College of William & Mary
BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Private school in Richmond, VA with a graduating class of about 150 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a sexual violence advocacy group called Someone You Know, I’m in a music sorority, and I’m in the chorus.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a big impact on your experience?
Someone You Know has given me opportunities to get more involved in activism on campus. I’ve been on committees for certain events that have really helped spread information in a positive way. Chorus has given me a good group of friends.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s a lot of reading and then we have online questions. We have two exams per semester that are worth about 80% of our grade.
Is there anything that you feel William & Mary has done especially well or poorly so far academically?
I think they do a good job of offering a wide range of course concentrations. Instead of adding another minor, I can add a concentration in that area of study, which I like.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s a really challenging school, but everybody here is aware of that so it feels like we’re all in it together. Nobody is trying to tear down other students because we’re all in the same boat.
How accessible are your professors?
Most of my professors are really accessible. Email is generally the best way to get in touch with them but they also do have pretty regular office hours.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Definitely. The Government class I’m in right now has about 120 students in it but my professor has turned it into mostly a discussion-based class, which I think is nice because it deals with a lot of relevant current events. I think that most of the students in that class are open to other points of view. It’s definitely more of a liberal school than it is conservative. It has an interesting contrast because the campus itself is really liberal but when you step off campus you’re in a pretty conservative area of Virginia.
How was transitioning academically as a freshman? Were there any resources that you found helpful with adapting?
I tried to keep in touch with my adviser and talk with him about any concerns I was having. I also speak on a weekly basis with my parents to make sure that I am still on track with stuff.
Why did you choose your major?
I am looking to go to law school and specifically go into human rights law because it seems more and more relevant to current events and seems really necessary nowadays, so the Government major seemed sensible.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I live in Green and Gold Village with one roommate.
How was it transitioning from Richmond to Williamsburg, VA?
It wasn’t that big of a transition. I’m from a suburb of Richmond that is pretty slow-paced and Williamsburg itself is pretty slow-pace, so that wasn’t really a challenge for me.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I think the campus itself is really safe. I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking home alone from the library at night or anything like that. Off-campus, even if it’s just a couple of blocks away, there is some concern for the level of safety that girls will experience.
Pros and cons of being in Williamsburg, VA?
1) It’s right in the middle of Richmond and Virginia Beach. If you want to get out of Williamsburg, which is a common thing to want, you can hop over to Richmond for the day or go to the beach for the day. That is a common thing that people do here.
2) It’s a really homey town to live in. It feels really cozy and there are mostly elderly people that live here who are all really sweet. [About 22% of the population is 55 and older.]
Cons: There’s not a whole lot going on in Williamsburg.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at William & Mary?
I go to parties with my friends. I usually go out on Fridays and Saturdays to fraternity parties sometimes in their on campus houses and sometimes their off-campus houses.
What’s an alternative to going to a party that you like for a night out?
I have a bunch of friends in other choirs so I also go to their performances pretty regularly. There are also a lot of really cool restaurants in downtown Williamsburg that my friends and I like to go to.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Nightlife is pretty much centered around Greek life just because they have places to have parties and they have resources to put them on. Most of the people involved in Greek life are really cool, it’s not like all about their frat or sorority all the time. People aren’t the stereotypical Greek life people. Also, about [30%] of the student population is involved in Greek life, so it’s kind of hard to avoid. It has a presence on campus, but it’s not the main thing. They aren’t exclusive either, I can just walk up and go to a party.
If at all, how has identifying as LGBT influenced your nightlife experience?
It has really changed anything for me. I know for my gay male friends their experience is slightly different. If you go to William & Mary and identify as Queer, usually a lot of your friends are Queer as well so that affects who you go out with.
Is there an LGBT nightlife scene on campus?
Yeah, there was a bar near campus that would host Queer night on Thursdays, but it just closed a couple of weeks ago. It was definitely a fun place to go out and with your friends and not be scared of anything that might happen.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change?
I’m totally satisfied actually because it’s not out of the norm to not want to go out and it’s not out of the norm to want to go out. You can stay in or go out and there’s no stigma about which way you choose.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met most of my close friends through my advocacy group and music ensembles.
How would you describe the social scene?
I think that really depends on what you do because I know my experience is not the same as my roommate’s experience because she’s heavily involved in Greek life. So, it varies a lot based on what you choose to be involved in.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it’s pretty well mixed. We definitely have a lot of intersectionality on campus, especially with the cultural organizations and the social groups that are for LGBTQ+ people. The school as a whole is pretty White, but within the organizations where you have people of color, it’s a very welcoming, warm environment. [About 33% of students are students of color.]
How do you like the size of William & Mary? How has it impacted your experience? [William & Mary has about 6,377 undergraduates.]
I think it’s a really good size because it’s big enough that if you don’t like somebody you can avoid them pretty easily, but it’s also small enough that you can run into people that you know all the time.
How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community? How strong is it?
It’s super strong and really active. I have been to more than a handful of Queer events. I have hosted some events with Someone You Know that focus on Queer issues. We aren’t necessarily as talked to by the administration as we’d like to be regarding our issues and what our experience is like, but we are definitely trying to change that. Within the student-side of things, we are very present. I also think it’s starting to change in a positive way how the administration views the Queer community.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about William & Mary before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that things take time here and they aren’t going to happen immediately. It definitely took me a while to find my people and I’m still finding my people in some respect. So, I wish I knew to just be patient.
What is something a prospective LGBT+ student should know that we haven’t touched on?
I would want them to know that this is a safe place to explore your identity and you can find a home here.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There are a lot of secret places on campus that not a lot of people know about that are really cool to go explore. For example, there’s a crypt under the Wren Building. It’s such an old school that there are these hidden gems everywhere that are really cool.
Reasons to attend William & Mary:
1. Academically, it’s a really great school. I’ve learned so much already and the professors are receptive and accessible.
Reasons to not attend William & Mary:
1. If you’re struggling with mental illness, this may not be the best place to go because there is definitely a stress culture here and the mental health services are not that great, although we are working to change that. [See The Flat Hat article, “Inaccessibility to mental healthcare poses serious danger to the College community” and article, “Meme page amplifies college stress culture.”]
2. If you’re looking for a big state school experience, this definitely has a liberal arts college feel because that’s what it is and it doesn’t make any apologies for that.