Meg Richardson ’16 and I first met at a cross country recruiting trip as seniors in high school, where we bonded over our midwestern roots and our love for running. When we both ended up at the College the next year, Richardson was the first familiar face I saw on campus, and since then I’ve been lucky enough to have her as a teammate and friend. I sat down with her to talk about her Iowan background and her experiences at the College and beyond.
So you’re from Iowa. How did you like growing up there?
Iowa’s great. The first thing I tell people when I meet them is that I’m from Iowa City, Iowa. It’s something I’m pretty proud of. I’m a seventh generation Iowan, fun fact. And I have a little Iowa necklace that I wear almost all the time, except it just broke, so my mom is sending me a new one. Iowa is really hoppin’ right now because a lot of the political candidates are there for the elections, and they were all going to the state fair and eating fried butter and fried pickles and things like that.
Classic Iowan dishes?
[Laughs.] Yeah, that’s not really what we eat for dinner. We do actually eat a lot of corn. In the summer, my family has corn for dinner every night, pretty much. So that’s one stereotype that is kinda true.
Another stereotypical question about Iowa would be “Do you live on a farm?”
Yeah, so I don’t live on a farm, but my family does have some farmland. It’s about 20 minutes away from our house, and there are cattle, and it rotates between growing corn and soybeans. And the cow pasture is just really beautiful. There’s a sand canyon that you can climb up – it’s sort of like a sand dune, but it’s a canyon – but you can climb up and sort of jump off of it and ski down into this creek. It’s amazing. There’s a tree house, there’s a zip line; it’s just an awesome place to go as a kid. And it still is an awesome place to go as a 21-year-old!
What was your school like in Iowa?
So I went to two schools before [the College] that were about as different as they could be, but I feel very grateful to have gotten to go to both of these awesome schools. I went to Iowa City High School, which was, I don’t know, I always say it was sort of like the high school out of High School Musical. It was just very classic: cheerleaders and football players and farm kids and city kids, and it was great. Before that, I went to Willowwind School, which was … it was just really hippie, it was a little bit like a Waldorf school but way more hippie. So we didn’t really have first, second, third grade or anything like that. When I went there, it was kindergarten age through eighth-grade age, but we were split up into three groups: the younger kids, the middle kids and the older kids. It was pretty fluid, and we just did a lot of painting in the garden and climbing trees and running around and just using our imaginations, and it was a blast; I loved it so much. I think it’s a big reason why I am the way I am.
What were some other things you did at Willowwind?
So, every morning, we’d have what was called “group discussion.” It was about 40 kids, and we would all sit in a circle in a room with [… a 10-foot-tall stuffed giraffe]. So we’d sit in the circle and talk about lots of different things, but usually we would end by everyone going around in the circle and saying something nice to someone else. I started there when I was four, and it was just such a huge part of my growing up. Another cool thing about Willowwind – we had teachers from all over the world, so I got to start learning French and Spanish when I was really little from teachers. I had a teacher from Burkina Faso and [one from] Algeria, and that was really cool. And there were a lot of kids from all over the world, too.
So eventually you transitioned from cow-filled Iowa to purple-cow-filled Williams. Speaking of which, your cow sweatshirt is adorable. Did you make it?
I did make this sweatshirt! Yes, the original iteration of it – I got into Williams [early decision] and I didn’t have any Williams gear yet, and I was just so excited, so I just sewed a purple cow on a sweatshirt so that I could have some Williams gear. And then that one got pretty raggedy, so I made a new one.
I know you had one particularly funny moment during your first year here. Can you tell me about that?
[Laughs.] Yeah, when I was a [first-year], I had a little trouble adjusting to the academics at [the College] after high school, so I stayed up really, really late one night writing a paper. And then I was really tired, so I went to sleep the next night at, I don’t know, 8 [p.m.] or 7 [p.m.] or something. And then I woke up at 11 p.m. and sort of groggily looked at my phone and thought that it was morning and that I had missed my morning class and that I was late to art history. So I got dressed and ate my little yogurt in my room, and I was saying good morning to people in the bathroom, and I think they were like, “Ok … good morning … I don’t know what you’re doing.” Then I ran outside and it was dark, but there were people walking around because it was 11 [p.m.], it wasn’t the middle of the night, so I was just a girl on a mission, gotta get to art history, and it just popped into my head, “Well, maybe there’s a solar eclipse or something.” And so off I went to art history, only to find that no one was there. And then I got back to my entry and they sort of sat me down and were like, “Meg, honey, get it together, it’s the middle of the night.” And so then we went to snack bar, and all was well. Since then, I’ve stayed on track and known what time it is, usually.
You’ve gotten involved in a lot of different things on campus. What sorts of things do you do here?
I’m one of the captains of the wonderful women’s cross country team. That’s amazing, I just love all the girls on that team so much, and it’s one of my favorite parts of [the College] just to know that every afternoon I get to go run around some mountains with some of my best friends and chat about how things are going. And I was a [Junior Advisor] last year, and that was incredible. My Sage C frosh are out of this world, and my co [Alex Kling ’16] is so great, too. And I’m on Storyboard, which is really, really fun. It’s just been a great way to learn about what’s going on beneath the surface of people who you see walking around at [the College]. One of our mottos is that everyone has a story, and I really have learned that through working on Storyboard.
On top of all that, you’re writing a thesis this year, too, right?
It’s a [comparative literature] thesis, and it’s about two authors. One’s from Cameroon and one’s from Morocco, and it’s about how their books are packaged and published and marketed in France. So I’m looking at cover art in both of them, and there’s some interesting sort of political, maybe neocolonial stuff going on with the way that their books are marketed and things like that. It’s been really fun so far.
You’ve also spent some time in a few French-speaking countries, right?
Yeah, I didn’t go abroad for a semester but I was lucky enough to go to Senegal the summer before my junior year and live there for the summer, and that was phenomenal. And then I also lived in France the summer before that, in Avignon, and that was really, really wonderful, too. I think coming from Iowa has given me an appreciation for that sort of Storyboard idea that everyone has a story. Iowa’s a pretty small part of the world, so I always want to look outward and see what else is out there to see. I think next year it could be fun to go live somewhere really random that I don’t know very much about.
What did you do last summer?
I worked at Scholastic Publishing, which was incredible. I think, since Willowwind, I’ve always had a love of learning and childrens’ books especially, so that was really cool. There was a statue of Harry Potter to greet me as I walked into work every morning, and Clifford the Big Red Dog stuff all over the place.
Do you have any goals for senior year?
I think one thing is just taking it all in and sitting down and talking to people at snack bar and not just rushing off to the library. Yeah, taking a couple extra seconds to look around at how beautiful the mountains are and things like that.