William and Mary
Skyler Paltell
Skyler Paltell

About  Posts

Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Class of 2015
Majors: English & Anthropology

15 Reasons Why I Chose W&M

April 14, 2014 by

Day for Admitted Students was this weekend, and William & Mary welcomed over 3,000 students and their families to campus. As a tour guide, I’ve been volunteering with DFAS for three years now, and every year the tribe pride that accompanies the occasion is unrivaled. Admitted students are exceptionally great because they’ve already applied and found something to love about W&M–and while deciding on a college is difficult, DFAS is meant to show them who we are, and what they could be a part of. So without further ado, here are the top 15 reasons I chose to become a member of the Tribe.

  1. The beauty of the campus and the surrounding area. Having grown up in a city, I had never seen so many trees and bricks in one place. I was enchanted by the beauty of old campus and the colonial architecture on DoG Street.
  2. The people. Every time I got lost on my campus visit, someone was always more than willing to point me in the right direction. Everyone was friendly, the students seemed interesting and genuinely happy, and the professors I spoke to via email were amazingly helpful.
  3. The Wren Building. You can’t challenge the appeal of attending class in the oldest academic building in America.
  4. The traditions. Between Yule Log, Convocation, and King & Queens, W&M has an undeniable array of amazing traditions. And what’s more, everyone takes them seriously and each tradition has a history.
  5. The prestige. Attending one of the most elite public schools in the nation has its advantages–the W&M name carries a definite weight.
  6. The small classes. I wanted a school where I could have a personal relationship with my professors, and small classes where I could be an active participant. I found that here, even in entry level classes and major requirements.
  7. My senior interviewer. He was my first up close and personal impression of a W&M student, and I had a great interview. I still remember him making me laugh and putting my nerves at ease.
  8. Lake Matoaka. Outdoor recreation has always been important to me, and having 10 miles of hiking trails at my disposal was a definite plus. And don’t forget the canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards that are free to check out with your student ID.
  9. Tribe Pride. W&M students have a definite sense of community and school spirit that I didn’t find on any other campuses I toured.
  10. The Cipher. W&M is the only school with its own British charter, crest, and cipher. I remember thinking even the police cars looked classy with the intertwined W and M emblazoned on their sides.
  11. A sense of belonging. When I stepped onto campus, I felt like I belonged. I could see myself walking through Wren during Convocation, wearing green and gold during football games, and taking pictures with the Griffin.
  12. The safety of the campus. Coming from Baltimore, Maryland (the third homicide capital in America), being able to feel safe and secure on campus was a definite plus.
  13. The Alma Mater. Every time I sing it, I still get really excited to shout “William! And Mary!” at the top of my lungs during the chorus.
  14. Taylor Reveley. He just seemed awesome. He still is awesome.
  15. The gut feeling that this was the place for me. When I walked onto campus for a tour my junior year of high school, I never wanted to leave. Between the amazing people, the brilliant professors, and the beautiful campus, I knew that W&M was the best place for me for the next four years. Applying early is not something I have ever regretted–I can’t see myself anywhere else.

Mark Edmundson

March 21, 2014 by

Mark Edmundson’s essay, Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here, was one of the first things I read for my creative writing class this semester. It was interesting, mainly for its syntax—it was relatable, directed toward undergraduates, but still combined an interesting vocabulary with a personally relevant subject. And secondly, it was perhaps the first, if not the only, piece I have read in my college career that was entirely about college. In the essay, Edmundson described his own undergraduate experience, his experiences teaching, and what higher education meant to him; he combines humor with solemnity, memories from the past with hopes for the future. He raised existential questions, forced me to think seriously about who I am, and what exactly I’m doing in college. As a student with an interest in pursuing a career in higher education, this was the first time I could actually connect with a written work we studied in class—it was a beautifully written, personally relevant piece.

And so when Edmundson came to speak to the English Department yesterday, I was more than thrilled. Here was a man, a brilliant man, who advocated studying a subject purely out of interest, for pursuing a career based on long term personal and career goals rather than salary, and for exploring the meaning of the self—what it is to be a young adult on the precipice of a career. In his lecture, Edmundson divided career paths into three ideals: Compassion, Courage, and Contemplation, and stated that essentially every career path correlates with an ideal (save for the arts, which constitute a separate ideal.) And here he was, this man who inspired me and gave me hope through his words, standing ten feet away and telling me I could choose a job I loved, simply because I loved it.

This is one of those moments when I felt so incredibly fortunate to be an undergraduate at William & Mary—this speaker, whose fame could not perhaps compete with the likes of Maya Angelou and the Dalai Lama, could journey here and talk to students like me, students whose lives he has changed without knowing. I had thought I had chosen the wrong major—the classic works of Dickinson and Dickens and James simply don’t hold the allure they used to. I know now that I have not chosen the wrong subject to study—I simply just needed to be re-inspired, to see English as something relatable and pertinent, rather than dusty novels from centuries past. Seeing an author—one who was very much alive, and acquainted with modernity, put English in perspective. Words will always be relevant, ideas will always inspire, and I do have the power to choose a career simply on the basis of personal ideals. I just needed someone to reaffirm it.

Serendipity

March 4, 2014 by

I’m sitting behind the information desk at the Wren Building, one of the last students on campus as I prepare to head home tomorrow for Spring Break. Three prospective students were here a few minutes ago, and they asked me a question I hadn’t heard in a while—what made me choose William & Mary?

It’s something that has been on my mind often as I approach the end of my third year of college. For me, it was a gut feeling, mostly—one that is difficult to quantify. On tours, I make up an answer—I say it was the campus, the people, the small size, and all of these things are not wrong. But how to I quantify to a group of strangers that it was a combination of all these factors and something more, a sense that I belonged here, that I had been here before? In terms of higher education, William & Mary was The One, there was no other—I had other options, sure, but I felt like I was supposed to be here, it was serendipitous, and I was not wrong. Here, I have been challenged in ways I could not have anticipated, I have met inspiring and brilliant people I feel lucky to call my friends, I have walked in the same footprints as the greats who have come before me—Thomas Jefferson, Glen Close, Robert Gates. I am a small part of a vast legacy.

It was a feeling for me, subjective, ephemeral, but real all the same. It is the same look I see in the eyes of brides as they prepare to walk down the aisle of the Wren Chapel, the same happiness that radiates from friends who have just accepted offers from their dream jobs. It’s a certainty, a readiness for the next chapter.

I’m looking for the same feeling now as I prepare my resume for summer job searches, and later, my career search. I only wish that making these decisions was as easy as choosing William & Mary—how will I know what I’m supposed to do with my life? How will I know with whom, and where, I’m supposed to spend it? It’s a sobering realization—that I will leave, and others will take my place here, as I will find my own in the world beyond Williamsburg.

I think that I’ll know what I’m supposed to do, some day, but I remind myself that I still have some time. I have another year here, with the friends and the people I love best, and then perhaps I’ll spend a gap year working on a llama farm (or something.) I have time, and when I know where I’m heading after this, I’ll just know, the same way I knew I was meant to be here.

Humanities Majors Are People Too

January 31, 2014 by

I walked in to Wawa last week with the intention of buying a coffee, and left instead with a coffee and a quarter life crisis. For the second time that week, the cashier was decidedly unimpressed when he asked what I was majoring in and I informed him I was studying English and Studio Art.

This hasn’t just happened at Wawa—it has happened at the Trader Joe’s in New Town, at parties, with the tourists I interact with at work. It would appear that a major in the humanities is an invitation for criticism, inspiring such comments as “What are you going to do with that?” and, “Are you going to be a teacher?” Never mind that I wrote sixty pages worth of papers last semester and created a six foot tall landscape drawing—I am deemed less impressive because my talents aren’t quite as desirable in the job market.

W&M is a liberal arts college, and thank goodness for that—here, there are just as many anthropology and philosophy majors as there are pre-med students. Here, it is not frowned upon to specialize in creative fields and the soft sciences, despite society’s disdain for non-STEM fields. Within the college bubble, I feel equally qualified for employment as any computer science major.

I have no doubt that the market is harder for humanities majors—it is an unforgiving work force, one where qualitative talents are overlooked in favor of quantitative skills. Even with a prestigious, $200,000 dollar degree, I can be sure to look forward to a competitive job market and a significant chance of unemployment. Despite the fact that I have worked hard, we have all worked hard, for those of us graduating with liberal arts majors, the market will be all the more uncertain.

Despite these difficulties, however, I do not regret my choice to pursue my passion. I struggle with math and science, I positively hate numbers—I will write you a haiku in 30 seconds flat, but give me a math problem and I am rendered incoherent. There is so much pressure to major in a financially stable field, one with a guaranteed paycheck, but for those of us without those skills, that option is simply nonexistent. I could no more major in computer science than I could climb Mount Everest in a swimsuit, because my brain simply is not circuited for numbers. Tell me to draw a pear—sure, I’ll draw you a pear, and it will be a good pear—my skills lie in the creative realm, and that does not make me any less intelligent than a math major.

This is why universities like William & Mary are essential, because for those of us with skills in the humanities, liberal arts colleges provide a supportive environment to explore our passions. A W&M economics major once told me, “we need to incentive the arts”—and it’s true. In a world with no English majors, no art minors, no sociology students, there would be no beauty and no novelty. Humanities majors, despite the stigma we face, are just as instrumental to society as STEM majors—our journey is just a little bit harder.

Reality Check

January 6, 2014 by

I almost fell off the sofa this morning when I checked my email and discovered a reminder to file for graduation.

Wait. What.

How did I become a second semester junior so quickly? And how am I receiving this cruel reminder that I only have three semesters left? And most importantly, why am I receiving this notice when I still have three semesters left?

I’m twenty years old. I still like to watch SpongeBob on weekend mornings and eat ice cream out of the carton; I read Seventeen Magazine and my socks never match. I am in no way ready, or even close to being ready, to become a fully functioning, independent member of society. I’m positive that if I graduated right now, my inexperience at life would render me a menace to society.

The email was a reminder that college is merely another phase of life, the last phase of relative freedom, a transient experience that you’ll one day reflect on as the best days of your life. There will be life after William & Mary, though I can’t imagine it at all and have no idea what I’ll be doing with myself. I know that some day, eventually, I’ll have an apartment instead of a dorm; I’ll (hopefully) have a job, and have to deal with things like health insurance (what?) and pay my own bills. But these realities always seemed like a distant hypothetical, something far on the other side of four years of fun and friends and academics. Up until 11:06 this morning, my biggest concern was whether to buy the blue or the pink shirt from Victoria’s Secret. Now I’m realizing that I should probably be editing my resume and applying for summer internships instead. Hello, adulthood.

I know I’m not alone—I’m sure everyone who received the email this morning is having an identity crisis. The only people who are not panicking, I’m sure, are the parents—my parents were celebrating this winter break when they realized they only had to pay two more tuition bills. I wish I had something reassuring to say, but I’m as lost as the rest of us. I only know that each of us is innately driven, intelligent, and tenacious, and by the time graduation rolls around, our four years here will have prepared us, on some level, for what is beyond. The rest of it—our futures—is up to us.

The Finals Countdown

December 10, 2013 by

Finals– two syllables that strike fear into the hearts of every TWAMP on campus, sending us running straight into the arms of Swem, or to Wawa to grab 24oz coffees. Those two weeks at the end of the semester when the campus shuts down, the College Delly goes quiet, and the Sunken Garden is empty, are some of the hardest and most trying weeks of the semester, but fear not, you’ll make it through finals intact and just in time for Winter Break.

For freshmen: This is your first round of finals at W&M, and you’ll probably want to go all out and partake in all of our crazy traditions, like trying to sleep in the library and pull consecutive all-nighters. Don’t do it. While finals are important, and you’ll want to do well, no grade is worth sacrificing your heath and well-being for. Don’t forget to take study breaks, laugh with friends, peruse Buzzfeed, and eat dinner. Domino’s delivers pizza to Swem, and they also take Flex, so there really isn’t a good reason to forget to eat. And remember, regardless of what your grades may ultimately be—it’s just one class, in one semester, in your first year of college. There will be many more chances to redeem a grade you weren’t happy with, and if you did well, don’t forget to celebrate! Go home, watch Netflix, and enjoy the holidays with your family as you prepare for next semester.

For upperclassmen: We’ll survive this finals period the same way we’ve survived the last two, four, or six. We know the drill by now, we know exactly when the therapy dogs will be on campus and we know to avoid Swem in favor of less crowded study venues. We have perfected the perfect balance of studying and procrastinating, maximizing our Facebook stalking and minimizing our sleep. We’ve been here before, we know finals aren’t fun, but we also know we’ll get through it more or less in one piece.

You can do it, guys. Don’t forget to live, laugh, breathe, and see Taylor Reveley at Yule Log this coming Saturday. Happy finals, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Just Do You

November 14, 2013 by

As I’m sitting here in Swem for the fifth night in a row, procrastinating on a paper I should have started yesterday, I’m thinking about how quickly this semester has gone—it has been, undoubtedly, the best semester I have had thus far.

Junior year, with graduation becoming now more of an imminent event rather than a vague possibility (providing I pass art history), has forced me to consider my growth as a person during the past five semesters. In the past week alone, I’ve pushed my comfort zone, met some amazing people, been to the Career Center, and conquered a fear. I’ve seen the leaves change from green to gold and then fall, gleaming, to the brick paths; I’ve engaged in leaf fights and stayed out till 2 am on a Monday.

The things I have done, the experiences I have had this week, this month, this semester alone, would have been unimaginable before my time here at the College.

Two years ago, I was shy. I had acne, slept with a pillow pet, and I doubted my abilities. I was afraid to look people in the eye for fear that they would instantly recognize my insecurity, and I realize I was not the “perfect” shell I projected. I lost sight of myself for a while, jumping between groups of friends and various clubs until I found the people who would help me realize my potential when I could not.

This semester, something changed, something clicked—a missing puzzle piece fell into place, and suddenly, I became the person that I had wanted to be, but was too afraid to find. This semester, I am myself—I say awkward things, I laugh loudly, I break rules, I eat copious amounts of tater tots. I’m not afraid to be nonsensical, to say the things that I mean, to relinquish the death grip on my GPA and have some fun.

I have found, unsurprisingly, that being yourself does not mean that your friends will desert you—instead, they will come to know you better, to appreciate you for who you are, to see your genuineness as a gift and know that when you speak, you speak from your heart. This semester, I have comforted friends on their bad days, and been comforted by people who I never expected would reach out to me; I have failed a test, and I have accidentally killed my pet fish.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to accept that you are not perfect, that you are young, you are human, and the world is infinitely beautiful and terrifying. It’s okay to be teased, and to tease others, and its okay to allow yourself to be vulnerable. By putting yourself out there, you are taking a chance—but the rewards are innumerable. It takes too much energy to wear a mask, to hold tightly to a persona that does not allow the world to see you for who and what you are.

You are wonderful. This place–this college–is wonderful.  We are a school filled with brilliant, quirky, driven people—just be yourself, and let it rip. There are people waiting to embrace you with open arms.

Raise the Green and Gold

October 28, 2013 by

As almost every William & Mary student and alum knows, this weekend marked Homecoming 2013, that long-awaited event each year in which alums old and new flock back to the tree-lined serenity of campus. This year’s Homecoming was a landmark event for two reasons: 1. It marked the first homecoming game the Tribe has won since I have been a student here, and 2. There were no hurricanes, establishing 2013 as the first year I have not evacuated campus in advance of a hurricane. Both are exciting distinctions.

Homecoming this year was especially meaningful to me, as for the first time I was able to see returning alumni that I knew and recognized from previous years. My sorority welcomed back dozens of alumnae with our Homecoming Brunch on Saturday, allowing me the opportunity to reconnect with the sisters who helped make my first year in Greek Life so memorable. I was also able to reconnect with Natalie Applegate, former campus celebrity and my tour guide mentor freshman year.

It’s amazing to me to see how my friends have grown in their respective time away from the College, how their careers have changed them and how they themselves have made such an impact on my own college experience. Homecoming is a reminder that no matter how far life takes you away from William & Mary, there is one weekend each October when it’s still there, waiting for the return of the thousands of faces who came before us, our ancestors who helped to create the grooves in the brick staircases, the carved initials on trees, and whose class years line the Senior Walk on Old Campus. They return as recent graduates, as families, as elderly couples who crossed the Crim Dell Bridge holding hands so many decades ago

I have only one more Homecoming to spend here as a student, but I anticipate many more to come—many more visits to the ‘Burg, at first in solidarity—then perhaps with a spouse in tow, and maybe, many years from now, as the parent of a William & Mary student. One Tribe, One Family—for now, forever—hark upon the gale.

25 Ways You Know It’s the End of the Spring Semester

April 26, 2013 by

It’s that time of the year again: the last week of classes, the final push before the warmth and relative freedom of summer. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, here are twenty-five ways you know it’s the end of the Spring Semester:

  1. You begin to feel a weird attachment to your dorm room, even though it’s dingy and in the Units and you’ve absolutely hated it all year.
  2. You’re sick—you have some sort of cold, sinus infection or other respiratory illness courtesy of the Williamsburg pollen.
  3. You feel extremely nostalgic about everything, like the last meeting for that club you didn’t like, or your final AMP Late Nite trivia.
  4. You have a detailed, color-coded Swem schedule that documents how much time, down to the minute, you’ll be spending in Swem during finals week. Also, you have your study schedule organized and taped to the ceiling above your bed.
  5. You’re out of Flex, and you’ve been out of Flex since the beginning of April.
  6. You have at least one group presentation to give this week, and you’re running around trying to figure out what you own that is “business casual” that does not need to be ironed.
  7. Your bank account has been decimated by eight months worth of Wawa runs, and you’re trying to figure out how to buy gifts for all of your graduating friends with the $1.60 that is currently in your wallet.
  8. Your room needs to be cleaned. Because it’s not a successful semester if you don’t have weird stains on your floor and ceiling.
  9. You spend most of your time daydreaming about your amazing summer plans, most of which include working forty hours a week, with the occasional trip to the beach and 1,400 pages of War and Peace to read before Fall Semester.
  10. You’re panicked about finals.
  11. You’re excited about Finals Fun Week at Swem, because the therapy dogs are coming back. Also, Ben and Jerry’s—always Ben and Jerry’s.
  12. You’re regretting that you still haven’t talked to that gorgeous guy/girl in your Religion class.
  13. You can eat three free meals a day with all of the free pizza, bagels, and snacks available at end-of-the-semester meetings.
  14. You’re realizing you owe at least four people money and you should probably pay them back before finals.
  15. You’ve gotten a dozen summer storage flyers in your CSU in the last week.
  16. Qdoba knows your order by heart, because you’ve eaten there at least once a week for the course of the entire semester.
  17. Professors start warning you they don’t want any “shenanigans” on the last day of classes, and you had better be coherent and in class or else.
  18. Your professors cancel your Friday classes because they know there is nothing they can do to prevent shenanigans and general anarchy.
  19. You realize you should not have duct-taped your poster to the wall back in September, because when you try to take it down, you peel off half the paint on your wall.
  20. Your hall bathroom was finally cleaned for the first time all semester.
  21. You’re having a quarter-life crisis, and generally questioning your decisions, your future, and why you didn’t go to the Career Center more during the past year.
  22. You’ve been looking forward to Last Day of Classes since the first day of the semester.
  23. Your senior friends have been eating a lot of wine and cheese recently.
  24. You’re trying to stretch your clean laundry to the end of the semester, but you’ve been wearing the same pair of pants for a week.
  25. You have a restrictive hold on your account from all of the printing charges you’ve accumulated, but have somehow managed to avoid paying because eServices won’t take Visa.

It Comes and Goes in Waves (Homesickness)

February 12, 2013 by

Several weeks ago I wrote about my desire to have fun and enjoy the college experience, but this post addresses another side to college life—homesickness. I used to think that homesickness was just for college freshmen, and indeed, when you search it on Google, most of the information refers to first year college students. But when I entered my sophomore year and was still hit – hard – with the occasional wave of homesickness, I figured I couldn’t be the only one.

I was not the typical college freshman in regards to homesickness; I wasn’t stricken with a longing for the familiar until late in the fall semester. My best friend from home was paralyzed by homesickness for the first few weeks of freshman year, but recovered quickly. I, however, did not miss Baltimore until early November, and unfortunately, I haven’t been able to fully shake that feeling since. Ultimately, my love for this school and for the opportunities here have overruled my homesickness, since I spent last summer in Williamsburg and I will do so again this summer.  But every so often, I’m bowled over with a longing for home, which usually corresponds to stressful periods in the semester and in my life.

I’m exceedingly lucky that I can get home with relative ease on the train, as I did this past weekend. It’s midterms, the stress was getting to me, I wasn’t sleeping—I took a mental health weekend and returned to Baltimore to see my family. I revisited my high school haunts, the Starbucks on York Road, the sushi place in the center of town. There truly is nothing like the comfort of your own room and Mom’s cooking to make life seem more manageable—sometimes adulthood, even the quasi-adulthood of the college years, can become overwhelming. But then the weekend was over, and I returned to school, and here I am feeling homesick again.

I have to remind myself that my childhood is over, for better or worse—I have gained independence, though I have lost the feeling of comfort and security that home brings. I’m not ignorant—I know I have outgrown home, the shoe doesn’t fit anymore—friends have moved away, my high school is closed to me, my little sister will soon be leaving for college herself. Eventually, my childhood home will be sold, and the tenuous portal to my past will truly be shut. Baltimore is a dead end. My future is here, in Williamsburg, in my classes, my friends, my job. My life is here. And I love it; I really do, but only most of the time. Sometimes, I need to be a child again, if only for a weekend, a moment, a fleeting sense of security.

Life is uncertain, the future is uncertain. Uncertainty can be terrifying. Therein lies the root of homesickness—the fear of the unknown, and the longing for familiarity. I expect to feel homesick at times throughout the entirety of my college years, and perhaps beyond, for I recognize that I have been given a great home. And though the definition of home may be blurred now—is home here, or in Baltimore? which address do I use?—I cling to the memories of my family, my childhood, and my house with the cat and the shutters and the picket fence. Though life keeps moving forward, it’s okay, sometimes, to look back. Homesickness isn’t just for freshmen.