Adam Jutt ’25 is planning on double majoring in math and economics. Aside from being an opinions editor, he is a member of club tennis and involved with InterVarsity. Feel free to email Adam at email@example.com.
For most of this past summer, I was what the French call “sur le campus,” which roughly translates to “on campus.” Was I on campus just to be able to write this article about the summer experience? Gosh no, I was a research assistant. However, in case my editor-in-chief is reading this, know that I would happily give up months of my life, or even my life itself, pursuing a good scoop for this estimable paper.
The fact that I was a research assistant is actually an important point to bring up in qualifying the scope of the findings which I will shortly — though admittedly not too shortly, for this introduction is pretty long — share. You see, my experience in the research world was surely in some ways a radically different ‘summer on campus’ experience than those had by class-takers, intrepid Flat Hat journalists falling down rabbit holes of anonymous tips and red herrings or even other research assistants. More candidly, there is a decent chance my experience is not generalizable, and therefore not relevant or useful whatsoever. But, in fairness, if relevance or usefulness were requirements for articles then I would have been out of a job here long ago!
I had no idea what to expect campus to feel like over the summer. I recall telling my mom on one occasion in late May a few days before flying back out here, “I think it is either going to be amazing or horrible. Like, I’m either going to make some great new friends and have the time of my life — soaking in all the great parts of college without any of the stress of grades — or I’m going to be perpetually miserable and bored. There is no middle ground.”
There is a middle ground, as it happens. Whether it leans more to the amazing or horrible side of my invented dichotomy is a question to which I promise to circle back, as I’m sure many of you who chose to engage with this article did so under the pretense that this question — or something close enough to it — would be answered. However, I want to spend most of my allotted words for this article focusing on protuberant differences between the College of William and Mary during the fall and spring semesters and the College during the summer. Of course, being the bad boy of the opinions section — as is well documented and universally accepted — here’s what I have to say about word limits: who needs ‘em?
The most notable difference — for me at least — was in terms of time. I had more of it. For example, I actually started writing this article, which is seeing the light of day in late-August, in the middle of July. Just because I could. Before I go any further, however, I need to harken back to my point about the potential differences between mine and other campus dwellers’ summer lives. I am friends with a couple people who were in the “Data Science Jump Start” program (I think it was called), which entailed taking three classes both summer sessions, and they were not in the same boat as me timewise at all. Seldom were they done with work in time for any sort of social activity — normally a board game night, movie night, or other classic crazy YOLO college shenanigans — before very late in the evening. I, on the other hand, had time enough for game and movie nights for the three of us.
Well, that is a very slight exaggeration. During the day, my research kept me pretty busy. But when five o’clock rolled around, and I’ll admit there were days where by five I’d already watched an incriminating amount of YouTube — my work was primarily done independently — the world was my oyster. It was delightful. Based on my discussions with other people doing research over the summer, my situation was not fully unique in that respect. I don’t know exactly how they all chose to spend the vast expanse of hours between five and whenever bedtime is (plus, in my situation, those couple half hours littered throughout the day where I spontaneously fancied myself deserving of a break), but I know how I chose to spend mine: hobbies.
I picked up three hobbies (although I think routines would be a more precise word) this summer, and I am very grateful to have done so. Partially because I think each served to better me in some small way and all that nonsense, but mostly because without them I would have had nothing to do but binge John Mulaney’s three Netflix specials back to back to back every day..
The first hobby I pursued this summer was re-learning as much Chinese as I could from my middle and early high-school days. As much as I wish I could claim I was pursuing this hobby to be a more worldly or well-rounded person, that would be disingenuous. The truth is that I was preparing for a standardized exam I took in the middle of August. My goal was to receive a score of at least intermediate and thus fulfill the foreign language requirement here at the College. To be honest, I did not think a score of intermediate was possible based on my sparse arsenal of canned Duolingo phrases and scattered vestiges of vocab from seventh grade units on bartering and colors, but to my delight I am now the proud owner of an electronic certificate brandishing in a curly font the words “Intermediate-Low.” The certificate also includes a description of what the intermediate-low rating means on a practical level, replete with such praises as: “speakers at this level manage to sustain the functions of the intermediate level, although just barely,” and “their responses are often filled with hesitancies and inaccuracies.” I’ll take it.
The second routine I tried to adopt this summer — especially the second half of the summer — was to read more than I usually do (perhaps “read” is the wrong word considering I primarily consumed books in audiobook fashion while on walks), which is to say I tried to read an altogether unimpressive amount. That isn’t false humility; at the time I wrote the first draft of this article in mid-July, a draft which to my deep embarrassment already included an account of my reading obsession, I had read just one and a half books. However, while one and a half books is undeniably unremarkable, the effect it had on me mentally is remarkably undeniable; if you were to have a conversation with me before and after my first bout of reading this summer (which, once again, is to say before and after I opened the Audible app for the first time), you would think I had just been told by Kanye West that he thought I was a more talented individual than he. Undeservedly and disproportionately proud of myself is the best way I can think to put it without metaphor, though that doesn’t quite do it justice. I felt so wise and learned I might as well have been listening to a reading of “The Book of Life” (The Bible’s version of Santa’s nice list, for those of you who don’t get that joke) by God himself. My need for the approval of others instantly evaporated; I was a reader, gosh darn it.
The third routine I adopted this summer was working out. I was hesitant to include this point at first, because — unlike the other two routines I adopted — working out is a hobby whose fruits should be evident externally. To cut to the chase for those of you who don’t know what I looked like both before and after the summer, the external fruits of my effort were…marginal at best — presumably well within the range of change one could fallaciously observe due to the placebo effect — and so I imagine downright invisible if you had not been made privy to my efforts. Still, I maintain that I made some small amount of progress on that front, and am glad I stuck with it through the summer. As the first half of the summer came to an end, I was actually feeling very proud of my progress. I had watched in satisfaction as the size of the circles I could manage to push, pull or lift got bigger and bigger and then, on certain equipment, eventually turned into two circles (albeit one large and one smaller). What served to diminish my sense of accomplishment? Well, as I said, my pride was at its highest as the first summer session came to an end. What happened at the start of the second session, you may ask?
The athletes came to campus.
Using the chest press machine with one big circle and one littler circle on each side feels much less impressive when you first have to remove two big circles from each side.
That’s more than enough about the routines I adopted. To summarize, summer research on campus presents a great opportunity to pick up new hobbies; if there is any activity or skill you want to set time aside to pursue on a regular basis, summer at the College represents a wonderful opportunity, especially if you are involved with a number of extracurriculars and other time-sucking obligations throughout the school year.
That wasn’t the only important difference between the College during the school year and during the summer. I thought of three others that I would be remiss to exclude. Since I am beyond out of space, however, I shall have to mention them each very briefly.
There are far more animals on campus in the summer. I assume this is simply because there are less people to scare them away. Deer outnumbered humans. A turtle tried to pee on me as I moved him from a tennis court to the woods behind the tennis courts. Little lizards were always to be found darting to and fro on sidewalks. Bats flew about at night trying desperately and in vain to conjure up thoughts of Batman and not of Morbius in onlookers. One night, a black bear was sighted behind the business school. At the time, I was on a walk very near (a select few of you know exactly how near) said business school. Nature is amazing.
Second, I feel like I should include a point about the summer from the social perspective. The problem is, I am confident that collectively we summer campus dwellers ran the gauntlet from ‘never said a word to another person’ to ‘partied every waking and sleeping moment,’ meaning my personal experience would not mean anything and should absolutely under no circumstances be brought up. Personally, I was somewhere in the middle of the continuum, though closer to the former pole than the latter. I played some board games and watched some movies with friends over my ten weeks on campus, but spent at least as many hours on walks by myself and on the phone trying to convince my parents that, despite what they may be inclined to believe, I am not bored or severely socially under-stimulated.
Third, it was hotter.
On the whole, I had a positive experience on campus over the summer. The work I was doing was interesting and rewarding, the ample free time was glorious, and the low stress environment was a stupendous change of pace. I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering spending a future summer in Williamsburg. To answer the earlier question, then, it was closer to amazing than horrible. However, to reiterate, I cannot speak authoritatively for those considering taking a bunch of classes. Reach out to me and I can direct you to someone who can elucidate that experience more personally. Regardless of your role on campus, however, the heat is not fun, boredom and social under-stimulation may make an appearance or two, and if you start working out for the first time in your life you will surely be disheartened come early July when all of a sudden you are sharing the gym with people curling weights you aren’t convinced you could deadlift.
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