by Erik Quam
College Expert Counselor: Sue Luse
Hi there! My name is Erik Quam, and I recently completed my freshman year at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. As a part of reflecting on my year, I’ll break down different parts of the school that I love, what surprised me, and overall how my freshman year went.
William & Mary’s student body is about 6,500 students. Coming from Minnetonka High School, this was a much needed increase in size, but it by no means felt overwhelming. When I walked to class or the dining hall, I would usually see one of my friends, or at least someone I knew. Walking around campus is beautiful most days; the weather never got below freezing during the school year, and I could wear shorts and t-shirts many days during the school year. Fall lasts a long time, and we get a pretty early Spring – I loved spending time outside studying, laying in the grass, or playing Spikeball with my friends.
The campus is definitely my favorite part of the college. There were so many beautiful skies, trees, green grass and so much sunshine. Being chartered in 1693, the buildings do suffer from wear and tear, and the college can feel pretty old and tired some days. Most days, however, it’s beautiful to look at and spend time in, and you can absolutely understand the history of the college by just looking around. The town of Colonial Williamsburg is an easy walk away as well, and it is certainly a place for food lovers. I frequently found myself walking into town to a local baked goods shop or cafe, or just to enjoy the ambiance. During the holiday season, there are lots of celebrations including fireworks and a parade, as well as festive decorations!
The college has so many organizations on campus, and there are always things to do. There have been inflatables on the college lawn, magicians, comedians, and student performances. Rarely are there weeks when a student organization is not putting on an event.
The main activity I got involved in was the ultimate Frisbee team on campus. We practiced 5 times a week and competed at 6 tournaments throughout the year, so it was a big time commitment and something I really had to balance with academics. I think that some teams get a reputation of being “jocks” or otherwise cold and insensitive towards each other, but this team was the most welcoming environment for me. We all pushed each other very hard to work and improve, but it was always accompanied by encouragement, support, jokes, laughter, and a positive environment. The team is full of people who care about the players themselves.
I had some spectacular teachers in high school, but the quality only improved at William & Mary. My classes ranged from around 15 people (seminar classes) to around 85 (lectures). Even in the larger classes, I never felt out of touch with my professor; they make themselves available, and it feels like they really care about connecting with students. They are extremely knowledgeable, and having professors teach all of my classes instead of TA’s made me connect with the material on a deeper level. Some professors are more flexible than others with deadlines, but they all expect a lot of work out of students. They do, however, prepare students well, and truly want to see students succeed. The stress culture around campus is prominent as well, but I was surrounded by so many supportive people all of the time. Everyone cares about the quality of their work, but not at the expense of others. People don’t want to compete; they all want to succeed together!
The only negatives of my year were the food and the living situation. We have 3 different dining halls on campus, but none are spectacular. A couple times a week, I would have a meal that I particularly enjoyed, but other than that, the food was relatively average. This, however, was offset by the variety; as someone who likes to mix up what I eat, I think that the variety makes up for the quality. There’s almost always something new to try if you explore your options.
My dorm was another aspect that was not ideal. I lived in a small 45 person dorm, and as a result, I became very close with the people in the dorm. Growing close with everyone was a huge positive for me; the people in the dorm are my closest friends on campus now. My room, however, was old, dirty, and small. Some dorms on campus are beautiful, but most are below average. The freshman dorms aren’t great generally, but ultimately, they’re not great at most colleges, so I’m satisfied with my experience.
It was a great first year, and I’m excited to return to campus next semester!