Embracing Virginia as an out-of-state student

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

Starting anything new will always come with its challenges, but those challenges can be especially overwhelming when everyone involved has different experiences and backgrounds. As new students begin their time in Williamsburg this August, I want to tell you some pretty unconventional, yet important information for life here in the swamp we call the College of William and Mary.

First thing’s first: you have to know what “Nova” means. As an out-of-state student, when I first heard people using this term in conversation and on Facebook, I was so confused. To me, Nova could refer to a supernova in space or Villanova University located near Philadelphia. Or in a slightly more obscure reference, Nova is also the name of a secondary character in the “Sharknado” movie franchise. However, Nova actually refers to “Northern Virginia,” which is apparently an important geographical differentiation for many Virginians. Nova is right outside of Washington D.C., and that part of Virginia tends to be comparable to northern states instead of southern states. Students from Virginia expect everyone to know this terminology, and they may laugh if you misidentify a city as inside or outside of the Nova region.

Speaking of location, an important part of the campus here at the College is the Wawa on Richmond Road. Wawa is not a national chain, but everyone on campus assumes that Wawa’s greatness is common knowledge nationwide. I would describe it as a nicely appointed convenience store that inexplicably has a devoted cult following. I have grown up around Wawas my entire life, and not even I can explain why everyone loves it. It is just a fact, and you must acknowledge and accept it.

Another important difference could be the food, depending on where you are from. As a whole, I would say that the food in the dining halls is generically American, but sometimes there are some southern specialties. One meal that I had never eaten before was chicken fried steak. It is breaded and fried steak. No chickens are harmed in the making of this dish; it is just fried in a similar way as chicken. I was imagining it being much more of a turducken situation. I won’t lie, this surprised me as much as when I learned that craisins are just dried cranberries in the style of raisins and that they are not genetically modified hybrids of cranberries and raisins. Another surprise about this dish is the gravy that comes with it is different than the typical brown gravy served at Thanksgiving. Chicken fried steak, as well as other dishes like biscuits and gravy come with a white, creamy gravy that tastes completely different than turkey gravy. Southerners may think that you are uncultured if you are unaware of the different types and styles of their beloved gravy.

Now that I have gotten the jokes out of the way, I want any new, out-of-state students who are reading this to realize that these differences, as well as others, are part of the reason why everyone values their college experience. The differences that I outlined for you probably seem insignificant, but that’s because they are. I want you to know that differences do not create insurmountable barriers, but instead, they create interest and lead to new connections with others.

Please, do not take this article too seriously and decide to study the geography of Virginia, research the greatness of Wawa, or memorize the different types of gravy. We are all students here, learning together. I promise that you belong here, no matter where you are from, how you speak, what culture you are used to, or what you eat. Each year, we become one student body, and thus, one tribe.

Welcome, everyone!

Email Alyssa Slovin at amslovin@email.wm.edu.