There’s not one specific memory that makes this my favorite place. I’ve just always been very interested in nature and attracted to it. I think at school it’s easy to get sucked into a vacuum a little bit in terms of studying and social life, but whenever you come into the woods you can decompress, and I think it’s really important to have that balance.
Every time I come back to campus in the fall, I’ve always forgotten how beautiful it is. One of my favorite memories is of me walking past the Lodges into the Trails and being completely encompassed by greenery and flora. Green is my favorite color, and I just love nature and seeing it preserved. At a school so old, I think it’s so beautiful that we’re still able to preserve the wildlife at its heart.
Well, I’ve had like ten thousand memories here so it’s hard to pick a favorite. But for me, this one spot is where I go to when I need to be alone or just think about things, anything. When I just want to be away from people and out of my dorm, I come here. I just sit down in the grass, look at the lake. Sometimes if it’s nighttime I’ll look up at the stars, and just think about life, about what’s important, and kind of go through whatever I need to think about. I always go right here, so it’s a very important spot for me on campus.
Last semester, I was having a bad week and my boyfriend at the time and I, we were not having a good week either, so it was a lot of school stress on top of relationship stress. But on the weekend, everything was clearing up and we went out to dinner and we came back to my dorm which is really nearby. And in line with W&M tradition, if two people love each other a lot, they walk over the Crim Dell together to signify that they are committed to the future. So we came back at midnight since we knew no one would be around and decided to walk over the Crim Dell together. And it was really nice, but for more than just that.
It’s great that W&M fosters this community with connectedness and the idea that the community spirit is so strong and we’re really in this together. There’s this bridge on campus signifying that we’re always going to be bonded together. Whether it’s a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or a best friend, and even at the end of senior year when we walk the bridge together, it’s the sense of community here and that sense of care that is so unprecedented and doesn’t really exist at other colleges. I think it’s really special here.
Before I came to college, I think I was a very different person from how I am now. I had a great freshman hall, but my personality didn’t quite bond with my hallmates as well as I would have liked. But my boyfriend lived here, on Jefferson 2nd, and I spent a lot of time here, maybe more than I did in my own hall. Over that time, I learned to question all of the values that I’d been given since I was a child. I always told myself “you shouldn’t do that, or that, or that” and I had just accepted it because I wasn’t supposed to. But after I came here, and met all of these people who were completely different from me and did things that I’d always been taught not to do. I started really questioning, “are people bad because they do things differently than I do?” and the answer I came to is obviously not! They have a different life, they have different lifestyle, but that doesn’t make them worse people than me or the people that I grew up around. So it was a nice realization and I think it opened me up to a lot of different people and their perspectives, which has been very valuable.
Throughout my years here, I’ve always looked for a place to feel…alone, if that makes sense. A lot of times when you’re at school, you feel overwhelmed by all these projects, or obligations you have, or friendships not going right, or fights you have with whomever. Sometimes I like to go outside to…feel small. And to recognize that everything I experience today as being massive and overwhelming, tomorrow or the next day will become insignificant. And I think this place is a really good representation of that because this once grand amphitheater has been overcome by the natural process of time, and that’s really comforting to me.
I have the most memories of my college career passing through those steps. It’s the spot where campus becomes home, or home becomes campus. I’ve always lived on the Randolph-Botetourt side of campus. I’ve spent the last four years of my life in this hundred square yard stretch of dorm housing. I’ve come by here a lot whether it’s leaving to go out and do something fun, or going to Swem to leave all my friends behind and lock myself on the 3rd floor. Or coming the other way, when I cross that last step and it’s like, “Oh man, I’m out of the woods” both physically and mentally. I’m home when I pass that step!
Lots of goofy stuff has happened on that step. I’ve been jumped by a raccoon that came out of the garbage can. Lots of deer. There were two owls that were fighting for territory and they would “hoo” at each other very angrily at each other for nights on end, so my roommate and I ran out and yelled at them. There was once a thunderstorm and it was flooding. I had a small friend who I carried on my back through the storm. She held the umbrella and I held her, so we waded through the water here to get to Swem, of course. I also love walking through here because you can see the first turtles of the season in the spring over on that walkway. I love those campus turtles, man. I’ll never forget, I’ve seen one turtle perched on another’s back, trying to get better sunlight. Or occasionally the rare sight of a turtle perched on a rock, with a duck perched on the turtle.
It’s everything I love about William & Mary. It’s nature, it’s the people, it’s got a lot of symbolic meaning to me. I’ve probably walked through here, back and forth and back and forth, thousands of times over the years. And it represents transition. Once you drop off it, you can go anywhere you want on campus or off campus. Just at this point in my life, I can go anywhere I want and I know one day soon I might pass through that spot for the last time in a very long time, and I want to remember it.
This is such a William & Mary cliché and I feel like people say this all the time but the Spanish House just feels like home. It’s funny because when I go home to visit my parents, they will cook me a meal which I pick out and they’ll make a dessert I like, and that’s for me. But every time I’m here, someone has made cookies, or arroz con leche, or there’s a dance party and it all happens so spontaneously. It’s like we’re in constant celebration of one another that we’re so happy to be in the same place, that it doesn’t need a reason. I don’t need to be their son to deserve to be part of that. Not to minimize the doting that my parents and the importance of that for me in my life, but it’s special to have people that don’t have a biological reason for treating me so kindly who are always so kind.
I’ve probably only been here three times, including this one. But I do have a fond memory from the end of sophomore year. On the last day of classes I came out here in the afternoon and spent some time looking at the scenery and water and everything with some people that I lived with. I guess I associate the place with the people and that memory. They’re two friends who have had some of the biggest impact on my personal development and I think fondly of sharing that memory with them here. The fact we only came here once together solidified that memory as a good time that I spent with my friends.
I grew up in this area, and my grandparents have lived in Williamsburg for the past fifteen years. So, I’ve been very familiar with William & Mary, even before I chose to come here. One think we would always do is come to this meadow with the statues of the lovesick boy and the girl with the poem/letter/whatever it is, and we’d bring Cheese Shop and eat. And it was especially fun when my cousins, who moved around a lot, would come up and visit and we’d always go to the Crim Dell Meadow. Lots of memories. And then obviously, it was fun to bring my boyfriend here and share that with him.
I love all the language houses, and I love living in La Casa. One of my best friends lives in the Nicholas apartments. I always go to her place and we make brownies and talk about life and have great conversations. And I love coming out here to the barbecue pit for events during the year. It’s just a really calming place.
I have really pleasant memories of coming here whenever I’ve been stressed. It’s nice to take a break from all the madness on campus and come here and just see the beauty. I get lost in it. All my troubles seem to—not go away, necessarily—but seem insignificant in comparison to all this beauty. I always love coming here, even in winter, and especially during the fall. I don’t think there’s any other place on campus that is this beautiful.
A lot of things have happened here. A lot of linked memories, from awkward moments to conversations with friends. I’ve walked through here with professors before, trying to name all of the trees and one of my geology projects was to measure the height of these dawn redwoods. One of my favorite flowers is right over there, which is actually native to my part of China, and blossoms precisely at this time of year.
It’s a testament to how similar the climate here is to the climate in my hometown. It has a very sweet smell that I just expect every year now, and I think of it as a messenger of true fall.
Seasonal change is gradual; you’ve got to soak it in. To someone who’s more connected with nature, it’s a series of emotional periods where you can notice things happening and changing around you and then you naturally question your own ephemeral nature, like “how am I changing”? That’s the whole idea of seasons, and how that can be pretty intertwined with one’s personal cosmology. As is everything in my world, it’s complicated, and I enjoy complexity.
This bench by the governor’s palace is a connection for me between a lot of things. First you’ve got past and present: the historical past and our present here. You’ve got my past as somebody who had just come from high school. I never really left home very much. I went to sleepaway summer camp once. Hated it. Didn’t go again. I had spent maybe ten nights away from my parents (not counting sleep-overs) but this was a completely new place, a new experience. Right at the beginning of freshman year, my mom and I were walking around CW. It was Parent’s Weekend or something. It was her first time visiting, and I had been very upset to not be with her. She and I were always a unit, and the unit was apart. We came here and talked and had several conversations over the course of that year, here at this bench. So, it’s a connection for me of home, and of school. Then there’s also the aspect of this being the best place to escape to outside of the college bubble for me. It’s home in the sense that this looks like my hometown, little Staunton, Virginia, sleepy town. Lots of people walking around. And then the College is right there. It’s not too close, just the right spot.
My favorite spot is the third step from the top. It’s the exact middle. It’s where I went at the beginning of freshman year when I was wondering if this is where I was supposed to be, if this is where I belonged. I had gotten my first college test back, in Intro Bio, and I remember literally failing and not understanding how that had happened after working so hard. And I felt like a failure as a roommate, because my roommate, who I love and still live with—it’s our fourth year—was very shy and homesick and I didn’t know what to do to alleviate those feelings. I already knew she’d be my best friend, but I didn’t know how to make her feel like this could be her home, too. And it seemed like all of our hallmates who were rushing were bonding over that. I just didn’t know if I was supposed to be here. So I went out to wander the Sunken Gardens—definitely saw someone streak that night—and sat here. I tried all the steps, like the Three Little Bears, and when I came to the third step, I finally sat back, and felt supported.
Now, I come here every time I have a breakup or if there’s something new with my mom’s cancer or if I feel like I still don’t belong here. Everyone has those recurring doubts and even as a senior who’s in love with the College and so invested, I still have them…so I want to believe everyone else has them! I think it’s normal and its healthy to have those doubts a lot of the time, and I hope I have those doubts because they force me to pause and reflect on why I chose to be here, why I choose to stay here, and why I choose to invest my time the way I do. Which isn’t necessarily with academics as my first priority, but I choose to invest my time in the people more.
I also go there for happy things. Like when I got my littles for FASA and was planning their scavenger hunt, that’s where I went. I felt like I was looking out over all of campus. Because even though you can only really see the Sunken Gardens, I have this mental map of beyond.
I read this book when I was little where one of the characters had a thinking rock. And I thought that was the coolest thing. So I was like “I will find my own thinking rock!” I walked around to all these rocks and I dragged my dad with me and we crawled around on the creek and climbed trees. We thought maybe it’s not a rock, maybe it’s a tree. It wasn’t a tree; I don’t like heights. Most certainly not a tree. But then I was helping my dad repair our tractor, a yearly tradition, and while we were taking the parts out of the toolshed I finally saw this rock which was like the literal rock from the Little Mermaid that she goes on and starts singing and I was like, “This is my thinking rock!” And I was so excited. Whenever I would get in a fight with my parents, or had any other problems, thinking rock! So, I came to William & Mary, and realized that I needed my own thinking rock here because I knew I’d need something to stabilize me and give me a place that’s mine. Like I said, I tried every step, and the third is the best. Maybe it’s my stature, maybe someone who’s taller would need a different step, but whatever, I highly recommend it. But also if I see people on it, I get irrationally territorial and I’m like “You can’t have it!”