To be honest, there were only a handful of reasons why I chose to attend W&M.
For starters, W&M is well-respected in the academic community, as it’s considered a “public Ivy League school.” Once I received my acceptance letters—no, I didn’t get into all the schools I applied to—and made my decision, I realized that I truly was looking forward to being part of such a prestigious institution.
Second, I wanted to have a support group while in college. Luckily, W&M was only a 45 minute drive away from home, so I could visit with my family often.
Third, I liked the idea of discovering my sense of purpose on a small campus with a tight-knit community. Seeing as W&M had around 5,000 undergrad and 1,000 grad students, I saw the truth in six degrees of separation. And I would eventually find out what that purpose was, but that didn’t come until later in my time at W&M.
But if I’m being honest, for each of these three reasons why I chose to go to W&M, there are millions of reasons why I grew to love W&M. I can do my best to list some here. Just know that this attempt does not wholly represent my appreciation for the university.
I grew to love W&M because of the people. I was the only student from my high school when I was a freshman, yet I found the campus to be a welcoming place. During my freshman year, I was introduced to the Filipino American Student Association (FASA), an organization that soon became part of my family on campus. It was with FASA that I found that spark of curiosity and the desire to learn about my Filipino heritage. That spark ignited an even bigger passion to give back to the Filipino American—and greater Asian American and Pacific Islander—communities, which I still do to this day.
I grew to love W&M because of the campus-wide commitment to service. During Day for Admitted Students, I heard about countless opportunities to volunteer. Service, whether it was locally or required some traveling, was a common thread among my classmates. Instead of spending Spring or Summer break vacationing in some tropical area, students could apply to go on alternative break service trips around the country and abroad. As a student at W&M, I had the privilege to go on a couple of these trips with my peers, learning about pressing issues like hunger and homelessness in Cincinnati and community revitalization in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.
I grew to love W&M because I discovered several spaces of support on campus. For example, while working as a student employee at the Center for Student Diversity, I met students who I wouldn’t otherwise have taken classes with because of our differing majors. They were part of a rich and diverse array of organizations. I was welcomed at events hosted by members of the South Asian Student Association, Latin American Student Union, and Muslim Student Association, to name a few. The Center really demonstrated inclusion among cultural, religious, and identity-focused organizations. And most valuable of all, I received mentorship and guidance from the staff and administrators of the office, all of which continues to motivate me in my late 20s.
I grew to love W&M because of the various opportunities to study and travel abroad. During my time as a student, I completed summer study abroad programs in Morocco and India. And for those of you who worry about being able to afford trips abroad, fear not! Scholarship opportunities exist, you just have to go out and find them. Start off by reaching out to the Reves Center for International Studies and they can point you in the right direction.
And lastly, I grew to love W&M because of the professors who challenged me to flex my creative muscles. One of my favorite classes at William & Mary was on 3D studio art, which required many, many, many hours in the studio outside of class time in order to complete our assignments. I was pleasantly surprised to hear encouragement from my art professor that I should consider majoring in art. I look back often at that moment, wondering if I should have changed my major. Still, my professor’s praise for my work really gave me confidence as an artist, as creative and performing arts have remained as therapeutic outlets for me during times of stress. Another professor who made a considerable impact on my growth at W&M was Prof. Francis Tanglao-Aguas. While I didn’t have the opportunity to take a theatre course with him, we connected through our affiliation with FASA. He saw my potential and encouraged me to share my poetry out loud in front of a live audience. It first started at an event on the “State of Mental Health at W&M,” where I served on the panel alongside administrators and staff. Following the panel, I performed a handful of deeply personal poems on the topic. I later went on to perform spoken word pieces that focused on mental health issues at different events on campus. And in my years following undergrad, I’ve seen just how much raising awareness and advocacy on mental health conditions, self-care, and getting help has grown in society. You see it in the media and pop culture constantly now. However, that’s a story for another time.
Oh, and spoiler alert: It’s 2019 and I’m still an active spoken word poet and mental health advocate in my spare time. Talk about finding a sense of purpose!