Students find harmony in town

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August 28, 2008

5:27 PM

It has been a couple months now since we have had the pleasure of each other’s company, and I must admit I missed Williamsburg. Yes, the threat of a hurricane and gale-force winds helped pry me off the beaches of South Florida, but coming back here is like coming home.

My friends who go to schools in those bigger cities still question my decision to move to a town so insular and, dare I say, uneventful. They still ask me where it is and, especially, “Why in the world would you want to go there?”

I can only smile and shrug simply because I wonder the same thing. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, it has been hard to find the reason Williamsburg has stolen my heart. Of course, I have always loved history and was drawn to the strong reputation of the College of William and Mary, but, putting the school aside, it is hard to explain to outsiders the appeal of the good ole ’Burg.
Each year, hundreds of families flood this city to visit Colonial Williamsburg.

They are showered with kindness and hospitality. Businesses thrive off the sale of overpriced souvenirs and novelty items as tourists seek the “harmony of twenty-first century comforts and eighteenth century style.”

They indulge in what Colonial Williamsburg’s website calls the “great American experience.” Though, when school begins the fat pocketed tourists go home, and the students are left to pay the high bills.

The tourist town was great when I was 10 and was into colonial dolls, but now I am looking for the “great American college experience.” Plans to change the old location of New Town’s Bikes Unlimited into a nightclub and the area off Richmond Road near Wawa into additional student housing with a 24-hour diner may be the first steps to transforming the College and city into a more appealing atmosphere for student life on a student budget. But we shouldn’t stop there.

This is not a call to change the 300-year-old traditions of Williamsburg that so many strive to preserve, but one to keep it moving forward. We are the city’s most consistent consumers, and it doesn’t take much to please us. Many of us do not have the luxury cars or high-paying jobs. We don’t need fancy amenities and royal treatment, just some age-appropriate attractions.
At times, the relationship between the student body and Williamsburg has been more hate than love; however, my experience in the past year has proven that opposites can attract.

The first thing incoming freshmen should discover about Williamsburg is that it is not as boring as it seems. It possesses a unique dynamic between those who keep the past alive and those who are quickly becoming the future. This aspect of Williamsburg could be lost if changes are not made.

We may not always see eye to eye, but any actions made toward a more youthful and student-friendly makeover of Williamsburg should not be regarded as a way to placate a storm. It should be the beginning of an alliance of diversified interests with a common goal: the enhancement of an already enchanting place.

As a new academic year begins, we are presented with a clean slate. I ask Williamsburg to not forget the students who loyally defend its small town charm while we are away. We may only be students with little more than books and meal plans, but we are in it for the long haul. Give us something to be proud of, because one day we will be the tourists in the minivans buying our children souvenirs.

Joanna Sandager is a sophomore at the College.

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