A year ‘abroad’

After surmounting my sophomore slump, my mind turned to the terrain of my junior year. Like the Hamlet of Williamstown, I confronted the most fundamental quandary of an Eph’s existence: to be a Junior Advisor (JA) or to go abroad? Now, that is the question.

It might have been nobler to suffer in Frosh Quad, but I knew that my destiny would be found farther afield than even Mission Park. I was going abroad. My junior year would be one of new experiences, unfamiliar geography, rough-and-tumble living and strange customs. From my comfy double in a Route 2 row house, I dreamed of India, of South Africa, of Vietnam. I could head south to Chile, or hop a plane to Australia. I could go anywhere – the world was my oyster.

As many of my fellow juniors salivated over the prospect of their purple shirts and Facebook stalking their frosh, I began to plot my escape from the Purple Bubble. By the end of April, I knew exactly where I would be in the fall.

Garfield House.

You heard me right. When I revealed my exotic locale to my friends and family, they were just as shocked. “But you’ll never see anyone ever again!” exclaimed one friend. I was warned that I would never be able to survive in such an isolated environment. The basic staples of life – food, social interaction, indoor plumbing – were thrown into question. My cushy life at the College had acclimated me to certain creature comforts. What would I do without instantaneous access to Paresky, the central artery of all social lifeblood? How would I make it through that cursed 9:55 a.m. seminar without a Goodrich pitstop? Does Garfield even have Wi-Fi access?

I have an adventurous spirit, so all the plaintive wails fell on deaf ears. After all, I’m a Williams junior. It’s either study abroad or a year with 20 eager first-years and only, like, four bathrooms. You do the math.

As September approached, I embarked on my treacherous journey to Garfield. Armed with not one but two personal GPS systems, an outdated map of the state of Virginia and an appropriately titled iPod playlist (“GARFIELD OR BUST!”), I made the trek to my new home. After my first week in the Tudor-style behemoth, the initial dazzle began to dull. I realized that everything my friends had said about studying abroad was true, and loneliness set in. My friends’ apologetic refrain of “I really want to catch up, but you’re just so far away!” grew all too familiar. And forget about your requisite late-night pizza delivery. Does Hot Tomatoes even come to Garfield?

Despite these drawbacks, I took unexpected joy in my secluded surroundings. It was a quick litmus test for the strength of my relationships with all other human beings. Are you willing to walk an extra five minutes for my company? There was some culture shock. After all, I fled the South to escape country music, not to fall asleep to its twang every weekend. The all-too-thin walls of my 19th-century mansion turned frat house leave little to the imagination, and the kitchen is a little rustic, to put it lightly. But ultimately, I’m still optimistic about my year abroad. What’s your junior year without a little adventure?

All right, you’ve got me. Living in Garfield isn’t quite the same thing as moving to Copenhagen for the semester – although to hear some of you, it might as well be. I am living in the same zip code, folks. It’s not that far of a walk from Paresky.

As a junior who is neither headed abroad nor heading up an entry, you get a lot of strange looks. And as a junior who voluntarily took up residence on the outer fringe of campus, you’re subjected to a straight-up psychological evaluation. So as we begin yet another year of life in the Purple Valley, try to remember a couple of things.

First, not every junior wants to be a JA and not every junior decides to go jetsetting. And that doesn’t mean we aren’t having our own adventures. There are unique challenges that face the on-campus junior, just like the culture shock that hits our friends studying abroad and the emotional stressors of the JA life.

Second, it’s worth an extra few minutes to visit those distant dorms. We’re spoiled by the size of our campus, and we should remember that. Every time you tell your friends that they live too far away to merit a visit, think about the message you’re sending. Of course, there’s another side to this coin, because those of us living outside the immediate radius of Paresky can’t fall back on our living situation as an excuse to miss out on life at the College.

What about Tyler Annex, you say? That’s totally different. Isn’t that in, like, Vermont?


Kate Flanagan ’14 is a literary studies and history double major from New Bern, N.C. She lives in Garfield.

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