July 26, 2010 by Blair Saunders
My college application personal essay.
This summer giving tours at W&M, many people ask me if I can give them a bit of advice for their application. My single best bit of advice is to write your personal essay about ‘you’. Don’t write about your grandmother, or your dog Pookie, or your amazing dad. Just write about yourself. Talking about this daily has me thinking about what I wrote for my essay that I submitted to W&M. I applied to a whopping 9 schools, and of course I procrastinated on all of my applications. Maybe in the back of my mind, I thought that a college would just dial me up and invite me to come. At the end of the day, in the midnight hour, my Mom decided to take drastic action and lock me in her office until I finished all my essays.
I wrote my fateful W&M essay on how my parents had ruined my life by giving me a little brother when I was ten years old. I was the sole and rightful owner of the title of “youngest child” in our family, and how dare they take that away from me? Now I was stuck with the mediocre and boring title of “middle child” and all of the plainness and lack of attention that
comes with it. I decided to retaliate against my parents by teaching my little brother, James, to run into walls and burp the alphabet. I would also get him into a headlock any chance I got. My older sister was appalled at my behavior and my parents were disgusted, but I found it to be an absolutely delightful past time.
Reminiscing about this essay has made me think about the role my little brother has had in my life. When he was born, I remember bringing chocolate bars to my 6th grade class that had his name on them. Why my Mother sent me to school with these, I can’t say. Middle school came and went with his toddler years and confusing my American girl dolls for drool victims. In high school I became familiar with what a Yugio card was and James was constantly the subject of my personal rain of harassment. Not a day went by where I didn’t trip him or give him a wedgie. Though it was all in good fun, I’m sure he’s going to be scarred for life.
When my family drove me down to William and Mary on that momentous move-in day, James was there – taking the clothes hangers out of my boxes and testing out my new T.V. When I had to say goodbye to my parents and leave them behind, I gave him a pat on the head, and I was off. Later that night when I was getting ready to spend my first night in what would be my freshman dorm room, I picked up a letter that was left on my desk. It was from James and had a toy microphone with it (my parents had made an emergency run to Target). The letter said “Bye Blair, I love you and miss you” in his scribble scrabble. I put it up on my
bulletin board and it stayed there for the rest of the year. Throughout the year, James would send me letters with comics and a random assortment of clippings. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this was all at the command of my mother, but I saved every one of them. My favorite was a card of a pig cupid that he sent me for Valentine’s Day.
When I came home from college that first summer, James had grown so much. Still, I was only focused on seeing my high school friends and talking to them alllll about college. When James would ask me to play Wii with him, I would say I was too busy. When sophomore year rolled around, James came to move me in again. My mother, James and I lugged all my stuff into my room on the third floor of my sorority house. It was disgustingly hot and James basically sat and drank his Gatorade and played with his light saber. When it was time for them to go back home, I packed them back up in the car and sent them off. Coming back to my room, I realized that James had left his light saber. I stuck it under my bed until the next time I’d see him.
Later sophomore year, James’ class went on a field trip to Colonial Williamsburg. I trekked around CW with two friends looking for him. We went into every corner in the pouring rain looking for him, and we finally found his class. When he saw me he hid behind all of his friends and pretended like he didn’t know me. Typical behavior for a little boy. Girls have cooties, right? I knew he was happy that I had searched him out, but maybe – just maybe – he was still a little p.o.’d at me for all those wedgies.
Summer after sophomore year I decided to make more of an effort with James. He was getting ready to go into fifth grade, after all, and I figured we could maybe be friends. That summer was my last year as a camp counselor, and I would drive around town with James as we jammed to our favorite summer song, “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston. I would drive him to his swim practices as we learned all the words, and it became something we bonded over.
As junior year rolled around, it was time to move back to school. James and my mother came down as usual to move me in. This time instead of forgetting his light saber, he left a rubik’s cube game that he had gotten that day from the bookstore. This wasn’t your ordinary rubik’s cube. It was a crazy light up rubik’s cube where you would have to hit a certain side once it lit up. It was matched with music and got increasingly faster as you went along. This game quickly became a favorite among my friends, and whenever someone came by our room they weren’t allowed to leave until they had made an attempt at the cube. The record was 43 and we wrote all of the scores down on a massive score board. It was serious business and I was constantly reminded of my little brother all fall semester.
As winter exams came to a close, it was time to get ready to go abroad. I came home for Christmas and was frantically trying to get all of my things in order. This past winter it snowed a TON, and James and I went sledding on the street next to our cul de sac. He was very envious of my ability to go faster than him and huffed and puffed all about it. Even though I was excited, I was really nervous about traveling all the way to Italy to go abroad. Finally, whether I liked it or not, January 25th rolled around and my family took me
to the airport. My sister had already gone back to school, so it was just me, James, my mom and my dad. James and I were in the backseat and listening to his iPod. “Fire Burning” came on the shuffle, and James and I started jamming along to our favorite song. All of a sudden, I started feeling weird. My breaths were coming a lot shorter. My eyes were getting watery. What the heck was going on? Was I crying?
My parents helped me get my bags through and it was time to say goodbye and head through security. All of a sudden I was bawling in the middle of the crowded airport and it was really embarrassing. I let go of James and walked through security and made it down the escalator. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t turn around or else I might not make it to Florence. While I was abroad, James sent me yet another Valentine. We tried to Skype when we could and I was informed of his bike riding dates with girls in our neighborhood. What? James likes girls?
When I returned from Florence my entire extended family was waiting for me at the airport. James subjected me to his smelly feet and at the grocery store we bonded over the deliciousness of Cheetos. I tried to hang out with him as much as I could before I headed to Williamsburg. Then it came time for me to go. About two weeks ago, I received a phone call that James had asked my mother to take him to Abercrombie kids. I had to see it for myself. Taking the train home, I was greeted by my father and James at the train station. On our drive home, James insisted
on playing me his latest songs on his iTouch – Justin Bieber, Ke$ha, and La Roux. I made a face as if to ask what was going on, and my Dad told me to just roll with it. When we got home my parents told James to give me a fashion show of his new apparel. It was shocking, to say the least. Where was my little brother and what had my parents done with him? It dawned on me that I needed to hang out with James before it was too late and he was someone I didn’t even know anymore. We went to the pool all day and went to see Despicable Me – he brought his iTouch along so we could translate what those little yellow things were saying. I have to say that I had a great time and finally realized what I had been missing out on all along. Now that James is heading into the dark time in his life known as ‘middle school’, I know I have to look out for him, guide him and teach him all the tricks in the book. At the same time, I can’t help but reminisce on all the things James has taught me. He’s been there at every single important milestone in my life, and could probably write my biography. Hopefully, when he does, he won’t include all of those wedgies.
July 19, 2010 by Blair Saunders
My semester in Florence, Italy was spent tackling some of my biggest fears.
To begin with, if you know me you know that I’m a social person. You’d probably never guess that I’m horrified of being in a situation where I don’t know anyone and I have to make friends with strangers. Luckily I avoided this problem freshman year by coming to W&M from Northern Virginia. I already knew about half of the campus. (Kidding!) But seriously, Orientation just wasn’t a problem for me when there were kids from my high school that were coming with me. In order to have a chance to conquer my absurd fear, I decided to pick a study abroad program outside of W&M where I wouldn’t know anyone. I’ll never forget how I felt when I got off the plane and stepped onto Italian soil. Who should I talk to? Was I talking enough? Was I talking too much? Where could I find the nearest phone so I could call my Mom and jump ship?? Eventually I did manage to make some friends, so I finally got over fear # 1.
Fear # 2 is even more idiotic. I am incredibly afraid of doing anything alone. Before I went abroad, eating alone in the Sadler Center was a terrifying concept to me. If it really came down to it and I had to, I would only sit for five seconds and stuff my face with the closest available option – when I was finished I’d sprint out of there while simultaneously making an attempt to cover my face so no one would see that I just had to subject myself to the horror of eating alone. Now, you’re probably thinking – who cares if you eat alone? This is a very valid point and it really doesn’t matter. So, in Florence, I made sure to stop being ridiculous and I sat alone at cafés, just to see what it felt like. Gradually I discovered that no one was staring at me and thinking I was a big loser. I did discover, however, that sitting alone at cafés made me subject to many advances from Italian men. If you’re a girl and have a pulse, this can become a problem. I quickly decided that it would be o.k. to bring backup in the form of my friends. Safety in numbers. Even still, at the end of the day I realized that it’s not so bad to sit alone and go on solo adventures.
One of my more recent and tangible fears is my fear of my SLR camera. You may be thinking to yourself, “Blair, why would you ever be afraid of a camera??? It’s just a camera!” Wrong. This camera could easily make the list of the top ten things that scare and intimidate me the most. My parents gave it to me innocently last summer for my birthday, thinking I could use a nice camera to take pictures abroad. When I opened it up from its box, I discovered it was absolutely nothing like my old camera. With my old camera, I could just point and shoot and ta-dah! The picture would be taken. This new camera was a whole different animal. It had about 50 different buttons and a crazy thing that looked like an elephant’s trunk attached to it. To make matters worse, when I actually took a picture it was incredibly out of focus and you couldn’t decipher a person from a dog. Unfortunately, the manual was about the size of a textbook and I didn’t know where to begin. So, naturally, I stuffed the camera in a drawer and didn’t use it all semester.
When it came time to pick classes for Florence, I saw that one of my options was a digital photography class. I figured I’d bite the bullet, wipe the dust off of my camera and give it a go. At first, the assignments were easy for me to complete. I took abstract photos, photos of city life and landscape photos. A tree certainly doesn’t mind if you take its photo (or at least I think it doesn’t) so those weren’t too bad. Things started to get a bit tricky when it came time for my assignment on street photos. All of the street photography that I admire captures real expression and emotion, which you can’t necessarily get if you’re hiding behind a zoom lens. This meant that I would actually have to get close to people, or even approach them. I heard the music and felt that it was about time that I go on a solo adventure.
I went straight for the street market and leather vendors. I had no sort of plan, buffer or support system - I was alone, without friends and without a firm understanding of the Italian language. Ironically enough, this shoot produced one of my favorite photos of the semester:
I walked straight up to people and asked for their picture. These men in particular were in front of a leather shop. Shops like these were all around the city, and you could get a customized jacket in a day. I asked them for their picture, put on a girlish grin, and snapped the shot before they could pose. The man on the left was upset and insisted that I didn’t get his best angle (all this in Italian), so I had to do a mini photo shoot in the street. Secretly, my favorite of them all was the first picture that I had taken. When my professor evaluated this particular picture, he told me in broken English that he was proud of me for being brave and going for it. It was easily one of my proudest moments of my time abroad – finally, I had conquered my fears. (Well, at least some of them.)
June 28, 2010 by Blair Saunders
Halloween is by far my favorite time at William and Mary. Even though it’s June and Halloween couldn’t be farther away, I have to talk about it. At William and Mary, all things are a little quirky and unique – Halloween is definitely one of them. If you were to visit any college campus on Halloween, you’d be sure to find guys dressed up as 3D pitchers of beer and girls dressed in what let’s call “provocative and risqué” garb.
This is simply not the case at W&M. Here, Halloween is essentially a competition to see who can come up with the craziest and most creative costume. Everyone gets very into it. One year, girls in my sorority dressed up as a 3D game of Tetris – each girl was a separate block, and together they all fit together. Another girl I know dressed as the glowing Crag Mountain from the Nickelodeon show “Global Guts.” I am always blown away by everyone’s costumes – it is so William and Mary to have over the top creative costumes.
Sophomore year, my friends and I dressed as 3D sushi rolls complete with soy sauce bags. Sure, we couldn’t fit into any parties since we couldn’t make it through doorways, but we certainly were rolling in style. Junior year, my friends and I dressed as a bubble bath and rubber duckies. The more ridiculous, the better, and I’m already brainstorming my costume for senior year – this one has to blow them all out of the water.
June 20, 2010 by Blair Saunders
Big. Lengthy. Online. (G)ournal.
Big. Load. of. Gook.
Very. Daunting. and. Scary.
Blair. is. Afraid. of. Blogging.
I am very tentative and extremely nervous about this whole blogging thing. The idea of anyone being able to read the things that I write is terrifying to me. I’ve already had my sister call me and a friend text me asking where my blog is and why it isn’t online yet – they were looking for it and couldn’t find it. Aaaaaaah! So, as a disclaimer, please be gentle and don’t make too much fun of me for what goes on here…
For my first blog I am going to write about one of my favorite places of all time in Williamsburg – The Cheese Shop. I chose it for my campus picture, and I figured I owed you an explanation as to why. The Cheese Shop is unlike any other sandwich place I have ever experienced. For one, it is a crazy and almost unmanageable mad house during all lunch hours. Anyone who knows The Cheese Shop will phone in their order instead of trying to navigate their way through the masses. The Cheese Shop is also very unique in that it is nothing like a Subway… there aren’t lettuce or tomato options or anything like that. Growing up on subs with all the fixings, I was very skeptical of The Cheese Shop. But the sandwiches are magically delicious and once you try one you will never go back. Ask any student on campus, and they’ll be able to tell you their sandwich of choice almost immediately. My favorite is the sliced chicken with cheddar and extra house dressing on focaccia. Whether you create your own or go for the daily special, I promise it will be great. Just make sure to get house dressing on your sandwich, because you would be a fool not to! It’s some secret recipe, and the only ingredients I know of are mayo and mustard.
I have many great memories from eating at The Cheese Shop since I began here as a student. Freshman year, I grabbed a sandwich before going to Grand Illumination – a crazy fireworks show in CW. Sophomore year I went with my Grandparents and it started to snow as we sat outside…nuts! Whenever I’m leaving campus and headed out for a long road trip, I always get a sandwich. It’s a great way to take a piece of Williamsburg with you.