July 6, 2009 by Austin Wiese
I recently realized that I have been back at William and Mary for over two weeks now and have not once utilized Colonial Williamsburg’s cider mugs. This is embarrassing and unacceptable. Last fall semester, and a little less-so this spring semester, traveling down the main street of Colonial Williamsburg was my life. Any free hour I had during the day was spent with some of my closest friends on the Duke of Gloucester Street. In fact, we made free hours, actually penned time into our schedules, to make this trip.
Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, the cider is phenomenal; in fact, I’ve heard rumors that it is created using a mixture of real apples and a little bit of butter to make it “gourmet.” Yum. Oh and you’ll notice I speak primarily of cider. This is because I am not a huge fan of pop, or soda, nor am I big fan of coffee unless it’s early in the morning. This explains the name, “cider mugs,” instead of pop mugs or coffee mugs. Second, the calm, relaxing walk takes only 40 minutes or so, round trip, making it perfect for any afternoon. Third, everything (once the mug is purchased, that is) is completely free, which means that every college student must love it – obviously we love everything that is free. This is actually a very important point: cider mugs are not just any run-of-the-mill mugs. These are eleven dollar mugs that provide you with free cider (hot or cold cider depending on the season), coffee, or soda for an ENTIRE calendar year. Not just a few months; not only during the academic year; but an entire calendar year. My final reason we make time in our schedules (that are obviously very busy…okay, not really) is that you can get cider after 5:00, which is when cider stands close, at a couple of the taverns in CW. So now, instead of rushing down to the cider stands at 4:45, we can leisurely stroll down to the tavern of our choice and ask for a free, delicious, and hot mug full of cider!
It is important to know this very, very crucial information because if/when you come to William and Mary, whether it is for a campus tour, some type of academic event, a wedding, or you come as student, you are going to want to get a mug. This is slowly turning into a William and Mary tradition (and probably will be established in like 10 years) and I just want you all to get ahead of the curve. So go now. Purchase it. Use it. Love it. Then send me an email and tell me how much you love it.
July 1, 2009 by Austin Wiese
At William and Mary we always talk about this crazy “Sense of Community” that you can’t find at every university, especially public universities. It was not until this past year that I began to actually realize what this ever-so-popular phrase actually means, and what the factors are that cause this community to be so tight-knit. In addition, it was not until last night that I understood that the community surrounding the College also believes in that same sense of community.
I could throw a bunch of statistics at you to demonstrate how William and Mary is this great public institution that prides itself on being relatively small. I could explain how students have very unique relationships with their professors, how first-semester freshman do the same types of research as seniors doing their honors thesis, or how professors frequently take students to their homes for a dinner with their family. I could explain how a government professor is tonight hosting all of the summer admissions interviewers at his home for a cookout, and that every professor is more than just a professor, but an advisor, a mentor, a role-model, an inspiration, and a friend. I could explain to you how an overwhelming majority of our students live on-campus, eat in the dining halls, and participate very actively in one of the over 400 clubs and organizations; or how it is not unusual for students to walk into the President’s office and schedule a lunch date with him that next week. But I won’t go into the details. All of it makes up what we call a strong “sense of community.” I cannot describe to you the importance of this community, especially on a blog. In fact, I have a difficult time articulating these thoughts to my sister who will be at William and Mary this fall. Its unique, its different, and its something you won’t find at most of the schools with which I am familiar.
But this sense of community does not end at the boundaries of our campus. Instead, it extends into Colonial Williamsburg, the rest of the Williamsburg community, and out into James City County. Last night, after spending 20 minutes in the grocery store with a friend trying to decide on how many onions we should purchase as well as what type of BBQ sauce tastes the best, we ventured back to my home. A few minutes after stepping in the door, my friend’s phone rang and she was receiving a phone call from….me! We were both very confused. Of course, I glanced at my hands and didn’t see a cell phone. I felt my pockets and it definitely wasn’t a pocket dial. We then realized what was going on when a person started speaking on the other end of the line: I dropped my phone outside of the grocery store and someone, a cute old lady, had picked it up. Not only that, but she took it inside the grocery store to see if they could hold on to it for me. The store would not because of the it’s policy (which is weird), so she ended up taking the time to call my friend, which was my last made phone call, and say that she had my phone. I immediately left to find her at this Shell gas station where she went to get some fuel. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea where this gas station was, so I had to call her again. She picked up her phone after a few missed phone calls, explained how she has no idea how this phone works, and then gave me directions to where she was waiting. It ended up being a 20 minute ordeal, she missed her television show (which she let me know in a very nice manner), and this was all after her 12-hour shift at the hospital where she is a nurse – so she was exhausted. After introducing ourselves to each other, I thanked her and we both went our separate ways.
It was an eye-opening experience: sometimes I think that we are in this little bubble at William and Mary where everything is governed by certain rules or by the Honor Code, but in all reality, students here are just great people, just like many people in the real world – or at least in Williamsburg. Now I realize that the Tribe’s sense of community is not only a campus phenomenon, but a positive characteristic of the greater Williamsburg area.
June 28, 2009 by Austin Wiese
It is weird thinking back about my trip to Italy. It went by way too fast and ended far too soon, and before I realized what was happening I had returned to William and Mary. It was only four weeks – and four weeks is not enough when traveling to Europe. Not that William and Mary is bad, but the College simply can’t compare to the art and history throughout the Tuscan region of Italy. It sounds funny saying that the ‘history’ of Williamsburg and the College can’t compare to that of Florence since normally W&M students take a great deal of pride in speaking of W&M’s age and history – the second oldest university in the nation, founded in 1693, and the first college to actually become a university, the home of the first school of law, the first school to have an honor code…the first of so many things. But in reality, 1693 isn’t that old.
The W&M group that traveled to Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Luca, Siena, and Cinque Terre for a four week study abroad experience stood inside the Roman Coliseum, built between 70-80 AD, which is nearly 2000 years old and is roughly 1600 years older than the Sir Christopher Wren building. We gazed, in amazement, at Michelangelo’s Statue of David, constructed between 1501 and 1504 before he was even thirty years of age, which is another 190 years older than the College. We walked along the hillsides of Cinque Terre, the most beautiful and exotic coastline in Italy, which has evolved from a steep, rocky mountain into an agricultural phenomenon after thousands of years of hard work. We all took cheesy pictures holding up the 700 year old Leaning Tower of Pisa, which even after taking 177 years to complete is around 350 years older than the College.
Maybe this doesn’t mean very much to some people, and maybe I am still in awe since it was my first time to Europe. I don’t know. However, it is also true that the history of the College is fascinating. We are one of the few schools that can say we had to call off classes because the British were invading, one of our building’s was the military center for the British army during the Revolutionary War and actually housed General Cornwallis, and the Wren building is today the oldest college building in the United States and is still being used. In fact, in the Wren building, the office of one of our religious studies professors is the the former bedroom of Thomas Jefferson.
History is only one aspect in which Williamsburg differs from Florence, and the other is art. I don’t know if a comparison can even be made in this realm, so I will just briefly mention some of the places that the College’s study abroad program takes its students. Of course, in addition to the Coliseum in Rome, we also saw the Pantheon, the oldest large-scale dome in Rome and the permanent resting place of Raphel and others. We also went to Vatican City to see St. Peter’s Basillica and the Sistine Chapel. Witnessing the grandeur of the Basillica, the works of Michelangelo called La Pieta in the Basilica and the Creation of Adam inside the Sistine Chapel, and the other works of Raphael, Birnini and Botticelli was truly amazing. In Florence we went to several places, but most notable were obviously the Statue of David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, or the various works of Leonardo da Vinci. To be honest, the magnificence of Florentine art did not hit me until we visited the Basilica of Santa Croce. This relatively simple basilica, a Franciscan convent and church, is the home of a few notables. When you walk into the church, you see some chapels. To my left, almost immediately upon entrance, was the tomb of Niccolo Machiavelli. We walked towards the back of the church, already in awe after seeing Macchiavelli’s tomb, and saw the tomb of Galileo Galilei. Only feet from Galileo was the permanent resting place of arguably the greatest artist of all time, the only man to have ever mastered all three of the great arts (sculpture, architecture, and painting), Michelangelo. It is difficult to explain the weird/eery feelings that I had at the time. Simply being in the presence of so much intelligence, skill, fame, and simple magnificence took my breath away.
Okay, enough rambling. I guess what I am trying to say is that everyone needs to explore the world. There is too much out there. Too much in Europe. Too much in the Middle East, in Asia, South America, Africa…everywhere. Get out of the United States, study abroad, go backpacking across Southeast Asia, work for an NGO in Pakistan – do something. William and Mary offers several amazing study abroad programs that can be found at the Reves Center’s website, and if that’s not your thing, there are also several international service trips that take students across the world for one or two weeks at a time. These experiences change your perspective on life, on history, and on art. William and Mary will always be the center of history in the United States, but we must not forget other great, and probably older, locations around the globe.