Students test weekend alternatives

As classes finish for the week and we can begin to visualize a swath of free time, the issue of Friday night activities floats to the forefront of students’ minds.

Allen Davis ’14 occasionally forgoes First Fridays in favor of a night of stargazing with friends in the astronomy observatory. Photo by Iva Nikolau, staff photographer.

Without a doubt, there will be some sort of festivity, whether college-sponsored or private, every week. And while that can suffice for many students, there are those who would rather engage in alternate activities. The College does regularly provide activities through Williams After Dark and also various talks and lectures. And then there are those who take their Friday night fun into their own hands.

Allen Davis ’14 takes a more academic approach to his Friday night entertainment. The astrophysics major enjoys rounding up a few friends, grabbing his telescope and trekking to Stone Hill or Cole Field to stargaze. Since Williamstown is so isolated, a clear night presents the perfect opportunity for an amateur to observe. “We live in a pretty remote area, so it’s a great place if you can find a place with a low tree-line to just see some beautiful constellations,” Davis said. Last year, when he lived in Mission, he liked to set up his telescope outside the residence hall on Friday nights and show some party-goers the sky. “It was always really interesting to show the moons of Jupiter to a bunch of drunk people,” he said.

Lourdes Orlando ’14 and Stephanie Cardenas ’14 spend their Friday nights doing relatively classic night-in activities, such as watching movies, playing board games or baking. What is not so classic is that they also enjoy knitting. Last year, an entrymate taught the two how to knit during a movie night. Since then, Orlando has made multiple scarves for herself and others, as well as a few hats. “Yes, everyone calls us grannies when they walk by the common room,” she admitted. “[But we] wouldn’t spend Friday night any other way.”

Laurel Hamers ’14 skipped the November First Fridays in favor of another, less crowded and less sweaty party. Her friend, Meg O’Connor ’14, planned a surprise murder mystery party for her birthday, complete with costumes and a dramatic death. This year marked the beginning of a tradition of planning big birthday celebrations within Hamers and O’Connor’s group of friends. Unbeknownst to Hamers, O’Connor planned the whole party and even went so far as to write the entire mystery herself. “We didn’t really want to have to buy one or find a set somewhere to have one of the boxed murder mystery parties,” O’Connor said.

When Hamers arrived to find her friends seated at a candle-lit banquet table sporting suits and evening gowns, she assumed it was just a classy party. She soon discovered it was much more. Alliances were formed and clues were slowly uncovered through challenges such as riddles and a game called “Chicken on the Henhouse” as the night progressed. O’Connor stressed that “there were no rules,” and aside from actually murdering each other, the mystery could be solved by any means necessary.

“I enjoy First Fridays from time to time, but it’s definitely nice to have a variety of activities to do and not just always go to stuff like that,” Hamers said. O’Connor agreed: “There are only so many memories you can form at First Fridays with your group of college friends … I think this is something we’ll remember for a lot longer,” she said.

Members of Williams Sustainable Growers also offer twists on traditional parties with food-centered festivities.  “We had a garlic versus vampires party for Halloween,” Lauren McDonald ’12 said. The gardeners’ get-together included a smorgasbord of garlic-based cuisine, including garlic bread, garlic hummus and even garlic chocolate chip cookies. Surprisingly, these unconventional confections received decent reviews. “People ate more cookies than we thought,” McDonald said. “[Associate Professor of Mathematics] Mihai Stoiciu even came and talked about vampires.” According to McDonald, the key to coming up with fun alternative weekend activities is to first find people who share your passions. “There’s a lot more options if you meet people who have your interests,” McDonald said.

Holly Dwyer ’12 echoed McDonald.  “I suppose in part you need to fall into the right friend group. That difficulty is more a problem with the Williams social scene than anything else.” Dwyer and her friends have a diverse array of solutions to staying in. Her creative ideas include throwing chocolate parties, which she described as “a chocolatey gathering full of good people who like to have conversations and get to know each other.” Dwyer and company have also been known to spontaneously construct forts around campus. “We build tree forts, cardboard forts, blanket forts, maybe gingerbread forts,” she said.

Both McDonald and Dwyer noted that, although the college culture  emphasizes traditional parties, there are other ways to blow off some steam on weekends. In fact, a cozy night in can offer a great opportunity to focus on friends. “Usually, we just hang out,” Dwyer said. “And it’s just spontaneous and cuddly conversation.”

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