Olivia (“Liv”) Carlson ’20 and I became friends freshman year. This week, I took the time to catch up with her and discuss laundry, basketball, summer internships and why we should all go to the garlic festival in Bennington, VT.
So, let’s start with how you walked on to the basketball team.
I played three sports all throughout high school, and I played AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] basketball. I got recruited by a few smaller schools, mostly state schools, my senior year, but Williams searches for really high caliber athletes and hadn’t reached out to me. Actually, I was early decision when I got accepted and it was still basketball season, so I sent Coach [Pat] Manning an email and I was like, “Hey! I’m already in, do you think you can catch one of my games?” So she and a few of her assistant coaches came and they were like, “Yeah, we like what we see and we like your attitude.” So they gave me a spot, and it’s been great!
That’s great! So, you really asserted yourself there.
Yeah, I really didn’t think that athletics would be a part of my college experience, but I think as senior year went on I realized that I would miss more of the community aspect of it. That really keeps me tethered here at Williams, some structure and an extra support system.
Why did you originally choose Williams?
I live 17 minutes away, so I guess I’m a local. I toured 29 schools all up and down the East Coast, so that was kind of a wildfire summer sophomore year and junior year, and I kind of just overlooked Williams. I did not even consider it. I thought I wanted to go city; I thought I wanted to go bigger, big research institutions. And then I think it was just always like school [winding] down and senior year and I was like, “I like my small classes; I want my professors to know me.” I sat in on Professor [Charles] Lovett’s [chemistry] class, and he literally broke in the middle of a lecture to play his guitar. He was in jeans and cowboy boots and a tie-dye shirt, and he knew every single student’s name. There was just a great rapport between him and the students, and I was just like, “I want this to be my college experience.”
I also heard you had an interesting job over the summer. Can you tell me about that?
I was at Berkshire Medical Center, the local hospital here, so it was kind of the classic pre-med internship where I spent a week in each different unit kind of trying to figure out what aspect of medicine I want to go into. There are a lot of things in this community that we’re kind of hidden from at Williams. I saw a lot of overdoses in the ER; I saw lots of mental health problems in the behavioral health unit. I saw almost 40 percent of the babies being born in the maternity unit were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which happens when mothers use illicit drugs or opiates during the pregnancy and the babies actually get part of that drug through the pregnancy and are born in withdrawal from drugs. It was really interesting to see another side of this community other than the Williams side, and to see that there’s so much we can do and so much that needs to be fixed.
You also lead a 5k for charity every year.
Yeah, so my mother battled colon cancer for seven years, and I lost her my senior year, which I think also contributed to me wanting to stay close to home, stay tethered and stay local. So the summer before I came here I started a non-profit called Train for Trish, and our main fundraiser is a 5k race that I do in my hometown. It usually draws around 300 runners, and it’s just a very beautiful, very scenic 5k. People run, walk, walk their dogs. It’s something that my mom did every morning when she was healthy, I remember. So, it’s a nice way to remember her and raise money for a good cause and get the community together.
Since you live so close, do you go home often?
[Laughs.] I wouldn’t say I go home often. I do see my dad, I’d say at least every two weeks. We grab coffee at Tunnel [City Coffee] on his commute to work. He comes to every single basketball game, every single one, even though I don’t play. [Laughs.] Last year, which is totally embarrassing, I did not do a single load of laundry at Williams. Those every two weeks that I see my dad or after basketball games we would do like a laundry hand-off. [Laughs.] So, super embarrassing, but I think he liked it because he felt like he was contributing to my kind of emerging adulthood. But this year, I promised myself that I will do my own laundry! [Laughs.]
And how do you like being a housing coordinator this year?
I love it! I think it’s a good role. We had our first snacks the other day. I’m excited to kind of get to know some of the other people that I might not have interacted with otherwise. It kind of combines all of my interests. I love cooking, I love meeting new people and kind of forming another community. It’s interesting, Williams is very … there’s lots of cliques and it’s kind of nice that when you live together, you’re sort of merging all those cliques into a new community. I’m excited.
On top of that, weren’t you also a Where Am I?! leader this fall?
Yeah, I loved it. I had a great group, of course. I think I take a lot of aspects of our landscape and our attractions for granted, so being able to show what makes the Berkshires so special is really fun for me because when students are gasping at the mountain views on Mount Greylock, or having so much fun at the garlic festival, or seeing how cute downtown North Adams is, it makes me appreciate things that I’ve taken for granted, because I’ve lived here for 19 years.
Wait, what the hell is a garlic festival?
The garlic festival is this awesome thing that happens in Bennington every year since 1995 – you should totally go, it’s over Labor Day weekend. It started as just garlic, but now it’s evolved. There’s lots of homemade jams, cheeses, wines and there’s lots and lots of taste testing.
But people aren’t just taste testing like straight up garlic, right?
There’s garlic pickles, garlic relishes, things like that, but now there’s lots of different herbs too.
Okay, so what’s one place in the Berkshires or in the southern Vermont area that everyone should go to?
Definitely the top of Mount Greylock, whether that’s by hiking or driving. And also, I think hiking up Stony Ledge is just beautiful in the fall. It’s the longer hike on Mountain Day, so a lot of people don’t do it, but it is well worth it, even if it’s not on Mountain Day. Also, the little shops and restaurants. I think we get really stuck with the storefronts on Spring Street, but if you can get together and find someone with a car and explore the other little towns, you’ll meet a lot of great people that you wouldn’t have otherwise met.
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