my dueling head and my dueling heart. There may be only one William & Mary, but there are 1,290 of us. Wherever we go, we’ll take this place with us.
Whatever we do next, whether we’re off to Oxford or returning home, it is our unique opportunity to make our new world a little more like this one, offering potent minds rivaled in potential only by the promise of our hearts. Together we will make this world not just a whole lot smarter, but a whole lot kinder. That way, we’ll recognize the College when we come back. (Speaking of which, Homecoming is October 21st. We’re playing Delaware. Mark your calendars).
That undoubtedly, will be a good day, but right now, I am finally ready to embrace the truth of the notion that today is a really, really great day. While there is only one William & Mary, history proves it will always be here; and my head and my heart agree that it will always be ours.
April 7, 2010 by Alisan VanFleet
I’m not talking diamonds here, so don’t get too excited. However, being fully engaged in a W&M lifestyle and the Williamsburg Community makes for a pretty happy life in a very pretty place.
With the warm weather and official and long-anticipated arrival of spring, this campus comes alive. People emerge squinting from the library to make the Sunken Gardens and Terrace hotspots on campus once again. But, more than that, the weather invites everyone to look around and take advantage of just how beautiful this area is.
In honor of that, on the very first nice Saturday of the year, we planned an afternoon trip to Jamestown Beach. Sometimes Virginia Beach is just a little too far, so even though the James River lacks waves, the sand and water are enough to keep everyone entertained. Football’s just as fun and the company’s always nice. Plus, it’s only a 10 minute drive down Colonial Parkway! Saving gas money, mitigating our Carbon footprint, staying close enough to campus to go back when we realize it’s Free Ice Day at Rita’s. It’s all good.
The next day, which was almost as beautiful, we headed over to New Quarter Park where I learned to play Frisbee Golf. Who knew that was even a real thing? I certainly didn’t. But, not only is it real, it’s really fun. They have this whole course set up and it only costs a few dollars. Current students, you should really go check it out. Future students, don’t forget…and then check it out in a couple years. Woo!
But, this is the College, where we balance a ton of fun by taking meaningful initiative in the community that provides such a great setting. So before I met up with friends at the beach on Saturday, fellow society members and I headed over to the local 4-H Club where we helped tidy the place up before their busy summer season begins. Chores were divided amongst the W&M students, each there representing a service club, honor society, and even a fraternity (impressively early for a Saturday morning, I should add).
Kira and I raked until our arms felt like they would fall off, while other members helped build a platform for an air conditioning unit. The frat guys mopped and the service club members transported our piled-high leaves to the woods. We left the 4H center looking very welcoming for the kids who will arrive there to celebrate their Hearts, Heads, Hands and Health. And look at that. I even learned something. Who knew there was time for that sort of thing second semester, senior year?
It was a very productive morning and, in the end, made the afternoon at the beach, trip to Rita’s, and Frisbee Golf even better because I value the fact that I’m not a not freeloader here. While our time here as students is temporary, we all find a unique way to become fully ingrained in the larger community. By giving back as much as we take, we encourage a warm welcome for each new group of students and make sure this place stays pretty for all our neighbors and friends that permanently call this place home.
March 3, 2010 by Alisan VanFleet
For all of you high schoolers who like to argue and watch way too much Law & Order, know now that you can’t major in pre-law at William & Mary. Never fear, however, because with the help of great professors and advisors of the College, you will absolutely make it through the Law School application process, still smiling and clutching a few acceptance letters. I’ll tell you the basics of my Law School story as an illustration.
Professor Christine Nemacheck of the Government Department heads up the pre-law advising and is also sort of the star of this blog entry. She puts on really informative sessions at least once each semester and gives you everything you need to know to get ahead and feel competent each step of the way. But, more than just an expert on how to manage applying to law school while balancing a senior year schedule, Professor Nemacheck is just a wonderful person to have around during a particularly stressful time. She keeps it real, but does a great job of focusing on the positives… informing you of the reality of a competitive application process while also coming across as your number one fan and staunch supporter.
I met with her during my junior year to figure out when I should take the LSAT. Since I was studying abroad my junior Spring, she literally forbid me from taking the June test. “I can tell you’re trying to convince yourself to take the test when you get back, but just don’t do it. Tell your parents the pre-law advisor told you not to. The last thing you should be doing in Scotland is miserably looking at LSAT prep stuff. Go have fun.” That was SUCH a relief. And I had SO much fun abroad.
I worked at W&M this past summer, so I took a Kaplan Prep Course right here on campus. Very convenient and even more helpful. It’s a little expensive, but I would absolutely recommend it. That number matters a lot in the application process, so the money is a great investment. I took the test in November, taking a practice one every Friday after the class ended in August up until the big day. (Side note: I was literally falling asleep with fake logic games swirling in my head and didn’t sleep at all the night before. But again, I’m very Type A. It sometimes happens when things are seemingly out of my control).
But, things went well that Saturday, so I guess it was all worth it. I think? The test was on campus, again VERY convenient. Then I got to go to a football game after to get my mind of horrible things like Logic Games. I shudder just remembering those little torture devices.
When I ultimately applied this Fall, I asked a few Professors to write recommendations for me. They were great. I, like the Type A person I am, handed them my resume, personal statement draft, and even a copy of work I’d done in their class with a cover sheet and stamped envelope. Embarrassing, I know, but I like to think they appreciated my thoroughness.
One Friday a month or so later, another government professor, in the midst of a meeting about a paper I was writing, asked me who wrote my Recs. When I told him, he said it would help at the really competitive schools if the pre-Law advisor wrote one of my Recs. Naturally, I panicked, not having a pretty little packet or an extra two weeks to give Professor Nemacheck the proper time to write my letter.
In the midst of my panicking, he called Professor Nemacheck into his office and explained the situation. She agreed that her letter could only help, smiled, told me to email her my information, said she’d write the letter by Monday and assured me that we could just overnight it to LSAC since it was a little late in the process and I was worried.
Literally. That actually happened. And then she actually overnighted the letter. Two government professors, both of whom I’d only had classes with that very semester, cared enough about my success to do all of those things. Calling in favors, overnighting letters. It’s amazing how fortunate every W&M student is to have such great people on her side.
Not so long after that letter was overnighted, I got one in the mail. It was smaller than I thought it should be, but when I opened it, I cried tears of joy.
I don’t know why I confess these embarrassing details on my blog. I should stop.
Anyway, then I called lots of family members who didn’t answer. After my Legislative Process class that morning, I told Professor Nemacheck. So, technically, she was the first to know (unless my brother heard the voicemail before then) and was ready with a congratulatory hug. Yay!
In the end, I got a couple more exciting letters in the mail. I even got a phone call from the Dean of Admission at my top choice school (where I applied Early Decision). I rescinded all the other applications after that and sent “Thanks, but no thanks” letters to the other two schools.
Now, as I come to the end of this blog, I’ve decided I don’t mind embarrassing myself and that the whole process was a lot like a fairytale with Professor Nemacheck playing the Fairy Godmother. Thanks to her especially, and lots of others as well, I’ll be at the University of Pennsylvania Law School next year, hopefully living happily ever after… and hopefully stumbling upon a prince.
September 6, 2009 by Alisan VanFleet
Oh. My. Gosh. My prediction for a Tribe victory came true! We beat UVA on Saturday, 26-14 and I don’t think I’ve been this excited about football since high school. I absolutely cannot wait for our home opener this Saturday! We all lost our voices screaming, taunting the sea of orange that surrounded our Green & Gold corner at Scott Stadium, and singing the alma mater after our epic upset of a victory over our VA rivals.
The Cavaliers certainly brought a giant stadium, a fancy new screen, and lots of fans (weirdly dressed in sundresses and ties while sitting on a bug-infested hill?), but just as certainly left any sort of game plan at home.
I’ll walk you through the highlights of the highlight of my Tribe Football Fan experience.
First, W&M’s new starting QB, senior RJ Archer, a Charlottesville-native, did his hometown and the Tribe proud all night. He protected the ball, ran a solid offensive effort, had a great 26-yard run, and led a wonderful drive down the field capped off by a TD pass. That offensive drive knotted the score at 7-7 in the first quarter, while the rest of the O’s points came from field goals.
The stars of the show, however, were certainly the Tribe defensive players. Their effort was absolutely impeccable, as they caused seven turnovers and held UVA scoreless from mid-second quarter on! First-time starter, BW Wells had three interceptions. With a little under three minutes left, he made his final pick and ran it back for a Tribe touchdown that gave us a 26-14 lead and sealed the victory. From then on, it was the alma mater and cheers of “Our House” from the students, parents, and alumni in the Tribe section that drove the Cav fans from their own stadium with shocked expressions on their faces and a pretty dismal outlook on the rest of their season.
The Tribe returned to Williamsburg a few hours later and gathered in the Sunken Gardens, where a spontaneous, student-organized rally took place so everybody who didn’t make it to Charlottesville could take part in the excitement.
With a solid QB to lead the offense and a formidable defense, I think everybody has high expectations for what we’ll see over the course of this year’s football season, which I think will certainly lead to some postseason action. Be sure to come if you can! I promise it’d be well worth the trip and we’d welcome you to the cheering section with open arms… as long as you’re wearing the appropriate colors and bring some Tribe Pride! (Bonus points if you learn the alma mater).
September 2, 2009 by Alisan VanFleet
My roommate, Shannon, turned 21 a few weeks ago. Now, 21st birthdays, being the last of the most important birthdays of your life cannot be ignored. So, in honor of that fact, and in honor of Shannon herself, we all descended upon her shore house in the beautiful state of New Jersey.
Sara and Kate carpooled from Boston. I picked Vicky up in Northern VA after work and we drove another couple hundred miles, survived Baltimore tunnel traffic, and eventually made it to Shannon’s around 3 in the morning. More friends from NJ made their shorter trips. In the end, it was an absolute whirlwind, but absolutely worth the drive.
We reveled in a midsummer reunion, showered the birthday girl with presents, and made all sorts of predictions about just what senior year will bring. We’re still not one-hundred percent sure which of the predictions will come true- I think it unlikely that we’ll all actually go from single to engaged, but a trip or two across the Crim Dell bridge would certainly add a little intrigue to the year.
Now, we are all officially back on campus and back to class. Senior seminars have commenced and we laugh (the cry) about everything being the “last” of its kind. “It’s our last first-day of classes. It’s our last September as Undergraduates. It’s our last Fall semester Screen-on-the-Green.” And on, and on, and on…
While the sense of nostalgia is certainly sinking in, the sense of excitement hasn’t been this palpable since freshman year. For starters, an epic Green and Gold victory is in place for Saturday in Charlottesville, with the Tribe descending upon UVA for one heck of a kick-off to the 2009 Football Season!
When we win, I’ll blog about it.
If we don’t, I’ll blog about beauty of the VA countryside. The latter is not nearly as likely to entertain. So I assume you all will be rooting for W&M based on that threat alone.
I cannot wait to see just what this Saturday and the entire year brings and will, of course, be sure to report anything particularly exciting along the way!
July 16, 2009 by Alisan VanFleet
My two little sisters are growing up. Fast.
Yesterday, the fifteen-year-old one added me as a friend on Facebook. Once upon a time, Facebook was only for college students. The rest of the world was relegated to MySpace. Now, I have a dozen of her high school buddies (whom I’ve never met) popping up under friend requests.
Kayla is off tagging a million pictures of herself that I’ve posted over the last three years and commenting on the ones that offend her. I love the girl and everything she does amuses me, so I like the comments. I’ll especially like the ability to stalk her every wall post! She thought she got rid of me when I moved seven hours away. Wrong.
And just so all you boys of the Facebook world know, her brothers have accounts, too, and huge biceps. So, you’ll keep the free heart gifts to yourself if you know what’s good for you.
Sarah, the baby one, turned eight today. I’ll probably go on calling her a baby until she’s eighty-eight, but eight itself puts her so far beyond baby/toddler/little kid days. Dangerously, dangerously close to regular kid days and as her older sister, I like to think she’ll pull a Peter Pan and decide against growing up altogether. But, the fact that she sings Jonas Brothers songs now, rather than Twinkle, Twinkle, seems to be evidence working against that theory. The days Sarah friends me on Facebook will be the day I deactivate my account.
Separately, I think I could have handled the two developments without any issue. But the back-to-back day part was just too much.
So Kayla and Sarah, if you’re reading this, work on your shrinking skills.
And any other little sisters of the world, well, try to take it easy on your older siblings. Because every day you remind us that you’re growing up, we’re forced to confront the fact that we are, too.
July 10, 2009 by Alisan VanFleet
The other night, I drove back from Bethany Beach, DE, where I spent the not-so-sunny but otherwise wonderful weekend with one of my best friends and her family. With country radio stations failing me every step of the way, I decided to check in with my W&M roommate.
Since I spent last semester in Scotland, I haven’t seen her in five months. No big deal to some roommates, but when you’ve spent the last two and a half years living mere feet away from each other every single day (minus those sad, sad summer months), it is a BIG deal. I’ll probably cry when we reunite.
Okay, enough of that. Roommate pleasantries aren’t the actual point of this story. She’s bringing furniture down to our brand new house this weekend. Midway through the conversation about the moving company, where we’ll put the old furniture, etc., she asked what I was doing.
“I’m just driving home.”
“You’re going home?!” she asked, shocked by the prospect of me driving all the way back up to PA on Sunday night when I clearly had work at 8:00 AM the next morning.
I wasn’t driving back to that home, of course. By senior year, the College is definitely your home. To be honest, I vividly remember six weeks into freshman year how we were all talking about when we’d be coming “back home” after fall break, (as if that other home was just some random place we used to live, filled with people whose features strangely mirrored our own).
Finding that sort of “home away from home” is my favorite and undoubtedly one of the most magical parts of life at the College. Just try not to let your Mom hear you say it too soon…
July 8, 2009 by Alisan VanFleet
I love love LOVE W&M professors. You’d hear all about them on a visit, how they’re engaged with the students and everyday go
above and beyond the expectations anyone could have for such busy faculty members.
I could give you three years worth of examples about how they’ve affected my experience at the College, but I’ll spare you the entire novel that would rapidly become and hold it to a select few.
I loved every minute I spent in my classes with Professors Phillip Daileader and Paul Mapp. Okay, maybe not the minutes
during the midterms and finals, but other than that, every minute. Those two professors somehow manage to work stand-up comedy into European and American history classes, making lectures absolutely unforgettable.
Professor Daileader launched his very first lecture by telling us all we had now officially become part of one giant propaganda effort created by the Allies during WWII. In the middle of a lecture about the Punic Wars, he stopped to discuss the fact that “with a name as intimidating as Hannibal, it was basically inevitable that the guy would launch a war by crossing the Alps with elephants. Right? Right.”
In Professor Mapp’s class, we spent the majority of our time reading primary documents from colonial times. (That honestly sounds fun to me without the qualifiers that follow…don’t judge too harshly). To you, however, it might sound like a drag, UNTIL you read and discuss John Smith’s letter about the early struggles in Jamestown. The 21st century translation reads: I’m a really tough guy and I think things are just fine over here. But, if this whole colony thing is going to work out, you all need to stop sending me good-for-nothing, wimpy men. They can barely chop down a tree much less tackle the wild and crazy of the New World. I need real men, not gentlemen.
On another day, we discussed what one VA-plantation owner could have possibly been referencing when he wrote “I danced my dance” at the end of almost every journal entry. Professor Mapp explained, “Now, I know what you all might be considering, but dancing was actually a really important part of being a member of the Virginia aristocracy.”
So well done, history department, but I can’t leave out the government profs over there in Morton Hall. Professor Clay Clemens is a favorite inside and outside the classroom, whether he’s starting his class with youtube’s latest viral video or inviting all of the admissions interns over for a backyard BBQ.
He’s also been the greatest advisor.
One day last summer, as I panicked about my life for absolutely no genuine reason, I sent him an email with at least fifteen, rapid-fire questions. He should have probably shaken his head and ignored my crazy ranting. Instead, he emailed me back within a few hours offering advice that tempered each of my concerns. So, thank you for that, again Professor and I promise to avoid bothering you in the midst of any future melodramatic breakdowns.
I could say much, much more, but blogs can only be so long. So just trust me. The professors at W&M are not just exceptional teachers, they’re exceptional people, and we’re all lucky to have them at the heart of our community.
July 7, 2009 by Alisan VanFleet
This spring, I spent the semester at St. Andrews University in Scotland, living in a dorm room with a view of the North Sea and castle ruins. And that’s just the beginning of the magic of those four semesters.
I’ll write more later, but for now, I’ll just let you all get a sense of how extraordinary studying abroad can be by letting you in on the very first email I sent after getting there. It does the best job of conveying just how amazing those first few days really were:
Good morning everybody!
So, in case you failed to hear via another form of communication…skype, facebook, my mom calling you, I made it! (My bags didn’t, but I think/hope they’ll be here soon???). So, my room is nice, the dorm is unbelievably beautiful (the outside, dining hall and common room). I’ll put up pictures soon so you can see everything!
Okay, so onto exciting things, now that you know I am safe and capable of speaking to strangers (even though some of the adults here are not particularly easy to understand…) Instead of rolling over this morning after my alarm went off, I took the ever-wonderful advice of my friend, Carrie Daut (if you don’t know her, you should fix that). She wrote, along with a bunch of other great things, “You have the rest of your life to get adequate sleep every night and be frugal with your money. Your semester abroad is not the time.”
So I woke up and went on a walk this morning (after breakfast) and it was absolutely the most amazing half hour of my life. First of all, it’s sunny! So all my woes about becoming a brunette have ended. (Sorry to disappoint those of you who never realized how truly vain I am when it comes to my hair staying blond without the use of peroxide). But it was mostly the most amazing half hour of my life because, nearly immediately after leaving my dorm, I ran smack into a CASTLE on the North Sea. Yes, that’s right. Apparently all those Disney movies have done permanent damage and I am now inherently drawn to castles.
After staring in awe for a long time, I kept walking and found the ruins of a cathedral (also amazing and beautiful) and wonderful picturesque views of the water. I took pictures of everything and will post them on a photoblog and facebook really soon- probably this afternoon before orientation officially starts tomorrow.
Sorry to taunt you with terribly short descriptions of very pretty things without following through with pictures (yet), but I have to go find the bookstore. Miss you all…please email me back and tell me about your lives, too. Everybody back home say hi to America and W&M for me!
Lots of love,
p.s. It’s not any colder than Pennsylvania, so everyone was exaggerating.
p.p.s. Pictures (!!!!!) alisanv.blogspot.com