Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's almost time to go outside

by: Nick Alexander

As a member of the class of 2010, I am just now realizing what all graduates realize at some point in their lives; the year that you graduate is not always off in the distant future and in fact, it comes sooner than you may think. I have been so comforted and deceived by things such as Microsoft Office 2007 and my 2002 Ford Focus that I did not notice the New Year 2010 creep up on us. I also did not notice the New Year because I was busy taking care of someone who celebrated a little too much just before the ball dropped… but that’s a different story.

I took this (last ever) Winter Break to reflect on the things I have done over the last few years at William and Mary. I won’t bore you with those, but I will say that I found I was thankful for different things than I had expected. Coming in as a Freshman I knew I was going to get a great education. That’s why I (and most others) chose William and Mary. But I did not realize that I would meet the greatest people in the world. And I certainly did not think that I would keep meeting them year after year. Even as a Senior, I am still meeting amazing people at William and Mary and I absolutely love it. The time we have in college is short and you have to make the most of it. I have one semester left to ensure that I have the best undergraduate experience ever… and I am well on my way.

Without sounding too preachy, I would like to give you a few pieces of advice that helped make my William and Mary experience so fantastic. First, NEVER pass up ANY opportunity. If your professor wants you to be her TA, if your friend wants you to help him break the record for having the most people do the Thriller dance, or if you have the chance to camp outside Buffalo Wild Wings the night before their grand opening to win a year supply of wings… DO IT! Second, the glass is never half empty nor is it half full. There is sooo much in the glass. Think about it. And third, remember that old cliché: no door closes without a new one opening. Friendships may wither, grades may struggle, relationships may sour, and you may get bumped from campus housing and be forced to find an apartment with a bunch of people you don’t know, but these are ALL opportunities to meet new people, try new things, and discover more about yourself.

William and Mary and Kappa Delta Rho have contributed so much to the man I am today. The thought of having one semester left is a little sad especially when I talk to people who have seven more semesters. But then I realize that there are so many opportunities in front of me. However, instead of going back to those three pieces of advice, I’ll just give you a really bad metaphor about my most recent years: High school was like walking down the hallway in my house. There weren’t many directions to go so I strolled on through to the end (sometimes bumping into the wall but always getting back on track). College is the living room in my house. I have people over, watch TV, read, and run around and do stupid things. But the front door is slowly opening and as I peek outside, I see there are no walls. Sometimes it’s bright and sunny and sometimes it’s dark and stormy. That is where I (and the class of 2010) will be in about five months. It's almost time to go outside. A William and Mary alum said it best when I expressed sadness for entering my last semester in the greatest place on Earth: “While saying goodbye to W&M is indeed bittersweet, you are about to begin the life you've been preparing enjoy that last semester and get excited about what lies ahead!” And that is exactly what I will do.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Experiences, Same Old Town

by: Richard Walsh

Summer in Williamsburg is a beautiful thing. I’m not taking any classes, I have the campus to myself, and I think I’m getting to know the bouncers at the delis on a first name basis. No, I did not figure out a way to break into Unit A (the KDR House) and hide out there until everyone comes back for fall semester. This summer I’m interning in the Office of Undergraduate Admission as a Senior Interviewer. Along with ten other rising seniors, I’m interviewing prospective students, leading campus tours, and doing projects for the Dean Staff. I’ve interviewed a ton of interesting high schoolers, and have certainly been impressed, surprised, and entertained by what I’ve seen thus far. It’s also been a blast getting to know the other interns better, both on the job and outside of work.

This summer has shown me that some of the most common sayings you hear throughout your life are actually quite accurate and useful. Here are a few universal truths that have been reinforced for me over the past few months:

1. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

You really can’t. It’s amazing how often I’m blown away by an interviewee who at first glance appears to be incredibly awkward or out of touch with reality. Everyone has a story, and you really never know what’s going through someone’s mind. Often times it’s the people you least expect who tell moving stories about personal tragedies, life-changing events, and mind-blowing coincidences. On the same token, I’ve met Eagle Scouts, EMTs, award-winning actors, and nationally-ranked equestrians who have little to say when it comes to who they are and what they truly believe in.

2. “Just be yourself.”

Don’t pretend you’re someone else, because you’re not fooling anyone. This piece of advice is almost frustrating because it’s so easy to understand yet so difficult to actually follow. Some of my best interviews have been with students who simply speak their mind and are honest about who they are. Don’t tell me you love colonial history and idolize Thomas Jefferson just because you think that’s what I want to hear. I want to know who you are and what makes you tick, whether it’s the Spanish language, heavy metal, or ballroom dancing. Just – be – yourself.

3. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Adjusting to the whole 8am – 5pm professional work life has been somewhat of a challenge for me. Over the past few weeks I’ve been reminded that my health is indeed closely tied to how much sleep I get. Going out to the delis is a priority for the interns, but I now understand that I really can’t go to Corona Night at Paul’s on Wednesday and expect to be very productive on Thursday. In addition, if we don’t get our interview write-ups done on time, our boss won’t sign our paycheck, so staying on the ball really does determine my level of wealth this summer. Lastly, I think Benjamin Franklin was right when he connected sleep with intelligence – it’s just not wise to try and operate on an empty tank.

4. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

My roommate for the past three years and brother in KDR, Julian, is living with me this summer, one room away from me. You can interpret this as you wish.

This summer is certainly flying by – I can’t believe it’s already August. I will be here in the ‘Burg through August, so if you stop by the Admissions Office for a tour or info about W&M, I just may be there to assist you. While summer here at W&M has been awesome, I can’t wait for fall semester to arrive. Unit A, here I come!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

KDR in the ER

by: Amir Arsalan

It is currently 8:24 AM. I just got off an intense 10 hour night shift from work. Last night, the Emergency Room was completely inundated with patients. I was hounded by nurses, patients, and staff the entire night. I barely even had time for food or bathroom breaks. Oddly, I’m not even slightly exhausted, rather I feel energetic and lively. You might be wondering why. Two hours ago, an average, middle-aged, slightly overweight man came in with a chief complaint of ‘dyspnea’ – difficulty breathing. Other than the fact that he was on a ventilator, the situation seemed somewhat mundane…at first.

Within an hour, his condition worsened into a life-threatening state. There were 4 nurses and 2 radiology technicians by his bed-side and an intensivist on-call. Without warning, his heart rate climbed to ventricular tachycardia, his breathing rate increased, and his blood oxygen saturation level decreased significantly. The nurses alternated in performing rotations of CPR as multiple doses of epinephrine were pumped into his body. Needless to say, Room 17 was in a frantic state, while I calmly stood in a corner, jotting down event notes. Minutes later, the attending ER doctor called the time of death. The patient expired. The culprit: pulmonary embolism.

I have been working at Sentara Williamsburg as an Emergency Room scribe this summer. It would be a great exaggeration to say that all my shifts have been as interesting as the one I described above. However, my experiences so far have been incredible. I have learned a great deal about emergency medicine and the world of health-care in general.

The purpose of an Emergency Room scribe is to facilitate patient flow by working closely with a doctor as his or her assistant. Documentation is a major aspect of the job. We record patient histories, physical exams, diagnostic procedures, lab results, and other activities in which the doctor may engage. There are currently around 18 of us in total, and the ER is always staffed with at least 1-3 scribes. The coolest part about working as a scribe is the real-world application. You are actually able to experience all those ‘meaningless’ topics covered in basic chemistry or biology courses. It is a great opportunity for those thinking about medical school. I would highly recommend it to any premeds. You probably make as much as an average sweat-shop worker, but it’s the experience that counts, right?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Runnin' Down a Dream

by: Nick Alexander

They say running is a lifetime sport. I didn’t realize what exactly this meant until I was on mile three and passed a little boy standing on the boardwalk shouting “Yeah Grandma! Go!” to an old lady in front of me. I didn’t let it get me down though, she was a fast granny!

My sister had called me about two months back saying she registered me for a 5 mile race. She is smart; she knew if she asked I would have declined but if she didn’t ask, then I had no choice. My brother also registered. So on top of an extremely busy summer, I added “learn how to run again” to my list of things to do. The training was fun; I ran through the streets of Waltham, Massachusetts, my summer residence, where I constantly got lost and ended up in other towns. Actually, two days before the race I decided to go for one last run just around dinner time. I assumed if I ran and made right turns I would complete a circle. I knew I was wrong when I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Wellesley” which is three towns over from Waltham. Of course the now black, moonless sky and my lack of cell phone for light made the sign very difficult to read. For a minute, I was lost and hopeless. But then luckily a very nice lady picked me up and drove me home… but that’s another story.

So fast forward to race day in Belmar, New Jersey where the early dawn spilled sunlight all over the sand, boardwalk, and construction site of vendor and radio station tents. The ocean sparkled and disappeared off into the clear blue horizon. As we pulled into our parking spot I laced up my running shoes, drank some Powerade, and laughed at my brother who was hurting from the night before, courtesy of the Belmar night life. Why he didn’t just sleep there beats me.

Anyways, some of you are amazing runners but 5 miles was quite an accomplishment for me. On top of that, the race experience was far different from the training I had done. First off, pacing was extremely difficult because I (a) had never run the course before and (b) did not know which of the 3000 people was running at a good pace for me. All in all, I thought I was finished when there was a about a mile left. This killed me and my finish was disgusting. I mean, physically disgusting. In pictures of me crossing the finish line it looks like I am crying, angry, dying, and constipated. You won’t find those picture on this blog. I will say that even though I did not finish in the time that I aimed for, I did run my best 5 mile at 40:09.

The best part was afterwards. Somehow my brother had finished before me so we stood by the finish line to cheer my sister on. Then I went and mingled with the other runners and vendors. All of the runners were extremely friendly and I even got a marketing job offer from one of the vendors with whom I spoke. I declined it though as I am currently employed. Then we went to the bar with the rest of the runners and got free burgers and discounted beer.

The point of the story is that a challenge always brings a growing experience and a sense of accomplishment. I had showered, run a five mile race, got a free shirt, met a bunch of great people, got a job offer, ate a burger, and had my first drink all before 11 o’clock in the morning! I am especially glad that I shared the whole experience with my brother and sister. My siblings and I are dreamers and the 5 mile race was just one of our dreams. Now that we can cross that off the list, we need something bigger, something better, and something with more beer. Anheuser-Busch Colonial Half Marathon here we come!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Adventures in the Motherland

by: Pete Giannino

Greetings brothers and friends:

I just wanted to take this opportunity to fill you all in a little about my time thus far here in St. Petersburg, Russia. In brief it has been a really eye-opening experience while Russian culture differs greatly from American culture.

I arrived here three weeks ago with three years of Russian language and numerous Russian culture classes under my belt. This truly did not prepare me for what was waiting for me here. I arrived from the airport, extremely tired and met my host mom, who speaks NO English, and found myself immediately dredging my skull for vocabulary for everyday situations. After meeting Tanya, my host mother, she asked me if I was “голодный” (hungry) and if I wanted to “Кушать” (slang for to eat). It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what this meant, but based on the context clues of having Бутерброды (sandwiches) and Блины (think crepes in this situation) stuffed down my throat, I learned quickly. Apparently it’s rude to turn up food here, so the gravy-train just keeps on rolling.

The following day, I got to experience first hand the bureaucratic nightmare that is registering oneself in Russia as actually legally being a student and legally being allowed to stay in the country. I had to go to three different buildings to get all of my paperwork done with little or no help from the staff. The cherry on top of this delightful adventure was getting to go to the local police station to register myself living here. What a treat that was. Getting through all of this bureaucratic red-tape took up the better part of the day. I was exhausted and I had not even sat down for my classes yet.

The following day I finally had class. It should be of little to no surprise that my professor spoke almost no English. As a matter of fact, none of them really do, except my professor from W&M, Sasha. When I say they don’t speak English, I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. An English word might be uttered every 15-20 minutes, and even then I would not realize it because it was uttered in a thick Russian accent, rendering it almost unrecognizable. Nevertheless, I have been picking up Russian vocabulary RAPIDLY and my listening comprehension and speaking have improved ASTRONOMICALLY. It’s funny how well immersion works.

My classes are extremely interesting (and long, we’re talking three hours of straight Russian in the morning). I’m learning through watching Russian movies and analyzing them, doing the usual grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension, which is accomplished through reading about Russian superstitions and all sorts of other things of cultural significance here.

A note on superstitions: I thought I was superstitious, but I do not even come close to these people. Here are some examples:

Russians are terrified of black cats. They think they’re the devil. If one crosses your path while you are walking down the street, Russians will stop in their tracks and wait until someone crosses the path which the cat walked, for if you cross the path, that’s bad luck. I literally waited for two minutes with some Russians the other day when one crossed the street until some unlucky schmuck, who was too far down the street to have seen the cat, crossed its path. What a relief.

Another superstition: Russians don’t take their garbage out at night, only during the daytime, its bad luck. This explains partly why the city has such terrible waste management issues. That and Russians don’t understand the concept of recycling. “Recycling, What’s that? Why don’t I just throw my empty beer bottles or dirty mop into the river? (I’ve seen both float by while hanging out at said river)

One thing that’s amazing about this city is the richness of the history. All around me are beautiful churches, fascinating museums and historic buildings. I go to the same University where such historic figures as Dmitri Mendeleyev (who created the Periodic table of Elements while at the College), Alexander Blok (an important symbolist poet in Russia), Nikolai Chernychevsky (The author of What is to be Done? - a utopian revolutionary novel, later appropriated by the Communists), V.I. Lenin (who graduate with honors in Law) and former President Vladimir Putin. The beauty and opulence of the city literally blows my mind. I see why the Communists were so upset at the Tsar, literally all of the country’s money was spent on making massive, gilded churches and luxurious palaces.

Stay tuned, there’s plenty more stories to be told.

До-свидания -- Do-svidanya


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Under the Dreaming Spires

by: Christian Howieson

From April to July I studied abroad at Oxford University; more specifically, I was a visiting student at Hertford College, a constituent college of Oxford University. A lot of people don’t realize that Oxford University is more or less a city made up of individual colleges and halls which honeycomb its streets and that these colleges, taken together, constitute the University.

Each college has a particular reputation or flavor. Hertford college is known for being friendly, progressive (meaning liberal), and small. It is not a grand college like Christ Church or Magdalen; it is a smaller college of around 600 students, located in the central square of Oxford, directly across from the Bodleian library. Hertford is very beautiful, it is very comfortable, and became my home for the months that I was there. Luckily for me, William and Mary is one of the few US schools to have a direct exchange program (the program is old—something like 100 years old) with an Oxford college. Because of this program, I was able to directly enroll with Hertford rather than having to apply through an institution like Butler.

Oxford University is like no place I have ever been. My friends and I began to refer to the
atmosphere of the school as the Oxford bubble because it sometimes seemed detached from reality. I attended a college founded in 1284, ate in pubs that were twice as old as the US, and went drinking with Rhode scholars. I became used to wearing robes, enjoying cream teas, and arguing about geo-strategy with some of the brightest minds on the topic. A typical Saturday could include punting on the Isis, studying in ancient libraries, and eating a formal four course dinner with champagne, wine, and port, in an ancient wood paneled dining hall. In short—it was a dream.

The reality of the Oxford workload woke me from that dream often. At Oxford there are no
classes; there are only tutorials or tutes. Perhaps it is best for US students to think of tutes as independent studies—they require a lot of preparation and are really just meetings with an advisor as you conduct research. Usually, tutes are one on one and require that a short paper be written in advance for discussion. I was required to take three tutes (most undergraduates only have to take 1 and half per term, but WM loves to push us), which worked out to about 20 pages of writing each week, and each writing assignment had a hellish amount of reading. Quite literally the idea behind assignments is that you can never accomplish everything assigned and thus need to decide what is important enough to actually do. My tutes were all one on one, taught by Oxford tutors, and could be quite intensive. I studied international law, international trade, and maritime archaeology. (I know… archaeology? I’ve always been interested in shipwrecks and Oxford is one of the best schools for it.) I loved my tutes, really liked my tutors, and learned a quite a lot in three months.

The social life at Oxford was one of a kind. Each college has its own bar where students can drink quite cheaply (50 cent pints of Guinness), the town is littered with fantastic pubs (I have many recommendations should anyone care), and there are some really good night clubs to visit. Additionally, there was almost always an event to attend that had free drinks including debates, balls, or parties.

The people were just as amazing as the city. I spent a lot of time with the graduate students of my college and made a lot of fantastic friends from around the world. The graduate students (and myself thanks to WM) are members of the Middle Common Room of Hertford College which is sort of like a fraternity (but it lets in both boys and girls). Our clubhouse was in an ancient part of the college, had a tower, and was where I spent most of my time, mostly just hanging out. Additionally, I joined the University’s wine tasting society and I got to sample some fantastic wines. Essentially, at Oxford I was never bored.

In conclusion, I will never forget Oxford. It was there, in the resplendent beauty of the University, that I learned so much—both about my studies and myself. I strongly encourage anyone who gets the chance to visit there; I am sure you will love it too.

Christian Howieson

A few tips if anyone should ever attend Oxford as a student:

• At Oxford black tie is casual, if you want to get dressed up wear white tie and tails.
• Kabob vans are lifesavers when you’ve had a long night out and are an ocean away from the nearest WaWa.
• No college is off limits… just act like you belong there and the porters will leave you alone… also every wall can be climbed.
• A good ten page paper can be written in four hours.
• Always pick the Grand Cru.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Touching Request

by: Jason Rogers

I've never had a real job in my life. I've mowed lawns and walked dogs and other Rockwellian endeavors, but never anything that required two forms of government I.D. and a tax return. This summer, however, my parents insisted I not sit around the house all day, so I got a job working in the music department of Barnes and Noble. It's pretty straight forward for the most part: stocking, shelving, receiving, working the register, and helping customers. That last bit is the variable, though.

You get all types in a music store. I get tweens asking for the new album from the minor co-star on Hannah Montana (yes, he has a recording contract), old men with long beards looking for Z.Z. Top's greatest hits (life imitates art), and oddly anal ladies in button-up shirts shyly paying for Zeppelin IV. Most people are really pleasant to deal with, and I genuinely enjoy my work. They're a lot like the character a nervous Matt Damon plays in Ocean's Eleven, though; I "like them, then instantly forget them the moment they're gone."
I was working the afternoon shift (Noon to five) when an older lady stepped into the store. She appeared to be in her sixties, but with trendy glasses and a handbag that betrayed at least some sort of familiarity with popular culture. I quickly decided on which recyclable phrase with which to greet her, and asked if there was anything with which I could help her. She smiled back, and slowly offered that she had a funny request.

She was looking for a particular song ("We can search for that") by the Beatles ("My favorite band!"), but she couldn't remember the name or how it went ("Hmm...").
Almost automatically, I tend to ask customers why they're looking for what they're looking for. Some take this as an intrustion, some are delighted by the interest. This lady pleasantly explained to me that her son wanted this song played at his funeral.

My perfunctory laugh caught in my throat. My face frozen in a nice, safe smile, my mind went to work on deciding the proper reaction. Surely she had meant that her son just loved this particular song so much, he wanted it played at his funeral one day. I said, "Oh yeah?"
She responded, "Yes, he's been sick recently." She spoke with a voice free of melodrama. Her tone was not crushed by the gravity of the statement, but rather it caused her to orbit around around it, always falling, but at never quite slamming into the ground. I stupidly replied, "Aw, I'm sorry," like one does when someone explains that they had to buy tulips because the flower shop was out of daisies.

The lady chuckled and said that it was alright, that she would ask her son the title of the song some other time, and return. She wished me a great day and walked from the store.
I've told this story to friends who all remark about the tragedy of the situation, and then make comments about how short life is. The thing, though, is that I don't find this story sad. Whatever had happened in this woman's life and the life of her son up until this point had been so wonderful that the conclusion of their story was not a frightening prospect. She was so profoundly happy, even in her moments of melancholy.

On an utterly unrelated note, I've used my employee discount to buy three albums since I've worked there. They are:
"The New Danger" by Mos Def
"White Lies for Dark Times" by Ben Harper
"Number Ones" by Michael Jackson