Hailing from the bustling metropolis that is New York City, Marieme Sall ’16 has sped through two busy, napless years at the College as a Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-Years (WOOLF) leader, French and German speaker and member of dance group NBC. Before she leaves for Paris next year, we sat down with her in the Record office hoping to discover how she manages to do it all — and how she does it with fewer than five hours of sleep per night.
You’re from Roosevelt Island in New York. How big is it?
Yes I am. It’s a cute place, physically a small island between Manhattan and Queens, but it’s part of Manhattan. It’s pretty much all residential. We have a Roosevelt Island Day and a summer movie festival. We have a health and fitness day when everyone comes out with their kids. It’s a really nice place. I think it’s maybe four miles in circumference, like a track. People do a lot of running and biking there. It’s a nice getaway, especially in the summer nights, you can sit along the river and it’s really nice and peaceful, everyone’s out with their kids, and you can see the bustling part of Manhattan but you’re semi-removed from there.
How was it coming from New York to Williamstown?
I think a lot of people, when they knew I was coming to Williams, couldn’t imagine me in the middle of nowhere. They were like, “Why are you going to the woods? Why are you going to the mountains?” I don’t mind it. I think it’s nice for saving money. Like, yesterday I was in Boston and I dropped, like, $90. Being here, it’s a nice little getaway, especially because our breaks are timed, so after three months when I want to get out of Williamstown I can go home. When I’m stressed out in the city it’s a lot different than when I’m stressed out here. I feel like I’m not as angry as I would be if I had to deal with the same workload along with the bustling stress of New York. I feel like I’d be an angry person constantly.
But you also became a WOOLF leader, which is a super outdoorsy move. How was that?
Prior to coming to Williams, I never did anything outdoorsy, partly because my parents are from Senegal so they’re from a tropical part of Africa, so they have beaches and sand and they don’t have mountains and whatever this is, and in New York we have concrete. So I came here, and I did a beginner’s hiking trip and it was really fun. I loved my group. So I decided to apply to be a WOOLF leader to see if I could protect the lives of nine [first-years]. I also did P.E. hiking in freshmen [first-year] spring. One of the questions on the application was what other outdoors experience do you have outside of WOOLF and I was like, “Psh, none. I don’t know man. I can survive. Street skills, maybe?” I don’t think that applies as easily in the mountains, but it went well.
We’ve also heard you don’t get a lot of sleep. What’s your sleep schedule like?
I’m a night person and a morning person, so I’ll go to sleep very, very late and I’ll also wake up very early. So maybe, on average, a good night would be like five hours of sleep, but three or four hours is pretty normal.
Do you nap during the day?
No, I can’t nap. My schedule just works in a way, my latest class is a 1:10, and then usually I have practice for NBC, and then I have homework, but I’m just too tired to do anything. And I’m worried that because I’m perpetually exhausted I’ll just fall asleep and never wake up if I nap. I think it started in high school because I’ve always had a heavy workload, and I just did everything under the sun. I would have meetings before school, during school, after school and then I’d have soccer practice and another program after that, and then I’d have to do my homework. And so I knew I was capable of staying up late, so I was like, “Oh, I can fit all of this in, I’ll just sleep a little less.” It wasn’t the best choice. My advisor would be like, “You should start sleeping,” and she was also my AP Bio teacher so I’d be like, “You should assign less homework.” It’s a habit that I’m hoping I’ll break by senior year. Maybe when I’m abroad [in France].
Your parents are from Senegal, a French speaking country. Has that at all inspired your desire to study French, and have you ever visited Senegal?
My parents came to New York in the ’80s, and since I was born in America, and my siblings were, too, they just decided not to teach us French, which was kind of strange since that was their native language along with Wolof. I didn’t mind it until 11th grade until I was like, “Wait a minute, why am I not bilingual?” So I started taking French here. The last time I visited [Senegal] I was 10 years old. The vast majority of my family lives in Senegal, and I have a huge family, like I don’t even know most of them. So the next time I do go back it’ll be very, very hectic. That’s why when people ask me why I didn’t study abroad in Senegal I’m like, “It would be too complicated, everyone would be asking me to visit.” One day I will go back, I don’t know when.
But while you are on campus still, you can keep doing NBC. Why did you join the group?
I danced from when I was four to 14. And I was also doing martial arts and soccer, but then my high school didn’t have any dance groups, so I dropped dancing. And then I came here and as a prefrosh I wanted to join NBC. They sent the email for second-round auditions, and they said to please come with your own choreography and I was like “Oh no, I don’t choreograph,” so I totally chickened out. Then I went to their fall
show and it was incredible, and I was like “I need to be a part of this.” So then I sucked it up and came prepared to choreograph for the spring auditions, but I ended up not needing to. I got in, and it’s been a ton of fun since then. It’s a great group of people, a lot of fun people on it, a lot of creative people on it.
You also bike a lot, right? Do you own a bike on campus?
I do; I love my bike. I don’t have my bike here on campus, but I ride a dutch-style bike, so it’s a big, black dutch bike with brown leather details – it looks very old fashioned. It’s just a really big bike. So backstory: I first saw this bike parked in the street one day in high school and I wanted it, but at the time it cost, like, $800 and my parents were like, “We’re not going to buy you a bike for $800.” Last summer, I was interning at a network, so when I finally had my own income I bought the bike, and spent so much of my money trying to pimp it out. It was so sad because I bought a bike rack to try to attach it to my car, but it wouldn’t attach properly so I couldn’t bring it. So it stays home. When I’m home my daily routine is to ride it to my favorite coffee shop, always by myself, so I’m pretty sure they think I have no friends at that coffee shop. My bike is my homie. I get bike crushes. I’ll look at bike stuff for so long.
Are you on the cycling team here?
No, it’s just for getting around. I also prefer it to riding the subway or having to walk amongst pedestrians. I have no patience for navigating around people who are lollygagging or walking inefficiently. If you need to stop, pull aside, like as if you were a car, pull over. I get to mostly avoid that when I’m on my bike. And with my dutch bike, it’s made so you can wear whatever you want, so I wear my everyday clothes on it. I always feel uncomfortable when I walk into a typical bike shop that diehard cyclists go to because I feel like they judge me. So I go to the shop where I got my bike because I feel like they understand why I’m not in spandex.
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