The W&M First Year Experience

An Ambassador’s Welcome to the Tribe

November 7, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hey y’all! My name is Katie Brownfiel, and I’m a sophomore from the land of the best pizza, Long Island, NY. I’m an English major and soon to be double major in Secondary Education, and, like most of the Tribe, I love to be involved with campus life. I participate in quiz bowl and swing dancing, am a researcher in a psychology lab, and also love to help new and perspective students. I was an Orientation Aide this fall for GGV (Lions and Eagles and Griffins Oh My!), and since last spring, I’ve been a Tribe Ambassador.

If you’ve been to the admissions office before or after a tour, had lunch with a student, or came to a Weekend Information Session, you’ve probably seen a Tribe Ambassador. Our job is to answer any and all questions you have about student life and to make you feel welcome in our second home. We want you to love William & Mary as much as we do, so don’t be afraid to ask us questions about dorms, major programs, clubs, where to find cute dogs, or the best places to eat.

My favorite part of the Tribe Ambassador program is having lunch with potential students. Over the course of an hour, I feel as though a stranger has become a friend. My favorite lunch session involved two potential students and I sharing pictures of our pets, talking about my favorite things to do around campus, and discussing the plethora of ways that they could get involved with the campus community. After lunch I gave them a tour of campus and showed them all of the places that don’t always make the tour, the secret room in Tucker, the arguably coziest place to study in the library, and the Echo Spot, as well as the buildings where they’ll be studying in future. It was incredible to see their delighted faces as they entered Blair and Adair, the central points of their majors, and saw themselves at home there.

The most rewarding and enjoyable Tribe Ambassador session for me actually happened after my hour shift was over. A high school student from California was unable to join the tour, but she really wanted to see campus. Seeing as I was done with classes for the day, I took her on a personal tour of campus. This moment meant so much to me because it reflected why I joined the Admissions team in the first place. When I was a junior and touring colleges with my family, I already knew that William & Mary was high on my list from my online research. However, the people I met during my tour were what put William & Mary at the number one spot on my list. I probably got myself lost about three times before my tour, and each and every time, without my asking, a student came up to me, asked if I needed directions, offered a smile, and showed me the way. I even had two students stop and talk with my mom and me for half an hour about their experiences on campus. While so many other schools talk about community, generosity, and compassion in the abstract, this was the first time that I’d seen it applied so broadly.

Seeing as my favorite thing to do is answer questions, I’ll close my post with some common questions.

  1. Is there anything to do in Williamsburg/campus?

Yes and yes! No matter what you’re interested in, William & Mary has something for you! We boast over 450 clubs and organizations so I always encourage students to get involved. There is always something going on during the weekends, from improv comedy shows to music concerts to movie screenings to cultural events to sports games, so there’s no excuse to be bored. On top of all that, Williamsburg has a Farmer’s Market every Saturday and a music and arts fair twice a month – just to name two of the many activities that are steps away from campus

  1. How’s the food?

While it’s not your mom’s famous meatloaf, the food on campus is actually pretty good. We have three dining halls on campus in addition to two coffee shops, two food trucks, Qdoba, Cosi, and some cafés inside the grad schools. There’s a variety of home-style, international, vegetarian, and vegan options, and, if those don’t suit your fancy, there’s tons of restaurants in Williamsburg within walking distance.

  1. How approachable are the professors?

Professors are incredibly approachable and helpful with office hours! I’ve had a professor hold office hours in the local coffee shop, and there’s a chemistry professor who brings her dog to review sessions. It’s important to remember that professors are people, too, who also love Doctor Who and Stranger Things. If you have questions about your papers, research, or a test, please seek out your professor!


Keep calm and carry on; you’re almost to Thanksgiving!

One Tribe, One Family,


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All Roads Lead to Home

October 24, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hey, everyone! Max Maiello here again. For those of you who missed my last post, I am a Public Policy and Environmental Policy Double Major from Sparta, New Jersey. As a member of the Class of 2019, I intern with First Year Experience, tutor at the local middle school, and serve on the executive board of my fraternity.

Wherever you may be in the college application process, you’re almost there! Take a break from writing those essays, grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and relax. This might have been one week of intense college preparation for you, but it’s one of the most looked forward to at William & Mary: Homecoming!

First off, college homecoming is nothing like high school homecoming. I can’t even remember much about my high school homecoming – there was a football game, but it was like any other weekend during football season, and maybe there was a dance?


Homecoming in college puts high school homecoming to shame. As Homecoming Co-Chair for my fraternity, Kappa Alpha, I got to witness how eventful and exciting this week could be. Since I’m not a big football fan, I find Homecoming weekend exciting for two reasons aside from the annual Homecoming Game: the W&M alumni and the W&M parade.

Alumni: I figured I should start with the most important aspect of Homecoming. The entire week exists for graduates, both recent and former, to travel back to Williamsburg from all corners of the world and celebrate the place they called home for years. When I say ‘both recent and former,’ I mean it fully. At one end of the scale, I gave tours of the Kappa Alpha house to graduates from 1983 and 1992 that knocked on our door and marveled at how different the fraternity is since their time here. At the other end of the scale, friends of mine that have graduated within the past three years flocked back to campus just to see me (not really, but I like to think so). Some of them have gone into the work force, which as a Junior I am extremely curious and interested in hearing about. Some have traveled – one of my friends spent months hiking in Alaska, while two others are teaching English in Korea and China. Some are in graduate school or law school – begging for their help on future applications is socially acceptable, contrary to popular belief. No matter where they are or what they’re doing, I’ve missed them ever since their graduation, and Homecoming is an awesome time to catch up with the amazing things they have been up to. Even when I haven’t seen someone in years, having the opportunity to rekindle a friendship and catch up on each other’s lives is a rare but meaningful occasion.

Parade: This is the main reason for my week’s sleep deprivation, but also my favorite event during Homecoming. The Friday of Homecoming is always marked by a parade that unites alumni, current students, and Williamsburg residents alike. Richmond Road, one of two of the main roads for campus and the town, is entirely blocked off and lined with an audience. It might not be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it could be considered a close second. Williamsburg businesses and student organizations do their best to build floats and walk in the parade, cheering on the crowd. Different cultural groups march and put on quick performances. Fraternities and sororities team up to decorate floats (that are elaborate for a college budget), wear specially designed shirts, and celebrate pride in their chapters. I had been responsible for the joint Kappa Alpha and Gamma Phi Beta float, and on Thursday night several of us got together with some paint and Dunkin Donuts to finish the final touches. On the way to the parade the next day, half the float flew off our truck on the highway, making the day even more eventful. Thankfully we had duct tape and a pack of gum to reattach it.


I spent this past week celebrating William & Mary, the place I am proud to call home. So for those of you preparing for College, ready to take on a new adventure in a strange place, here is my advice on leaving home for the first time.

When we graduate high school, our hometowns become places that we visit. Soon you’ll experience this, too. Your life moves elsewhere, and you take short trips back to commemorate that time with family and old friends. I love going home, but even when I do it feels weird being back after a few days; my friends have gone to other colleges, my little brother’s schedule dominates the front of the fridge, and half of my things have been moved from my room to my dorm room.

Right now, my home is William & Mary. This is where I am making memories, be it float painting at 2am or chasing a cardboard house down the highway. Those both occurred within only 12 hours of each other, so imagine the plethora of other memories being made during your time here.

Next year, after I proudly graduate from the College and embark on becoming rich and famous, I’ll have a new home in Washington D.C. or wherever I end up moving to. Just as my hometown in New Jersey is somewhere that I cherish and visit, William & Mary will be another place that has shaped who I am. Maybe it sounds cliché, but the friends that I’ve made here and the memories I’ve made with them will last forever, and that’s what really makes a place a home. I’m sure a similar phrase is embroidered on a pillow, but that just means it has to be true.

Two years from now, I’ll be visiting William & Mary for Homecoming weekend for the first time as a graduate. This time I won’t have to chase flying cardboard down a highway, but will have the leisure to watch the parade with my fellow alumni.

William & Mary is my home, and soon you can call it yours as well.

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Coming Home: An Insider’s Scoop on Orientation

August 16, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hello blog-readers! My name is Erin Hegarty and I am a rising senior here at the College of William and Mary, from Long Island, New York, majoring in American Studies.  One of the best things that I have found during my time here is a passion for community, so I have shaped much of my time outside of the classroom in a way that fosters my own personal community and builds up the larger William and Mary community.  I have gotten involved with one of our club soccer teams, so that I get to play a sport that I am passionate about with some of the coolest women on campus who also love soccer.  I also volunteer through the Office of Community Engagement with a group called Lafayette Kids, through which I get to spend time building and experiencing community by helping out in the greater Williamsburg area.  Working with the Admission Office, I have gotten to spend this summer talking about what an awesome place William and Mary is and, hopefully, help some prospective students realize that William and Mary could be their home too.


But by and large, the most meaningful involvement that I have had during my past three years at William and Mary has been working with our Orientation program through the Office of First Year experience.  As an Orientation Aide (OA), I have gotten to witness community building in action, getting to be one of the first to welcome new students onto our campus, having the chance to hear their awesome perspectives and stories, and watching them find their place within our student body.  Most recently, I have gotten to change hats a bit and work as one of the ten Orientation Area Directors (OADs), helping to plan the program for this coming August.  (I will be the OAD for Transfers, Exchange students, St. Andrews Joint Degree students, and non-traditional students—so if you fall into my section of campus, I am extra excited to get to meet you!) The main job of our team was to hire the 222 OAs that will be descending on campus in just a few short weeks, donning the neon, and helping our new students navigate the first few days of life at the College.  Hands down, the coolest part of this job has been seeing just how passionate people on this campus are about welcoming new students into our midst and how much the people around me value the community that I also care so much about.  I cannot WAIT to see all of the hard work our team has put into crafting our staffs come to fruition when OA training starts on August 22.

I got involved with FYE because of how important it was to me to find a community that accepted me when I was coming into college.  I had a great Orientation experience, with OAs who took the time to serve as mentors for me well after those five sweaty days in August ended.  I have found my niche here, found people who have embraced me for all of my quirks, found my “opposite of loneliness,” and I wanted to work towards making sure everyone could have this same welcoming experience.  So much of who I am today has been shaped by the lessons I learned during Orientation, both as a new student and as an OA, and from the incredible student leaders who have surrounded me and supported me along the way, and I feel very, very grateful for that.

“…you are already a valued member of this community, just as you are”

For those new students who will be coming onto campus on August 25, there are a few things that you should know:

–       First and foremost, we are so, so, so EXCITED for you to get here!

–       Second, you are already a valued member of this community, just as you are.  There’s no earning your stripes here.  “Those who come here, belong here.” Whatever path you took to get here, you are here now.  You were accepted into William and Mary because of who you are and what you bring and we need you specifically in our community to make it as wonderful as it can be.

–       Orientation can be a whirlwind—take it all in and embrace the experience, but know that you can do this at your own comfort level.  There is no one set timeline for adjusting to life at William and Mary, and the OAs (and RAs and PAs and everyone else on campus during Orientation) are here to help you find your way!

–       Along these lines, set your own pace!  If your thrive zone is getting out there, cheering and yelling and jumping all around, go get ‘em—we’ve got people ready to be super hype with you! If that’s not where you thrive and you’d prefer a more relaxed conversation with your OA, discussing your latest Netflix find, there are people down for that too– as well as everything in between!

–       Know that FYE is here as a resource LONG after Orientation ends—your OAs may become friendly faces that you see on campus, mentors that you look up to, or some of your closest friends—but no matter what, they will always be a resource for you.  The office itself puts out programing throughout your whole first year, so definitely take time to check that out as well!  Never hesitate to reach out, because the people in FYE are some of the most helpful, kind, and friendly people I have ever met.

You are about to embark on one fantastic journey, my friends.  Hang tight and take it all in, because it for sure flies.  Here’s to the adventure that awaits you!  Welcome home.

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Tips & Tricks for YOUR First Year at William & Mary

August 11, 2017 by W&M FYE · No Comments

Hey there! My name is Kathy Hopkins and I’m a rising senior here at William & Mary. I work in the Office of First Year Experience as one of the ten Orientation Area Directors, so I am SUPER excited to welcome all of our new students to campus in August, especially now that Orientation is less than 1 month away! Today I’ll share a little bit about my first year experience and hopefully get you excited about YOUR first year here!
On a lovely August morning three years ago, I moved into (arguably) the best freshman hall: Monroe! While I had never lived in a building with 150 strangers before, after sitting in class and grabbing meals together, they became some of my closest friends on campus. Even to this day we enjoy hanging out at Busch Gardens and winning intramural championships together!
Meeting new people extends beyond the residence hall as well! Since my faith has always been really important to me, I immediately got involved with Catholic Campus Ministry and took a trip to Virginia Beach where I enjoyed a delicious Dairy Queen Blizzard and met several upperclassmen who offered lots of guidance and support as I decided which other clubs I should join and which major I wanted to pursue.
Speaking of majors…I knew I wanted to study neuroscience before I came to William & Mary since I wanted the opportunity to explore undergraduate research and clinical volunteer work. Luckily enough, I was able to pursue BOTH of these things my freshman year! I studied the applications of reading microexpressions in the context of political psychology then became certified in reading microexpressions myself. I also started volunteering at Lackey Clinic at the end of my first year where I scribe for different medical providers as they treat the uninsured patients of the Greater Williamsburg area. Both my research and scribing at Lackey have been such great learning experiences and have prepared me to apply to medical school this year!
I’ll wrap up with a few quick tips for your first year at William & Mary:
1. Get to know the people around you!
Our fellow students here are some of the most amazing people in the world and your college experience will be multiplied if you take the chance to learn from your peers. Ask people what classes they’re taking and which clubs they want to check out at the activities fair! W&M students aren’t just passionate about our classes and extracurriculars, we’re passionate about each other.
2. Make time to relax.
Go for a stroll in Colonial Williamsburg or read a book on the dock by Lake Matoaka. The first few weeks of the semester can be busy, but make time to rejuvenate so you can be the best version of yourself during your time here!
3. Be bold.
College is a time for exploration. Take a class in a subject you’ve never heard of. Grab a meal with someone, even if you’ve just met them! Your college experience will be unique to your interests, so feel free to explore your passions and learn something new each day while you’re here!
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer! Get excited to become a part of our Tribe as we’re very excited to welcome you to your new home here at William & Mary!!!
With love & excitement,
Kathy Hopkins

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Finding Your “Why”

August 3, 2017 by W&M FYE · 1 Comment

Hi everyone! My name is Madison Ochs, and I’m a rising senior at the College from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. In the classroom, I am a self-designed major in Human Mechanisms of Metacognition, which is a technical way to say I designed a major that allows me to study how people learn and think about thinking. I’ve always been interested in this field of study and I love how I can apply what I learn to anything else I do, be it another kind of class or an internship. Outside of the classroom, I volunteer in The Haven, am a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and work for the Office of First Year Experience as an Orientation Area Director! All of these activities are so important to me because they allow me to spend tons of time with people who share interests with me while focusing on accomplishing a common goal, whether it is making a personal difference with the people who visit The Haven, planning a philanthropy event with my sisters for the entire campus, or organizing and preparing an Orientation program that reflects the passions and priorities of FYE!

Hearing me talk about how much I love this school and how I have spent my time leaves some people surprised to hear that I haven’t actually gone to William & Mary for four full years, and that I actually transferred to the College halfway through my sophomore year. My first year at William & Mary was when most other people were halfway through their time here, and that was intimidating at first, of course. It was also an amazing way to make sure I took nothing for granted and put intention behind all of the decisions I made. When I was signing up for classes, I thought about why I wanted to take certain courses and made sure to leave room for random bits of exploration in subjects I had never touched, like my class in Organizational Behavior. The course sounded interesting, I had never taken a business class before, and now I’m pursuing a minor in Organizational Leadership & Management and loving my time in the business school! I never would have found my current minor and some spectacular classes and professors if I hadn’t taken a chance on a random class just for the heck of it.

“…my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, ‘I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.'”

Sometimes, I encountered things that weren’t a great fit or that I didn’t like as much as I thought I would, I felt as though I had to stick it out or else I was quitting. If I had followed that guideline, I would not have ended up with my current major, my most meaningful involvements out of the classroom, or some of my favorite experiences that I can look back on and say, “I’m glad I tried, but I don’t need to do it again.” Many people go through high school or their early years of college feeling as though they have to rack up certain classes and intense leadership positions in several clubs within a certain set of parameters or subjects to be attractive to colleges or future employers. While there is some wisdom to cultivating a well-rounded, enriching experience, those résumé items don’t mean a thing if they don’t speak to you. Why bother spending so much time chasing something that you couldn’t care less about?

I work with Orientation because I had such a spectacular experience when I transferred, I met one of my role models during my Orientation, I think those first days are incredibly formative, and I love getting involved with cultivating and crafting our school’s community to leave it even better than it was when I arrived. As another example, one of my best friends organized the William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge to help other students cultivate interests in international development, help her hone her own skills, challenge herself as a leader and participate in a project that would last past her own graduation. There are tons of these kinds of stories, about any kind of involvement or class or decision made during college.

“The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your ‘why.'”

It’s hard to swim against the stream, and it’s even harder to feel like you aren’t sure of your final destination when doing so. I guarantee you’ll have a few moments where you aren’t sure what to choose. How to choose, though, is simple. In the Office of First Year Experience, we like to talk about your “why”, a mystical and magical concept that encompasses a person’s personal, inner motivations for doing something. The best advice I can think of to pass on to incoming students, no matter what age or interest or identity, is to cultivate your “why.” William & Mary provides its students with countless opportunities to do truly extraordinary things, but it is up to you to choose what to do. Sometimes your “why” is very personal and profound, like the reason I work in The Haven (my personal experiences with issues of gender discrimination and a passion for sexual assault prevention and education), but sometimes it is lighthearted and goofy, like the reason I want to try out for the Syndicate dance team (it looks fun, it’s a last chance to try something new, and I really love the music they dance to). It takes time, and not every choice will end up being the perfect fit, but that is okay! If you focus on feeding your passions and following that “why”, you will have the most fulfilling college experience imaginable.

I can’t wait to meet you during Orientation, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me or anyone in FYE! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and Go Tribe!

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