I can vividly recall the first time I stepped on a boarding school campus as a high school freshman. My parents and I were searching for the dorm where I would be spending the next year, but unable to locate it, I sheepishly walked up to a group of boys who seemed to know their way around campus. Trying to force the cemented question out of my mouth, I asked where the Pocumtuck dormitory was. They shrugged their shoulders in response. A couple of head-scratching moments passed, and suddenly one of the boys laughed, realizing I was looking for “Poc,” the abbreviated name for Pocumtuck. He directed me down the street and to the left to the white building next to the yellow boys’ dorm.
A couple weeks later, I began to find my stride at Deerfield: I had made a group of friends, I was no longer failing Dr. White’s biology quizzes and I was making at least one comment per day in English class. I was beginning to understand the social scene, the lingo and most importantly, the cultural heritage of this place I would soon regard as home. Within those first couple of weeks, I found out the origin of “Poc” – named after the lush and scenic Pocumtuck Valley in which Deerfield is situated. Over the course of my four years at Deerfield, I heard a number of faculty, staff, students and alumni refer to the Pocumtuck Valley as a hotbed for growth, learning, innovation and community. And as time went on, I realized that there, at the base of the Pocumtuck Valley, where we ate together in the dining hall, where we studied long after the sun had set, and where we played together on the fields and courts, the hotbed really did exist.
Like my memory of my first day on campus at Deerfield, my recollection of the first time I stepped on the Williams campus as a first-year is particularly clear, partly because the first day of college is supposed to be an important day, one that you catalog in your memory for years to come and partly because it was just two weeks ago. Unlike that first day at Deerfield, I was actually able to locate my entry with considerable ease; a few quick questions and I was in my fourth floor room unpacking. It almost felt as though I was going through the same motions as I would at the beginning of every year at Deerfield: unpack, meet hall mates, meet dorm, tell a funny story (the one facet of introductions I’m still trying to perfect), smile, make friends, smile some more, sleep.
Last Sunday, I sat upstairs in Paresky listening to Chris Gay ’13 speak at Storytime. Toward the end of his story, Chris noted how the College is a unique place, a place where students and faculty alike are profoundly passionate about whatever they do. It really hit me when he made that statement: Williams is one of those hotbeds where people come to pursue both their talents and passions. Just take Gay for example: He conveyed his inner thoughts, even the darker ones, with comedic ease and enterprise. Though he is certainly talented and passionate about performing, he continues to introspect and grow from those thoughts. It’s incredible if you think about it – people here are generally content but not complacent.
My boarding school to college transition may be unique even among my other boarding school graduate peers; I just happened to go to school not too far away from Williams, in another picturesque valley. Despite the many similarities the College and Deerfield share, they are strikingly different, both special in their own ways. I am thrilled to be here, to experience what this new and exciting Purple Valley has to offer and to become a part of the incredible College community.
Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 is from Newport Coast, Calif. She lives in Williams Hall.