When exams end in May and the academic year draws to a close, most students leave the College to return home or embark on jobs or internships all over the world. Many, however, remain on campus to do research with professors, to work an on-campus job or to become involved in the greater Williamstown community. They stay in dorms, eat in dining halls and use many of the College’s facilities as if it were just another semester. In reality, however, summer life in Williamstown is very different from the normal academic year. Although it’s not for everyone, for the right person in the right situation it can be a highly rewarding experience.
Emily Elder ’20 spent the summer working as a research assistant for Enrique Peacock-López, professor of chemistry. Her work involved analyzing differential equations on her computer, which allowed her to be flexible with where and when she worked. She spent a lot of her working time at Tunnel City Coffee, on benches around campus or at the Clark Art Institute, enjoying the pleasant summer weather. Meanwhile, Chris Kim ’20 worked for the systems department at Sawyer Library, helping with organizational work on a more traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Summer jobs in Williamstown run the gamut from full-time to freelance, but many involve activities centered around the College community.
Most buildings in Currier Quad and Morgan Hall are used for housing this summer. Paresky Center was open for dining and, according to Elder and Kim, of markedly higher quality than during the school year. Other students, however, make use of the summer to expand their eating habits beyond the dining halls. “I ate out a lot,” Chloe Kaplan ’20 said, “which I didn’t do a lot my freshman year, so that was definitely a big cultural plus.” The summertime, and the extra time and often extra income that come along with it, allow many students to take advantage of the diverse dining options both on Spring Street and in the surrounding area. The most frequented venue, unsurprisingly, is Lickety Split ice cream, the snack bar of the summer. “A night in summer Williamstown always ends at Lickety,” Kaplan said. “Lickety is the destination of the night—it doesn’t matter what you’re out doing, you end up at Lickety sooner or later.”
With a mere fraction of students on campus, social events and activities in the summer are understandably less frequent, but not entirely absent. Weekly pickup Frisbee games and improv comedy workshops were favorites of both Elder and Kim, and the additional time in the summer allows students to take full advantage of local cultural hallmarks like MASS MoCA and the Clark. The Williamstown Theater Festival offers a plethora of shows for those so inclined, and local institutions make an effort to engage with summer residents. “There are things going on every now and then,” Elder said. “The Clark would have activities and family days, and it would play movies outside on Sunday nights through Images [Cinema].”
That said, students are still prone to “Bubble Burnout”; after a full academic year on campus, the familiar environs of the purple bubble, especially with the more subdued summer pace, can begin to feel stifling. Students with the ability to leave Williamstown on the weekends are often thankful to do so. “It was very nice to have a car,” Elder said. “Otherwise I think I would have felt very trapped and very, very bored.”
Instead of visiting family and friends, Kaplan had family and friends come visit her. Both students agreed that some way to break up the sameness of the places and faces is a must for an enjoyable summer.
So, what’s the recipe for a productive and happy summer in Williamstown? While there’s no magic formula, a couple of themes seem to appear. Students should look for different ways to entertain themselves, whether it be scheduled visitors or a car to visit others, since summer social life tends to be more stunted and places like the Clark can only keep people occupied for so long.
“I think that whatever you’re planning on doing here for the summer, you should really enjoy doing it,” Kaplan said. “You should have a genuine interest or passion for it, because it does take up a lot of your day.” Given a fulfilling job and an open attitude towards the slower pace of summer life, the confines of Williamstown become less stifling. As Kim said, “If you have a good opportunity to do something here, staying in Williamstown can be a lot of fun.”