March 21, 2012 by Bernice Chu
I love life right now, and I’m so glad I graduated a semester early. I thought I would hate being away from William and Mary, but let’s be honest. I don’t have to write papers or study for exams. My parents cook for me. I have a real bed. I get to cuddle with my kitties any time I want. Instead of paying for school, people PAY ME to do stuff! And I only live an hour away from school, so I can visit any time I want! What a deal!
I’m a lot busier this spring than I expected to be.
My two jobs occupy most of my time. I enjoy being a receptionist. I’m learning lots about how a medical office works, and I enjoy goofing off with my coworkers. During our free time, we started a “fraternity” called BOX, where we balance boxes on our heads. Today, we witnessed six police cars surround a person and arrest her right outside our window. It was like a crime show except we couldn’t hear what was going on, but we had fun guessing. My other job teaching chemistry and math at a tutoring club is also really rewarding!
Training for my two races occupies a lot of my time. In addition to the 10K next weekend, I also signed up for a triathlon in May, so I’ve been swimming a lot too.
During William and Mary’s spring break, I was able to take a week off of my life as a graduate and go on a road trip with nine of my college friends from my freshman hall. We traveled all around the southeast, exploring the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, eating beignets and gumbo in New Orleans and listening to really great jazz music (two of my friends even went on stage and performed at an open mic), hiking to see the beautiful falls at Tallulah Gorge, and eating the best vegan food imaginable at a restaurant called Plant in a little town in the mountains of North Carolina. Most of our time was spent in New Orleans, where the weather was sunny and 70 degrees all three days we were there, the people were crazy but friendly, and the colorful streets decorated with beads, artists and fortune tellers. We ran into Sasha Baron Cohen and a couple of other William and Mary students and graduates, which was very exciting! Sasha Baron Cohen ran away from us when we recognized him, but the William and Mary students ran toward us and embraced us, even though most of us didn’t know each other. Meeting a William and Mary student when you’re traveling outside of Virginia is like meeting a long lost cousin. I’m really happy that after graduating from William and Mary, I still feel very connected to the William and Mary community. I even still get those annoying emails from listservs I don’t remember signing up for. It’s great.
This week is kind of crazy for me because I have to make a decision between two amazing choices for graduate study, Johns Hopkins and UNC Chapel Hill, and I have no idea what to do. I’m looking forward to the weekend, to having a decision, for the Hunger Games movie, and friends coming to visit for my birthday!
February 3, 2012 by Bernice Chu
My first month as a William and Mary graduate has been very busy and exciting! I say first month because I’m excluding “winter break.”
My first week of being a William and Mary graduate, I decided that I should get a job. So, I applied for two jobs, and to my surprise, both of them said, “Okay!” I’ve been working nearly full time as a receptionist at my optometrist’s office (I asked for the job while getting my eyes checked) and just a few hours a week at a tutoring club teaching chemistry and math. It’s nice because both are in my neighborhood and the hours are flexible. The people I work with are lovely and fun! It’s very different from going to school. It’s nice not having to do homework or study for exams, and when my friends talk about papers they have to write, it already seems foreign to me. On the other hand, school is more exciting. I miss learning things. It’s great that I sort of have time to read books that interest me, but then again I sort of don’t have enough time to just sit quietly and read an entire book, like I did at school.
I can’t wait for more school though. I am glad I’m taking this semester off to work so I can avoid being burnt out by school work and also appreciate school. I’ve gotten into one of my top choices for graduate study–UNC Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. I am visiting this weekend. Yes, during Super Bowl weekend. That’s how excited I am to see this school.
During nights and weekends, I have been training for the Monument Avenue 10K with a team, which has been really great! I’m not much of a runner at all, and I used to whine every time I ran, but I am breaking out of that, and it’s going really well. I’m working at being good at running because I feel like it’s one of the few things I’m not good at and it’s useful, like if I’m being chased by a bear or a person with blow darts. Also, I want lungs of iron. Especially since my office is right next to a cigar shop! Let’s try to avoid lung cancer please.
I also went to a public health fair. I visited a Buddhist temple. I spent time with William and Mary friends, and it still feels like I’m a student there when I visit. I made new friends! I’m going to dinner and then an art walk downtown with new friends tomorrow after work. Life post-grad is pretty swell! Aren’t y’all excited to graduate now? It’s not as scary as it sounds. All you have to do is be curious, explore, reach out to new people and new places, and go for what you want!
I will leave you with two things. The first is my upperclass Monroe Project, a 10 minute film on Blayton Elementary’s Bumblebee Garden: http://vimeo.com/35779104
The second is a picture of this awesome piece of paper someone gave me. It’s written in some weird made-up language, so who knows what it says, but doesn’t it look impressive? (Just kidding, it’s in Latin, which is almost a real language). Happy Charter Day!
January 6, 2012 by Bernice Chu
Although I have graduated, it still feels like winter break! My family spent our holiday in Hot Springs, Virginia, rejuvenating in the same naturally hot mineral springs that Jefferson once bathed in and enjoying all the amenities of the Homestead, a luxury resort, while staying in a cozy bed and breakfast across the street with the most delicious breakfasts imagineable—think pumpkins pancakes with local maple syrup, homemade whipped cream, sausages, eggs, cinnamon rolls right out of the oven, and fresh fruit with orange juice. I’d read scary reviews about the Homestead’s food, so I forbade us to approach the dining halls there.
Though we weren’t staying at the resort next door, we still spent a lot of time there, swimming in their pool, skiing their slopes, hiking their trails, having afternoon tea, enjoying concerts and magic shows. This was my first time experiencing a resort, so my mind naturally compared it to other experiences I’ve had. ”Hey, this is like a cruise, except on land!” was my first thought. My mom rolled her eyes and said I had it backwards.
After hearing a university glee club give a Christmas concert, I started really missing concerts at William and Mary—a cappella concerts 10:00 Wednesday nights on the Wren portico, organ recitals in the Wren chapel, and the assortment of groups William and Mary brings in, from the Virginia Symphony Orchestra to the Ting Tings and K’naan. And I thought, “William and Mary is a much better resort than this one is!” Music’s better, food’s better, gym facilities are better, *and* you get to go to school!
A while back, I read this report that cries, “colleges market themselves like resorts, how terrible!” To that, I say, I am pretty sure we choose our school for the academics, not its resort qualities. But those are lovely too.
December 26, 2011 by Bernice Chu
Merry Christmas from Richmond! It’s time to reflect upon the semester. My last semester at William and Mary was really busy, but in a good way. I worked in two research labs, was a production assistant for a film class, produced a film about an elementary garden as an independent study, took four classes (global health seminar, health ethics, a tidal marsh ecology seminar, and adventure games—a high ropes course that really made me appreciate being on the ground), and applied to graduate schools in public health. I loved that I was able to take classes that I genuinely enjoyed, contribute to the college by helping with research and assisting in classrooms, conduct my own independent research, and have a lot of help on my graduate school applications from professors, friends, and the Writing Resources Center. I often think about how busy and productive I am, how creative and hardworking every single person at the College is, how overwhelmingly prolific the College as a whole must be! After studying abroad at the University of Adelaide, I’ve come to appreciate William and Mary’s unique collaborative and helpful energy. I feel like I can do anything, and there are always people to help me.
I think I expected to feel really happy about graduating and really sad about leaving William and Mary, but honestly I don’t feel any differently than I did a month ago. I’ll still be around to visit for at least the next half a year, and I know that if I need help with anything, I can still count on the William and Mary community. In a way, William and Mary will always be with me. I’m excited for the uncharted path in front of me, but I’m not scared! I feel ready for anything and open to everything.
So, what *are* my post-grad plans? I’ve been applying to jobs and interviewing, but since I hope to go to grad school in the fall, I would really like a flexible part-time job so I can also volunteer, spend time with family, run, and read. I signed up for a running team with the YMCA, and I’m planning on volunteering at an urban garden and visiting temples. I’m spending a lot of time at the library, and I’m keeping a journal of all the books that I read. I am looking forward to a relaxing spring, but I am also open to adventures of all kinds!
August 30, 2011 by Bernice Chu
Two days into school, Irene made us evacuate. My Texan roommate and I fled to my home in Richmond on Thursday, and we spent the long weekend playing with cats, picking apples, baking zucchini bread and apple crisp, barbecuing, henna-ing our hair, putting honey and oatmeal on our faces, watching movies, meeting up with William and Mary friends in Richmond, working on Monroe projects, and running around in the rain pretending to be reporters. I also got a five dollar haircut.
All in all, it was a good time, but by Saturday we were itching to get back to William and Mary. When the school announced that classes were cancelled for Tuesday too, we groaned and went on Facebook to complain and commiserate with our friends, who were also ready to go back to school.
Dear Irene, way to make a mess of things, but thanks for leaving most of campus intact. It’s good to be back.
August 4, 2011 by Bernice Chu
Today was an exciting day for two reasons.
1. Everyone knows about the refillable cider mug that you can buy in Colonial Williamsburg for ten dollars that gets you cider for a year, but today I discovered that you can get ice cream in your mug too (behind Shields Tavern 10AM-5PM)!! I got a chocolate and vanilla milkshake and my friends got root beer floats. Theoretically, I could just eat ice cream. Every day. For free.
2. My roommate Madeline introduced me to gambols at Shield’s Tavern. Imagine spending your evening at an 18th century tavern for a night of music, silly sing-a-longs, peach cider, peanuts, and entertainers making fun of your friends. Apparently, this happens every night after 9PM at Chownings Tavern. I can’t believe I never knew about it until now! Williamsburg, for all its quirks and tacky historical reenactments, makes me really really happy.
July 21, 2011 by Bernice Chu
I’ve been back in the states for two weeks now, and it’s been kind of a whirlwind. I came home on July 4th, so it was nice to celebrate being back in America with other people celebrating America. The following few days were spent studying for the GRE. Word of advice: give yourself more than a couple of days to study for the GRE. I did fine, but it was a horrid experience, and soon after I caught a cold and was consequently stuck in bed listening to Beverly Cleary books on tape until just a few days ago, when I headed over to Williamsburg to start work on my Monroe project! It’s wonderful to be back and be surrounded by William and Mary friends. Williamsburg is soo lovely. My study abroad experience adventure was great, and I learned a lot from living and traveling on my own, but there truly is no place like home.
Someone commented on my last post asking about my major and plans after college. Thanks Sam, that’s a great question! I designed my major sophomore year after seeing a special showing of Food, Inc. and participating in an engaged discussion with a panel of important people after the film. One of the members of the audience was a cardiologist, and he said something like, “I wish sometimes that people would pay their nutritionist or grocer instead of waiting to come see me.” It struck me that the effect food has on health was something that I really wanted to study. So, I found an adviser who agreed to work with me, and he helped me to design a major that incorporates all aspects of this issue, particularly science, sociology, and environment. I was lucky that William and Mary offered so many classes that seemed to fit. I’ve taken classes like sociology of food and food sustainability, which have been incredibly interesting, and I’ve also taken the science classes: science of nutrition, physiology of obesity, biochemistry. Geography classes–I’ve learned geographic information systems along the way, which has proven to be useful. And I’ve also been introduced to the field of public health–basically population-scale prevention of disease, which is also intricately related to food sociology.
Through William and Mary’s alternative spring breaks, I’ve gotten to work on a really cool organic farm called Lynchburg Grows, which was an awesome experience. Next semester I’m working on an independent study, working with an elementary school garden, filming a documentary, and writing a paper tying together everything that I’ve learned these past few years. It’s been quite an exciting adventure. As for what’s next, I’m graduating a semester early, so this winter, and I’m going to try to get a job at the health department, work for a little while, and I want to go into public health to learn more about how social factors of food affect obesity. I’m still looking at public health masters programs, not really sure of anything yet. So yeah, as scary as it is that my time here is already coming to an end, what I’ve learned here has given me an incredible background and interest, and I’m ready and excited for the next step!
June 14, 2011 by Bernice Chu
Here are some pictures from my service trip to kangaroo island (see previous post). Pictures with me in them were taken by Peggy and Mike.
=) Today, I went to Hahndorf, which is south australia’s german town. It was a lovely mix of charlottesville’s rolling hills and williamsburg’s old-timey small town feel. It was the first time it really felt like fall (it’s winter here next week), and it made me really pine for fall semester, for a proper fall: red and orange leaves, the smell of cedar fires, and hot cider!
June 13, 2011 by Bernice Chu
Kangaroo island was magical. I feel like my entire study abroad experience was justified by this one utterly unreal week. The trip was sponsored by conservation volunteers australia, and there were seven of us: a big guy named Tiny who has been volunteering there for years, two korean boys, a german woman, a woman from australia who works in scotland, a chinese girl, and me. There was Peggy, a goanna, echinda, and tiger snake researcher. All we know about these animals is from her research. And, there was Mike, who had worked in forty different countries, spent a lot of time living in the wild by himself (well, with the animals, he corrects us), and started the Pelican Lagoon research center, which he built by hand. Peggy and Mike were both incredibly kind and generous with both their hospitality and their vast pools of knowledge. I learned so much from them about plants, animals, sustainable housing, and life.
The seven of us lived at the research center with them, in houses that were built by hand to be energy efficient and completely sustainable and self-reliant. And we learned to build and we helped build stone houses. Their home is so incredibly beautiful. A group of kangaroos lives with them. The alpha-female, Rooby, was adopted by Peggy because Rooby was orphaned when her mom was roadkill eighteen years ago, and Peggy took her in. Now, Rooby is a great-grandma, and the whole pack lives right outside of the house.
I helped an aboriginal man named Carno plant trees, and he taught me that the best way to plant them is to have my back facing the sun, which gives it the most energy. He taught me lots about his culture, told me stories about giant kangaroos and emus and showed me their tracks. He showed me colorful rocks and told stories about how they represent different tribes. Carno is an amazing person.
I saw possums, black yellow-tailed cockatoos, many wedge-tailed eagles, a mushroom that looked like a boulder, feral cats, rainbows every single day, everywhere! A peacock flew in front of our windshield while we were in the van, and it just hovered there for a while, and we had to slow down so we didn’t run into it. I’ve never seen a wild peacock in flight before. I imagine this is what seeing a phoenix feels like!
On our third day, we met Mike and Peggy’s friend Nick, who is a famous chef and owns crazy restaurants and luxury resorts. We helped him plant some trees on one of his hills, and he made us amazing chowder for lunch, and let us stay at his beautiful private resort! It was situated on a hill, overlooking a private beach. It was paradise. Then, for dinner, he brought us to an old shearing shack which he’d converted into this completely magical and rustic dining room, complete with floating candles, vines, and good music. He made us slow roasted lamb, pumpkin, potatoes, salad, and there was good company, good wine, and apple crumble for dessert.
On the way home from Nick’s island paradise, we stopped by a small town for a visit and had soup at Mike and Peggy’s friend Coral’s house. Coral’s house was lovely: filled with beautiful knick-knacks which she’d made herself. She also made each of us lobster-shaped gingerbread cookies. Her cookies are famous–she presents them at art shows!
I tried new fruits, and I learned how to mix plaster and throw it on walls. I wielded a mini-mattock and a crow bar. I watched Peggy dissect a roadkill echidna.
I was really sad to leave Peggy and Mike on friday. They are such incredible people, and if I could stay with them forever, I would. But, I still had more adventures. The german girl and the scottish girl and I went on an exploration of the western part of kangaroo island during the weekend. We went on lots of hikes, slept in a comfortable barn that had a fireplace, visited the remarkable rocks before breakfast, saw lots of koalas, went to Hanson Bay which is a gorgeous beach, saw an echidna in its natural habitat (!!! it was a blonde one…so cute how it moves, so pretty), visited a bee farm, climbed prospect hill during sundown and saw the entire island from the top, and then took the ferry home.
The trip made me think a lot about what kind of lifestyle I’d like to live, and it also made me realize that my life has hardly begun, and I don’t need to figure these things out now because throughout the course of my life, I’ll be exploring different careers and making new places my home, and I just gotta take it all in stride and find beauty in everything, and love generously, and the combination of all things I will experience, I’m sure, will be tremendous. Peggy and Mike have taught me that you can live sustainably and be immersed in nature, but also be connected to the world at the same time. This was an important discovery to me because I’ve always wanted to live sort of away from society, but I also want to be a responsible citizen and contribute to society, and the two of them live in a remote area in the middle of a forested area, but they are still extremely well-connected to pretty much everyone on the island, are very sociable, and contribute a whole lot to society. They give me hope that I’ll find a really cool niche somewhere as well!
I go home in three weeks. I’m not thinking about it much because I need to concentrate on studying for exams, but I’m pretty stoked to go home. I’ve grown really fond of australia, and I’ll be sad to leave (I love kangaroos!!), but there is a certain place steeped in colonial history, dressed with bricks and magnolia trees, that I’m excited to be returning to!! And I’ll be bringing miniature koala souvenirs, an improved vocabulary (good on ya, mate!), and new perspectives. =)
I’ll post pictures of kangaroo island soon!
May 23, 2011 by Bernice Chu
Found some video clips from freshman year, so I put together a video summary. Watching these clips made me miss William & Mary oh so much! I can’t wait to go back next semester for my last fall and winter in Williamsburg.