Fantastic & Scholastic

Dear Prospective Student,

We have but two days left in the Williams-Mystic Spring 2016 semester. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about all our adventures at sea, on the road and in the kitchen.

Seeing the previous entries and vibrant photos, one could get the notion that Williams-Mystic is all about traveling and eating. I feel it incumbent upon me to emphasize that while those two activities do play a beautiful and vital role in the semester, there is something else Williams-Mystic students do a fair bit of…

We study! Earlier on the blog, I mentioned writing the research proposals and designing final projects… Well, last week was the culmination of our research efforts: in total, I submitted around 64 pages. (Please don’t let that number intimidate you; we’ve been working on those papers for several weeks, so last week was mostly putting on the finishing touches!). Throughout the semester, professors encourage (and often require) students to submit proposals, drafts and check-ins along the way to ensure that these research projects are a thoughtful and fruitful endeavor.

In addition to writing the research papers, we take exams (of the “show-what-you-know” variety, not the “gotcha!” kind). I emerged this morning from the last exam with the nerdiest of ailments: a sore and cramped hand. From all the typing and gripping my pencil too tight, my right hand was strained from the effort. I think I will soon recover fully, though it might require another visit to Drawbridge ice cream before the week is out.

The Williams-Mystic semester is interdisciplinary, fun, full…and rigorous. The professors expect a lot of students. The readings, assignments, in-class exercises and final papers add up to a significant amount of engaging and meaningful work. When I was looking into study away programs, I was anxious about leaving the small classes sizes, stimulating discussions and challenging workload of my liberal arts college for the larger classes and sometimes impersonal academic experience of some international institutions. Williams-Mystic offers a unique field component, attentive faculty and rigorous academics.

Here it is fresh—the unsolicited advice you will ignore until you are busy typing and reading and feeling stressed (but never overwhelmed) in the last weeks of the semester. The following may be my first attempt at the internet classic “listicle,” provided in no particular order:

  1. Meet early and often with your professors about drafts. They are eager and equipped to provide thoughtful feedback at any stage.
  2. Start your policy interviews early…start contacting a variety of potential stakeholders several weeks before the deadline.
  3. Same goes for science research…collect more data than you think you will need.
  4. Thank your professors and classmates for their support and patience along the way.
  5. Take time to bake cookies. Johnston house made sure to have homemade dough on hand for a quick snack in the evening to fuel all the work…
  6. Finish your independent book for Literature of the Sea well before the paper deadline so that you have plenty of time to dive into analysis.
  7. Leave time to enjoy the Seaport. It’s a real treat in the Spring semester to watch the blossoming of trees and the bustling of visitors.
  8. Coordinate your history research with the available hours at the Collections and Research Center. The research support staff are incredibly knowledgeable and can help you identify the resources you need. They generously make available special hours for W-M students, but plan ahead so you can accumulate all those trusty primary sources.
  9. Don’t forget to do laundry. Some people (not me, of course) forget until they have but one pair of clean underwear. Again, this never happened to me…
  10. Enjoy the company of your peers and the staff and faculty.
  11. Organize notes and handouts throughout the semester so that reviewing for exams is not a game of hide and seek.
  12. Visit Drawbridge Ice Cream (no, they are not paying me to plug them in the blog, but I figure if I do it enough, they might just start)


Yours truly,
An exhausted and preemptively nostalgic Spring ‘16 student