April 29, 2013 by Sarah Nicholas
This week, I sat in on and conducted interviews for the first time. One common trend: dead silences. I was shocked at the number of people who ran out of things to say, or the people who seemingly had no personalities, or the people who wanted the job so badly they embarrassed themselves. It’s okay to be excited about getting a job, and it’s okay to show that excitement in the interview.
I honestly think that people stress too much before interviews. I have friends who have studied for hours, done copious amounts of research, or bought a new suit. They put so much energy and focus into the company they want to work for and “saying the right things” that they forget about themselves. You are the one with the interview. The company genuinely wants to hire you, if for no other reason than being able to stop the hiring process (trust me, it’s a tedious and frustrating process).
The whole point of an interview is to successfully market yourself to an organization, from a business to a school or even a social club. Certainly, you want to make a point of what you can contribute and how hard you will work and how dedicated you are, but you also want to be a real person. I would never want to hire a machine; if I wanted one, I would buy another computer. Managers look for team players, people capable of getting along with each other without stirring the waters. 40 hours a week is a long time, so it’s best to be amicable and happy.
There was more than a handful of irrelevant questions – just because you “ask a question” doesn’t mean you’re getting the job. Certainly, you should always have questions prepared. Correction. You should always have relevant questions prepared. Asking about money, hours, or logistical issues should not count as your questions. Asking about your interviewer’s background is always a good start, or ask for suggestions on “what you can do to improve”. Be prepared to elaborate on your past experiences; that’s expected. Be capable of relating your resume to the position you are applying for, establish yourself as a real person and not just a piece of paper.
And please, please I beg of you, please, have a personality. Do not retreat into your shell. Do not sit in silence. Act like you want the job, even if you don’t. Smile. Make them laugh. Tell them something interesting about yourself. Have a conversation in a foreign language. Dress appropriately – you don’t have to wear black and grey in every office setting. Make it personal.
March 25, 2013 by Sarah Nicholas
I set a goal for myself this semester: to eat at as many of the local cupcake shops as possible. Each neighborhood is home to many “boutique bakeries,” each of which specializes in special flavors, classes, décor and atmosphere. I’m proud to say that in the last 2 months, I’ve had at about a dozen different cupcakes from 5 different cupcakeries.
Taking it from the top, we had the pleasure of visiting Red Velvet in Gallery Place during our orientation back in January. The W&M in Washington staff and our entire class had the opportunity to mix, whip, stir, bake, and learn to frost their signature red velvet “Southern-Belle” flavor. It was a group effort to make over 3 dozen cupcakes, and frosting them put our artistic skills to the test – being an arts-based semester, this was an early start to fully immersing ourselves in the arts scene in Washington. Red Velvet is known for using the freshest, “healthiest” ingredients (albeit it is difficult to find a “healthy” cupcake), including huge blocks of cream cheese for their signature whipped icing. I have since made a trip back to Red Velvet for their “Black Velvet” vegan, gluten-free chocolate cupcake. If I hadn’t read the sign myself, I never would have guessed this rich treat would be vegan AND gluten-free.
Inauguration Day prompted a visit to Georgetown Cupcake, the famed bakery of TLC’s “DC Cupcake” television program. I indulged in yet again another red velvet cupcake, this time decorated with a gold-plated, fondant presidential seal honoring Obama’s re-inauguration. The tiny shop usually has a line down the street and around the corner and offers the cheapest cupcakes in the city ($2.75 each), but I disliked the gritty consistency of the cream cheese frosting when compared to that of Red Velvet. An experience, certainly, but probably not worth huddling in the cold for hours.
A sunny February weekend prompted yet another trip back to Georgetown, this time for some light shopping and a quick stop at Sprinkles. A cramped little shop on K Street, Sprinkles actually originated in LA and is relatively new to the DC cupcake scene. I got the vanilla coconut cupcake, vanilla cake with coconut cream cheese icing lightly dusted in coconut flakes. A bigger cupcake, the cake was moist and fluffy and not overwhelmingly rich. Less than 5 minutes away from rival Georgetown Cupcakes, the shorter line and friendlier atmosphere were enough to make me return a second time, this time for a strawberry cupcake complete with a light coat of strawberry cream cheese frosting.
As the Community Advisor in this semester’s program (a class of all females), I hosted a Valentine’s Day cupcake movie night. We ordered a dozen cupcakes from Hello Cupcake in Dupont Circle, which we divided and sampled together. My favorites were you tart! (lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting), chocolate strawberry (a Valentine’s special, chocolate cake with strawberry icing topped with a chocolate-dipped strawberry), carrot cake (a classic), and samoa (a cupcake spin on America’s favorite girl scout cookie). Between the five of us, we devoured the entire dozen, resulting in a series of stomach aches (I supposed the Chipotle burritos before didn’t help our cause).
Alex, one of my beloved roommates, treated us to yet another dozen cupcakes from Lilly Magilly’s, a bakery in her hometown, Gaithersburg, MD, a suburb of the city. I scarfed down a Chocolate Ganache, chocolate cake with a generous serving of vanilla icing coated in a dark chocolate shell with a small fondant flower. Up next was a seasonal cupcake, Pumpkin Spice, which was muffin like in texture. It was so delicious I ended up eating a second for breakfast the following morning.
In honor of Roxane’s birthday, the W&M in Washington staff treated us to a mix-matched box of cupcakes. In “luck of the draw” style, I randomly selected a yellow cake cupcake, thinking it might be lemon, a personal favorite. Instead of a citrus treat, the cupcake turned out to be a banana muffin, complete with vanilla cream-cheese frosting. Upon further research, I discovered this was the “Vanilla Gorilla” from Hello Cupcake. Not my personal favorite, but an interesting surprise!
I found myself this past weekend wandering around the Penn Quarter when I stumbled upon Crumbs, a very very small bake shop with very very big cupcakes. For those of you looking for a place to sit and eat cupcakes, Crumbs is not the place to go – there’s only two chairs! After a long process of elimination (the St. Patty’s day cupcakes were hard to resist), I finally picked the “Mudslide” – a chocolate cake cupcake with cappuccino cream filling, frosted with a coffee cream cheese frosting rolled in chocolate chips and topped with Oreo cookie crumbs – quite the chocolately treat! First off, this cupcake was massive. I quartered it and took it to go, eating it over the course of a few hours. It was incredibly rich (might have been the candy) but the cake itself was fluffy. It was by far the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had – I will be going back ASAP to break from my diet and splurge on another.
With the exception of the snow right now, spring has sprung in the city, meaning the cherry blossoms are finally here! We were lucky enough to get tickets to the opening ceremonies, which included some amazing performances by award winning Japanese pop stars as well as Andy Grammer! The best part came in the form of – you guessed it – cupcakes! Cherry cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake were given to all attendees; a vanilla cake with cherries folded into the batter, topped with cherry cream cheese frosting and a beautiful fondant blossom!
Hopefully I’ll get the chance to eat many more cupcakes in the second half of the semester – I’m also planning on running outside more often now that springtime is here, just so I’m not made of cupcakes! Upcoming: Baked and Wired, Sticky Fingers, and more!
March 14, 2013 by Sarah Nicholas
I’ve made two weekend mini-pilgrimages back to campus since I arrived in Washington DC, the first for a cappella auditions and the second to haggle with advisors, the registrar, and the financial aid office. Without being Captain Obvious, I’d like to make it very clear that Williamsburg and Washington DC, two capitals in their own regard, should not be paralleled more than necessary.
The most obvious distinction is the urban lifestyle. Life is faster in the city. Walk, train, walk, work, eat, walk, train, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat! It’s an entirely different atmosphere, heightened emotions can easily compare to Swem during finals week. The pace is professional, everyone is constantly efficient. While it might be threatening and intimidating at times, it is always interesting to be in the hustle and bustle of it all.
Public transportation is very much a “thing.” Living on campus, I generally avoided using the Williamsburg bus system, as it is unreliable, slow, and not cost efficient. I’d only take the trolley to New Town in a desperate search for Sweet Frog frozen yogurt. In DC, public transportation is an absolute must-use. The cost of gas alone is a sufficient deterrent from traveling independently. The Metro is cheap and comes frequently during peak hours (traveling at night can sometimes take a little longer, and in some parts of town is not particularly safe), and there is a public bus stop literally on every street corner.
Dress for the weather. I think this might be specific to college-aged people, but we often tend to under dress for the weather, especially in Williamsburg, monsoon season aside. No self-respecting adult walks around in only a North Face jacket or goes out with friends on the weekends wearing only a micro-skirt and tank top when it’s practically snowing. There is a time and a place for everything, age appropriate attire!
Speaking as a true food junkie, Williamsburg is not known for having great dining. In the city, the options are endless. You can eat empanadas and Korean BBQ and Chipotle all on the same block. Wawa is not the only dining option open past 8pm. I took advantage of DC Restaurant Week and treated myself twice to three-course meals that would normally cost me a month’s savings.
There is no such thing as weekend boredom. In the ‘Burg, once you’ve explored Colonial Williamsburg, there is nothing to do “off campus” on the weekends. DC is the Disney World of free things to do on the weekend. I’ve been to all of the Smithsonian museums in addition to countless art galleries. I’ve toured the Capitol and will be touring the White House in March. I have every intention of walking around the Mall and seeing the Cherry Blossoms once spring is in season. Every weekend there is some sort of cultural activity, fair, festival, or parade worth enjoying, and it’s only a short metro ride away!
And then there are the frequent moments that just take your breath away. Surprises as simple as getting a phone call at work from a high-profile opera star, to attempting to cross the street in the middle of the Presidential motorcade, to turning the corner and bam! There’s the Capitol, or the White House, or one of the most important buildings in the free world. I even saw John Boehner walking into a bar when I was on the Hill and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Washington National Opera – how’s that for a casual encounter! Sure, the Sunken Garden is beautiful at the height of fall foliage, and it’s always hysterical running into a man wearing a tri-cornered hat and full colonial garb at Food Lion, but it’s hard to predict what is going to happen next in this concrete jungle.
February 26, 2013 by Sarah Nicholas
It’s hard to believe that a third of the semester has flown by. After endless metro rides, museum detours, and fascinating classes, the transition from campus life to “the real-world” has been challenging. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever anticipated, some lessons harder than others, but all beneficial.
- College is not the real world. Everything is different – there’s no grades, no social hierarchy, no weekend escapes. You have to think on your own and use your own better judgement in every situation. I’ve come to realize that I’m an adult, and the world expects me to act accordingly. You have to use the tools of an undergraduate education, not necessarily the textbook facts, but skills including time management, organization, practicality, and efficiency. The process is just as important as the final result, so being thorough every step of the way is absolutely critical. As a mentor once told me, “Education without practical application is useless information”.
- Despite everyone constantly urging you to “have a plan”, it’s nice to achieve a goal and plateau for a while. Ever since I started applying to colleges my junior year of high school, I’ve been in constant transition thinking about “the next step”. Sure, having a plan is important, but it’s also important not to downplay the success of achieving a goal before marching proudly onto the next task. Having a loose idea of what your future entails is far more beneficial than something scripted, primarily because change is inevitable. You have the rest of your life to “accomplish”, so be sure to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.
- The more the merrier – not necessarily true. Being part of such a small class (this semester’s W&M in DC program is only 5 students!), I’ve come to realize the value of peers. Everyone thinks differently, and being in such a closed classroom atmosphere, it’s beneficial to hear everyone’s thoughts and understand their opinions. In larger classes, you can be swept under the rug by the same students who answer questions incessantly. It’s amazing to have a close teacher-classroom relationship.
- It’s okay to ask questions. The only thing we’re certain of is being uncertain. It’s always better to ask and do it right the first time than to put on your façade of know-it-all-ness and do it wrong, only to be told otherwise. There is no harm in wanting clarity, from making sure your format is correct to ensuring you’re getting on the right train heading home.
- Be proud of what you’ve accomplished (even if you’re still an undergrad!). I’m the youngest intern at the Kennedy Center by a long shot – everyone is in grad school and I’m only a sophomore! I didn’t think I was qualified for my position, but low and behold, from my work experience to what I’ve gained at W&M, here I am. Don’t ever cut yourself down – you never know what the basis of comparison is for the general applicant pool. And remember, William & Mary is reputable for a reason!
January 22, 2013 by Sarah Nicholas
After a great move-in and orientation week, it’s easy to see that living a la Washington, DC will be much different than colonial dwelling. First and foremost, there is no meal plan involved in apartment living. The William & Mary in DC Office loves to feed their students; we indulged in pizzas from Matchbox, ranging from fig and gorgonzola to chicken pesto, sampling chili from the famed Ben’s Chili Bowl, learned to make cupcakes at Chinatown’s Red Velvet Cupcakery, and tried tot-chos (tater tot nachos) from Tonic in Georgetown. From pizza to sandwiches to cookies and treats, the fridge in our spacious apartment is already stocked with the best leftovers.
The whole semester won’t be quite a food overload, so here’s some basic tips to save a few bucks here and there!
- Grocery stores in D.C. charge a bag fee. Bring your own reusable bags to save a few cents!
- Eating out will always be a costly endeavor. Go during happy hour and sit at the bar for cheaper appetizers.
- Drinks will always make your check a few dollars higher, so just get water!
- Grocery stores are always more crowded after work and on the weekends. Save time by shopping on weekdays.
- Don’t be afraid to pack your lunch and take it to work. While lunch is most certainly a social event in the big city, it is most certainly not mandatory.
- Coupons and sales! Also groupon and living social offer great bargains for new places you might want to try out.
- Crazy as it seems, kabob and food trucks are delicious and inexpensive, and very easy to find!
- Want to eat out? Go during lunch and get a smaller portion for a fraction of the dinner cost. It also helps you avoid the dinner crowds and long reservation lines.
- Go out for brunch on the weekends; it covers breakfast AND lunch! One less meal to worry about!
- Last but not least, check out these DC Cheap Eats: http://www.urbanspoon.com/pr/7/1/DC/Cheap-Eats.html