Fearlessness came to mind when we met Bianca Brown ’14 for the first time. She nonchalantly recounted for us the adventures and misadventures of a lifetime, from rebelling against parental authority with dreadlocks, to tearing up bible camp, to contracting malaria in Ghana. We sat down to chat with the amicable senior, who has racked up a country count of over 35 and, with it, a rich and unique set of experiences that has taken her on an atypical and rewarding journey through the College.
We hear you are quite the traveler! When were you actually on campus during your four years here?
[All of] my first year. Sophomore year, I was only here in the fall, spent winter study in Ghana and the spring in Williams-Mystic. Junior year, I was here in the fall – I love Mountain Day, so I always have to be back for that! Junior winter, I went farming in New Zealand and then in the spring I did the International Honors Program (IHP), where you go to three different countries: Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa. So now I’m here, but I went to India for Winter Study. It’s really nice to finally be here for a full year.
What is your country count?
Oh gosh… Do you want to help me with this actually? I need more fingers, and it’s winter-time so I can’t really use toes.
[We help her count. It’s 35.]
Did you have any scares in your adventures abroad?
Oh! Yeah! Well I got malaria! In Ghana! It was a ridiculous story.
What?! How did you get it?
You know when you go to the doctor, you get a million slips of paper with these prescriptions to get filled and just forget about them? So in Ghana, I was inland so I didn’t think that malaria would be a concern. Then, I went to the beach twice and it didn’t occur to me not to sleep in a hammock next to a lagoon overnight. So I got malaria. One morning I just woke up with the works. And the first question my roommate asked was ‘Oh, have you been taking your anti-malarial medication?’ and I was like, ‘No, have you?’ And everyone who came to my room was like, ‘Yeah I’ve been taking it,’ ‘So have I,’ and I just looked around the room, like, ‘How come no one let me in on that secret?’
And how did you treat that in Ghana?
I went to a rural clinic where you walk for an hour and you get there and you wait for more hours, so not fun, but I think that was important for me to see the other side of healthcare. It’s not always so accessible.
And how did you break out from Long Island during summers?
Well, I’ve been going to bible camp since I was nine years old! But then I loved it so much I started working there for 10 weeks every summer and then decided to go to the Bible Institute, and deferred from Williams for two years. I was originally in the Class of 2012. I had my WOOLF group, my entry and a roommate from when I was originally going to matriculate in 2008! It’s crazy just knowing I had someone out there, like I ended up being that mystery person, that ghost person.
Wow. How did you spend those two years at the Bible Institute?
The Bible Institute was an absolutely phenomenal experience. It really shook me up from who I was, sort of disassembled me from my core building blocks so when I came to Williams I was a totally different person, which was the reason I wanted to go [there] first.
How was the transition to the College when you marticulated in 2010?
At the Bible Institute, not only are there no co-ed bathrooms, guys have to stay on the sidewalk and not even cross the line over to the pathway to the girls’ dorms. For people at Williams, that would not fly. Lots of things are regulated there. I think the big thing was [that] the focus of everyone I talked to was shifted. I felt very out of touch with youth culture, very outside.
How did you find your place here?
I think part of the reason why I’ve had such a weird trajectory through Williams was that I had to deal with that. I applied for Mystic first-year fall; that’s really early. I wanted to be in the Williams community outside of Williams, where I could build relationships in small groups.
What is the weirdest food you have ever tried during your travels?
South Africa was my time of food exploration. We were on a safari and we got to have ostrich steaks and impala, a lot of really gamey stuff. Now I really have a penchant for ostrich. It’s really good!
Have you ever gone through any major fashion or style phases influenced by your travels?
Oh of course, yeah! Senior year of high school, what better thing can you do to your parents when there’s graduation and prom than get dreadlocks at Christmas? I had three girl cousins, they all worked on my head together, so we had a movie-watching marathon. We pulled an all-nighter. It took eight hours.
What made you want dreadlocks in particular?
So I saw this girl in the United Kingdom, she had dreadlocks and just seemed like what I wanted to be in life. I mean, I didn’t exchange a single word with her. I just saw her across the train station and I just knew, this is it. Also, in India we were in an ashram, this community of hippie, dreadlocked, ohm-ing white people. I think maybe 80 percent of the people there had dreadlocks. I felt like as I was living there I would just magically dread up.
How did you transition out of dreadlocks?
One does not really transition out of dreadlocks. More like you cut it off, shave it off, depending on your comfort with gender norms. But my mother only let me keep them for a few months. I essentially had this head of fuzz. And my friends in AP Biology who sat behind me would stick things in my hair, like paper clips and pieces of paper.
Are you excited though to spend your first spring in Williamstown since your first year?
I really want to encourage people to explore. I’m one of the organizers for Williams Worldviews, so we think about this all the time: How do we enlarge our campus and capture people’s experiences outside the campus and infuse them here? So I am glad that I’ve taken the path I have, but I think a much more stable path would be equally as eye-opening and paradigm shifting. There’s so much here! I think moving forward we should just integrate that in a more cohesive way.
To nominate someone for One in 2000, email Molly Bodurtha at mib1 or Zoe Harvan at zeh1 briefly explaining why you think he or she should be featured.