The Five F’s of Fall: Formal, Festivities, Finals, Finishing and Flights
Sitting here writing my last blog post for this Fall semester, it strikes me at just how quickly the time has gone. If you had asked me before I started this semester what I thought would happen in the 4 and a half months I’ve been here, I would have given you a very different list of expectations to what has actually happened.
I can hardly believe I have spent nearly 5 months away from my home (3730 miles from home to be precise). These past few months have been particularly packed as it reached the point in the semester filled with midterms and finals, which was admittedly not my favourite part. But it also featured some fun and new aspects to me including Thanksgiving, sorority Formals and Christmas traditions.
At the start of November, most W&M students had a hectic week full of midterms and papers and I was not exempt. Having faced 3 exams and 1 paper in one week, my Sorority formal on the weekend was a great way to relax and enjoy spending time with my Mint Julep Sorority Family.
The following week was Thanksgiving, the traditional American holiday that is quite a mystery to most Brits like myself. Along with another Exeter exchange student, we stayed with a friend and her family so I was able to experience the “traditional” Thanksgiving celebration. As expected there was food galore, a lot of family members and beautiful Autumnal scenes at her Aunt’s house. Along with this was a somewhat unique tradition to her family Thanksgiving celebration: a rather competitive game of croquet. Having never held a mallet in my life before, I can’t say I was of particular use but it was a great addition to the whole experience I am glad to have had.
Travelling home with friends allowed me to explore a new state as well; Maryland. We got to explore the very cute little city of Annapolis, shown in the picture to the left.
We were also a short hours drive away from Washington D.C. so I again got to return to the city I loved so much the first time I visited. This time I saw more of the metropolitan side of D.C. as well as some museums and memorials I hadn’t seen before, like the Lincoln memorial, as well as a return visit to the Washington Monument and surrounding area.
At Exeter, I had never really felt the need for a “half-term” but here, after a stressful and exam filled week prior, the Thanksgiving Break couldn’t have come at a better time. But, with finals lurking around the corner the return to College was a little daunting. I was facing a big group presentation prior to Final’s Week and during Finals (which I finished last week), I had 2 exams and a paper to hand in. All this mention of exams has probably started to stress some of you out, but strange as it may seem, I actually went into exams feeling fairly relaxed. Yes, most days were spent solidly in the library and I can’t say I didn’t occasionally have a slight panic but that’s to be expected. The thing that kept me calm, and something new to me, is that none of my exams counted for more than 40% of my grade. Compared to Exeter, where my entire mark can hinge on one exam, I had been working solidly throughout the semester and contributing to my grade continuously through homework, labs and midterms.
This helped alleviate some of the pressure and also meant that having continuously reviewed the material throughout the semester, one week or less to review everything actually was more than enough.
As Christmas approaches, Colonial Williamsburg has been beautifully decorated with trees, fairy lights and even its own ice rink. In addition, I got to experience W&M’s truly special Yule Log Ceremony, which happens during Finals. There was singing, a reading of Dr Seuss’ “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” by Father Christmas (i.e. W&M’s very own President Reveley) and finally each student gets to throw a sprig of holly into the Yule log fire for good luck.
Now, I am just days away from flying home for nearly a month for the Winter Break. Aside from putting off packing, these few days between finishing finals and going home have allowed me to reflect on my first semester spent here at W&M. I am quite honestly looking forward to being home, having hit a point where I am starting to miss my home comforts. But at the same time, I am beyond grateful to have had this experience so far. Though it may sound cheesy, W&M feels like a home away from home and it truly is a special place to be a part of. Perhaps going into this I would have thought Exchange students could never truly feel part of a place that would only be part of their life for such a short time. If anything, this experience has taught me that it is not the quantity of time spent at a place that matters but the opportunities you take advantage of whilst here. Do something out of your comfort zone, because you might surprise yourself. Thinking of leaving W&M for a month really does make me feel slightly sad because, I don’t just feel like I’m here for a temporary amount of time, I feel a part of the W&M community. So, whilst I do feel a strange mix of emotions ending my first semester here, I know for certain that I am very excited to see what the Spring Semester has in store.