William and Mary
Claire Gillespie
Claire Gillespie

About  Posts

Hometown: Johnsburg, IL
Class of 2016
Major: English

Homecoming and Surprises

October 30, 2013 by

In my opinion, surprises make Homecoming. You never know just who you’ll run into, which famous alumni will walk around the corner, which upperclassmen will show up again at your club’s reception. Homecoming radiates mystery and that’s why I love it.

I did not expect to meet former Director of the CIA, former Secretary of Defense, and current Chancellor Robert Gates last week, but as it turns out, Chancellor Gates had room in his schedule to meet the staff of the William & Mary Review, the literary magazine Gates worked on as an undergraduate. I sat in a room with Robert Gates for ten minutes and discussed the literary magazine we both work on and walked out thrilled that I articulated my opinion to someone who carries himself so eloquently.

The Review staff meets Robert Gates.

The Review staff meets Robert Gates.

Homecoming surprises heightened when my good friend, who is spending the semester in Washington, DC, knocked on my door. She had come down for Homecoming Weekend and lured me to the W&M vs. JMU football game.

Full disclosure: I did not realize William & Mary had a football team until Orientation ended. Football games, you may say, are not high on my list of priorities.

But I went to the football game and had fun! (For a little while, at least.)

So much Tribe Pride from the pep band.

So much Tribe Pride from the pep band.

My final surprise Homecoming Weekend came when I discovered the band Freelance Whales was to play at William & Mary’s own Sadler Center. I found out Freelance Whales would perform at William & Mary from a text from my friend from home seconds after William & Mary friends told me about their performance. I have not felt the same vein of pleasant elation since I discovered the party I wandered into circa summer 2003 was my own surprise birthday celebration. It came as no surprise, however, that Freelance Whales’s performance made my night.

Freelance Whales plays for students.

Freelance Whales plays for students.

Seeing the terrace as full as the first beautiful day in spring surprises me. Hearing alumni talk to students with the earnestness and interest of a young professional talking with his or her first brilliant hire surprises me. Seeing the football stadium filled with green and gold T-shirts (especially my own) surprises me.

But of course these events shouldn’t surprise me, because they abound at William & Mary. William & Mary’s environment brims with the pleasant surprise of winning the lottery through its illustrious teachers, caring students and beauty.

So, happy post-Homecoming. I hope the ways William & Mary surprises you this week make you smile.

Freshman Baby

April 26, 2013 by

I would love to freeze time right now.

My philosophy exam and mounds of take-home finals I still need to outline and write are currently staring me down from my desk. As much as I’d like to avoid the work I need to begin to do, I’d like to freeze time for a different reason.

This college has introduced me to truly incredible people. And a number of those people will graduate in a couple of weeks. Others will study abroad (or even just in Washington D.C.) next semester. One professor I have really come to admire will take a research leave.

And I will no longer be a freshman. As silly as this sounds, I love being a freshman. I love asking questions and learning so many things – the way a club is run, the dress code for the first warm day in spring – for the first time. I loved not knowing Wawa had milkshakes, how to sign up for my piano jury, what I should wear to meet President Reveley, because I could overcompensate or under compensate and simply enjoy figuring things out.

I’m sure I’ll still be figuring things out next year. But some of those people that helped me figure things out initially won’t be there with me. They will, of course, be off in the world, working, studying, teaching other people.

Right now, I’m sitting with some girls from my freshman hall reminiscing about the past year. Our adventures have ranged from traipsing over to the Lake Matoaka Art Studio to watch the stars, to ordering late night pizza and sharing each others care packages, to meeting boys who have become my hall mates’ boyfriends who have become my friends. And we are about to scatter for the summer.

As sad as I am to see my senior friends leave, my hall mates disperse, and my teachers shift offices, I have such faith in this school to attract and encourage incredible people. I’m so excited to meet more of them.

Thoughts from the Aiport

December 20, 2012 by

A little boy just walked by and, upon viewing the group of tables I am sitting at, said, “Why are all these people eating in such a busy airport?”

His father smiled.

In about an hour, I will board my flight home to Chicago, although I have a feeling it will be delayed by the snow storm coming later this evening.

My last blog wished everyone a happy holidays, which I still wish, but I would like to share some of my favorite moments from the last two weeks of finals.

On Thursday evening, two friends and I went to the dock at Lake Matoaka to see the Geminid meteor shower. Between 11 p.m. and midnight, we saw about twenty shooting stars. It looked like the sky was winking at us as the stars fell. What an incredible experience! Of course some of our wishes were hopes that our finals would go well.

On my first big day of tests, my roommate and I both had exams at 9 a.m. We had collectively set over four different alarms to go off multiple times between 7:30 and 8:00, but what woke us up was our friend’s knock on the door at 8:10. Which was very scary. Luckily, one of the nice things about William & Mary is that people look out for each other – and our friends continue to knock on our door and make sure we are up when we have tests on the same day.

Another beautiful moment was the Yule Log Ceremony. I don’t know what it is about President Reveley dressing up as Santa Claus and reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas to a bunch of 18 to 22 year-olds, but everyone in the Wren Courtyard had goofy, if reluctant, smiles. After the ceremony, we got hot cider and cookies and took a sprig of holly with berries and threw it in with the Yule Log, to figuratively burn all the worries of the year away.

Finishing my last test yesterday (and turning in my paper) was accompanied by a final happy dance and an evening trip to Colonial Williamsburg for dinner with friends from my dorm. After looking longingly at all the nice restaurants, we determined they were too much money and went to get sandwiches. And celebrated the end of finals with several games of backgammon (which is one of my favorite games on the universe – I am slowly teaching everyone in my dorm how to play).

Happy holidays and, if you are in the Midwest, enjoy the snow!

Happy Holidays!

December 7, 2012 by

Since I last wrote, I have survived a hurricane, experienced 70-degree weather in December, and gone home for the first time since August for Thanksgiving break.

Going home was a bit of adventure in itself – I went to Washington D.C. with my roommate and then took the train to Chicago. Along the way, I met several people with stories that ranged from trip travels to discussions of politics. I ate in a dining car. At one point, I woke up and there was snow outside my window – the train was going up a mountain in West Virginia.

As nice as it was to be in Illinois, I am very happy to be back at William & Mary, where I have a purpose and places to go and books to read. I was welcomed back with pie, cookies, pasta – people had been busy in the kitchen by the time I arrived.

Last Saturday, some friends and I spent time in downtown Williamsburg, which may be one of the greatest places to spend the holiday season. Stores are overflowing with Christmas decorations, ornaments, songs, and food and a play was going on. I discovered my new favorite drink in the world – a cup of “European sipping chocolate” at Aroma’s. This is thick like melted chocolate and dark and delicious, perfect for December.

Speaking of December, it has been 70 degrees here for the last week. My friends from Virginia have thoroughly ensured me that the weather is not typical, but I still appreciate the relative warmness of Williamsburg compared to home. The only good thing about Illinois winters is the snow, and to make up for that, my hall mates have cut several detailed, beautiful snowflakes to decorate our dorm.

Recent Visitors

October 19, 2012 by

Several very exciting people have recently visited the College.

A couple weeks ago, William Deresiewicz, an essayist and the author of the book A Jane Austen Education, gave a lecture sponsored by the English department. This was quite exciting for me because I read Deresiewicz’s essays and part of his book in high school when my English class read Pride and Prejudice. Initially, I thought the novel was boring, like Deresiewicz, but after reading his ideas, I gained a new appreciation for Jane Austen. I then read all of Deresiewicz’s essays about education and culture that I could find – which are available on his website – and have been referencing his ideas since. So I was very excited when I found out he was coming to give a talk at William & Mary.

Then, last week, the Dalia Lama came to visit. 4,000 tickets were given for free to students through a lottery system earlier in the fall, which is how I had gotten my ticket. The campus was looking forward to this for awhile. Right at 2:00pm, the Dalia Lama was introduced by the Rector, then the Student Assembly President. He had on his monk robes and a William & Mary visor through the whole speech.

Anyone with as much experience in leadership and thought as the Dalia Lama is, through necessity, a wise person. I could feel the entire auditorium breathing with every word the Dalia Lama spoke about humanity and compassion. Then, he would laugh or hold up his finger and give specific advice (the most memorable was that green cosmetics are not particularly attractive on girls) and the audience hesitated, unsure if they could laugh at this memorable figure before the room would erupt in laughter. I think people laughed both at what the Dalia Lama said but also at the amazement of laughing at what the Dalia Lama said.

This was definitely an experience I will tell my friends and children about.

It is amazing to me to think of all the people who have been associated with William & Mary, people who have walked through the doors of one of the buildings, looked across at all the trees and thought of something that changed the world. The chancellors of this school astound me: Margaret Thatcher, Sandra Day O’Connor, Henry Kissinger, Warren Burger, George Washington.

And it is not just historical figures looming in the past that William & Mary inspires. Professors here are so engaged with the world and research and ideas. In the last two days, I’ve talked to a professor researching how Latin America dissent literature has affected American culture and was given a tour of the Lake Matoaka art studio by an art professor. I am continually impressed by each teacher’s dedication not only to the subject they teach, but to sharing that with students.

My Weekend Activities

October 2, 2012 by

Saturday mornings are absolutely wonderful. It is on Saturdays that I wake up to this beautiful campus and realize how truly amazing it is to live in one of the most unique and architecturally significant places in the country. Saturday mornings I very much appreciate the walk to the caf, the fresh fruit and eggs that I didn’t cook myself, the library that I can go to later and walk through stacks and find not only the book I have wondered about for the past few years (or few days), but three shelves of literary analysis on it.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the weekend is one of my favorite times to be on campus. I love having access to all of the amenities (and there are many) that come with being a student away from the fast pace of the week.

Wondering through the library, however, is not all I do on weekends. (Although I did check out three books about Nabakov’s Pale Fire – and they are due at the end of January, four months from now. My mind was sufficiently blown.) Last weekend, I went to a sustainability dinner on Friday evening in the Sunken Gardens. I was a little late, and when I came, there were four long tables set up (think the Great Hall in Hogwarts) against the outdoor Virginia twilight. I sat with my hallmates – everyone was dressed pretty nicely, although people dress nicely everyday here – and we proceeded to have food that the ancient Greeks would have claimed came from the gods.

There was butternut squash lasagna (I think we cried a little when we ate it), hot crab cakes, some of the best asparagus I have ever eaten, tomatoes cooked in a way where the flavor was as strong as seven normal tomatoes, bread with butter, roasted chicken. Everything was grown by local farmers. And I walked away with a pumpkin, which is now adorning my desk.

I went to a slam poetry event and then listened to a band at a local restaurant one night, which ended, as so many nights do in Williamsburg, with rain. Last Friday, I went to a show for the Harvest Moon Festival, a Chinese holiday. I have spent a few Saturdays out in Williamsburg and Jamestown campaigning for the upcoming election. Church on Sunday is usually followed by a meal in the caf – although yesterday, we branched out and went to Einstein Bagels for coffee and breakfast sandwiches instead.

Sunday evenings are studying, of course, but also hair cuts (I did the cutting), an assassins game (where each person in a dorm gets a target and tries to “kill” that person – the last person left alive wins), and occasional discussion on the definition of art (which I’ve had four times, to count).

Then Monday morning comes, and it is the final typing of homework, rushing out to my bike lock, checking mail, practicing piano, studying, studying, studying, having a nice meal, meetings, and then sleep. And I am so lucky that I get to do all this on these historic, beautiful grounds.

Clubs and Such

September 19, 2012 by

There is a club here called Wizards and Muggles that sorts students into a house at the beginning of the semester.

Yes, a house like Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw.

I will preface this post with a warning to all individuals under the age of 17: if you have not yet read Harry Potter and seen all the movies, get started. There have been at least eight Harry Potter references in my classes so far, not to mention just talking with friends. Perhaps this is leaning toward a William and Mary-esque specificity, but people know their Harry Potter facts.

There is also a quidditch team, which I have not seen but hear that the way it works is a person is a snitch, and you have to catch him (by pulling the flags he wears as they do in flag football off).

There is a frisbee team. There is a classic movie screening club. There is a climbing club and crew team. There is an art history magazine. There is a campus radio station. And there is service – service trips, working with children, working with the elderly, working in Williamsburg, taking weekend trips, and working on campus.

So far, I am writing for the newspaper The Flat Hat. Here is the link to my first article: http://flathatnews.com/2012/09/17/college-receives-green-light-ranking-from-fire-for-free-speech/. I have also been spending time with students from the Catholic Campus Ministries. This is great because they feed us real food. The other day, I had homemade chocolate chip pancakes.

Last weekend, I went on a the freshmen retreat put on by the Catholic Campus Ministry and we rode a ferry across the James River. I could see the Jamestown Settlement as we passed it – it is amazing to think that four hundred years ago, people came from across the Atlantic Ocean and saw this mass of trees and water that surrounds me everyday.

Another club that has been incredibly fun is Ballroom Dancing. I have learned to (somewhat successfully) do the cha-cha and two step.

And although I didn’t choose to get sorted for the Wizards and Muggles club, I can say that this school, with its proud buildings and Tribe Pride and interesting adventures, is as close to Hogwarts as real life might get.

The West Virginia of William and Mary

September 12, 2012 by

Recently, my roommate called our dorm the West Virginia of William and Mary.

I am only beginning to understand Southern comparisons, so I will explain: West Virginia is in the mountains. The mountains are full of trees and bugs and not very many people. But the people who do live there are very nice.

At least I think that is what she means.

Our dorm is by a lake and the woods. It is a smaller hall, which means that there are less than one hundred people and we know everyone who lives here, who are all incredibly nice and very interesting. Perhaps I am slightly biased. But these are the coolest people on campus.

We have, for example, a finely-defined method for killing the cockroaches which have been roaming our ceilings lately. (I like to think of them as pets, but of course they have never been in my room.) There is communal tea in our lobby. Whenever the need arises, someone heats up the water and everyone takes a cup, a tea bag, and we all drink tea together.

Currently, there are signs hanging on my window which include my and my roommate’s name in Arabic, my hallmates’ favorite Chinese characters (they are from Beijing and Shanghai), my roommate’s favorite chemical (it is flourine – she likes the number of electrons, not the fact that it is a toxic acid), and a word that I thought was pretty at the time: starling. It will be awhile before these posters come down because, shortly after putting them up, my roommate and I took a study break and installed our window air conditioner unit, which I, at least, am quite proud of the fact that we put it in ourselves.

It is a little bit of an adventure here but I would not want it any other way.

What I’ve Learned So Far

August 31, 2012 by

In the week that it has been since I came to William and Mary, I have learned a number of new phrases, including the word Nova (Northern Virginia – not to be confused with Rova – the Rest of Virginia) and the acronyms RAR, OA, PFOA, and TWAMP (in this order: Resident Assistant Roommate, Orientation Aide, Parent/Family Orientation Aide, and Typical William and Mary Person – which is unabashedly used to describe a busy overachiever). Acronyms are a must here, maybe because people have such big and bright ideas that they do not want to waste time saying a single extra syllable or maybe because coming to William and Mary feels like joining an exclusive – yet very friendly – club.

It is hot here, but luckily, it rains frequently (often without warning) and cools down the entire campus. Rain boots are another must, because the three-hundred-year-old brick that lines Williamsburg is slightly uneven and creates giant puddles. The campus is beautiful – it is all green and purple flowered trees and buildings that breath with history (and red masonry). The best part of William and Mary, however, is the people. My classmates and I were welcomed in a way that it took only three days for freshmen to respond to the question “Where are you from?” with the name of their dorm hall instead of the places they have spent the last several years of their life.

The students here talk about everything from spending their summers in England or India doing service work and studying abroad to the best strategies to win a game of Risk. They talk about research projects and internships and Albus Dumbledore. They care about everything from finding a short line at the omelet station in the Commons to feeding starving children in Africa. The students here stop when they see a confused face – like my own – and help us find our way – to a dorm, to a class, to all the opportunities that make up this place. I am so honored to be part of this community of passionate, intelligent, and most importantly, kind people who make up the past, present, and, especially, the future of the College of William and Mary.