Catching an interview with Student Assembly President Valerie Hopkins was quite a pleasure, and the pre-semester setting certainly added some flavor. Sitting on the terrace, watching Resident Assistants, Orientation Aides and new students roam campus was a great background for our chat. As a senior on campus, Valerie is full of experiences from all over the world, a passion for the College of William and Mary and a great “go get ’em’” attitude. She tried to explain that she’s actually shy and even awkward, but, by the end of my time with her, I was convinced of quite the reverse.
**Tell me about your summer.**
I spent the summer in Bosnia. I worked for an NGO in Zenica and spent four weeks there teaching English to local kids and teenagers. The town was mostly Muslim and it was my first time being in a predominantly Muslim country. Nothing could prepare me for being there and hearing the Namaz, which was the prayer five times a day. It was beautiful. The hospitality was incredible. It was absolutely fascinating.
**Now that you’re back here do you feel like you’ve changed? Do you think you’ll bring what you learned while you were abroad here?**
Yes, in small ways. I’ll always have my memories, and now I drink Turkish coffee everyday. I’ve also noticed that I’ve made a conscious effort to consume less. It’s really cliche, but you see how much you don’t need. While I was there we generated almost no trash. I lived with four other people in what was essentially a three bedroom apartment. No one ever fought; everyone was so kind. When I start to get frustrated, I start to think of what it was like there.
**Would you tell students, and especially freshmen, to get out of the country and study abroad?**
One thing I never thought about when running for SA Pres was that I wouldn’t really be able to do a semester abroad, and I’m a first-generation American so I feel very connected to other cultures. One thing I promised myself when I started to college was that I would study a semester abroad, but instead I have traveled and worked abroad every summer. But I think everyone who can should definitely study abroad. Most of my friends would say they were worried about leaving because they had an exec board position or leadership position, but they left and came back and it was amazing to do that.
**As someone who didn’t really know about SA as a freshman, what would you tell students about it today?**
I think that students fail to realize that SA is responsible for about $600,000 of funding. They allocate all the money student groups get and students don’t realize how many people are working to sustain the incredible campus life we have here.
**What has your favorite class at the College been so far?**
It has to be George Grayson’s Government 201. George Grayson is one of the most animated and interesting people I have ever met. He’s lived politics, and he really brings the subject to life. Regardless of your major it’s so important to know the basic rudiments of government.
**What do you wish you could have done differently your freshman year?**
I wish I had studied a little more. I think I never thought about myself three years down the road. I’ve tried to explore a lot of things so that was good. Also, I think I would have tried to meet a lot more people. I didn’t start to meet a lot of people until second semester freshman year and sophomore year.
**What do you love about Williamsburg?**
Williamsburg is so great. I’d tell freshman to explore Williamsburg a lot more. Most people don’t know there’s an art museum right above William Sonoma. I adore the Kimball Theater. They have some of the best movies, I don’t even go to New Town, I just go to the Kimball. I love going to the beach, too. Freshman year I went to Yorktown beach and would read lots of Roald Dahl.
**What is your favorite thing to do while on campus?**
I love biking around our campus and I love spending time at the Daily Grind.
**Where do you escape to on campus?**
Last semester a friend of mine bought an inflatable raft and we’d take the raft out and bring some books, some snacks and just hang out rafting around Matoaka. I enjoy hanging out on the dock, too. Don’t forget about that dock. I was lucky enough to live in Dinwiddie freshman year. It was the mitigating factor of the Dinwiddie experience.
**What is the last book you read?**
The last book I read was “100 Poems to Memorize.” It’s all poems that are important in literature and should be memorized. I love memorizing poetry,; it’s fallen by the wayside. I’ve started to read a lot more biographies and non fiction. I love to read the New Yorker as well.
**What’s something you can’t live without?**
I can’t live without my little black notebook. I write everything in it. I write my thoughts, or things I need to do, books I want to read.
As the interview with Valerie comes to a close, we pause for a moment so Valerie can take a call from her mom. Speaking in rapid Russian, the two finalize plans to meet at the bookstore. Her mother is in town for a few days to help Valerie move in and to experience Williamsburg.