Highs, Lows and Buffaloes: The College of William and Mary from a Freshman’s Perspective

Graphic by Yelena Fleming' 25 / The Flat Hat

Clara Rinker ‘26 is planning to double major in Hispanic Studies and CAMS on the mathematical biology track. She is from Alabama and in her spare time, Clara can be found reading, listening to Spotify, or pushing off practicing guitar. Reach her at carinker@wm.edu.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

Is the murky, brown Sadler cup half empty or half full (or half clean)? It’s all about perspective. This is the perspective of an out-of-state girl from Alabama. My adjustment and experiences can be paralleled, but in the end, everyone will have their own internal version of the “Highs, Lows, and Buffaloes” of being a freshman at the College of William and Mary. This is merely my version. 


  1. Reality Check: Many of the people who end up at the College come from similar experiences in high school where they were seen as high-achieving, highly-committed students. So naturally, when you take your first biology midterm and the grade you get back is lower than the temperature displayed on your weather app, your confidence can take a hit.
  2. No Car: In high school, I got to enjoy driving a car to and from school or just around town when I needed a break or an adventure. Now that sense of freedom has been replaced with the reality that I, being an out-of-state student with her closest relative two and a half hours away, am pretty much stranded, which can be overwhelming from time to time.
  3. Starting from Scratch: The beginning of college is a lot of socializing in an effort to find your new core friend group and support system. As someone who came from out of state with no one else from my high school here with me, I felt a lot of stress and worry about whether or not that feat was something I was up for, and would end days during orientation exhausted and homesick.
  4. Privacy?: I had my own room at home. I had a bathroom with a door that shut and locked. Here, not only do I share a room for the first time in my life, but I also had to learn how to live with someone else’s habits. I had to navigate how to get ready for the day or for bed around someone else’s sleep schedule. The system I had at home didn’t necessarily work here; I had to start over.
  5. Dining: Sadler’s options are limited, Marketplace has strange hours, Caf is closed on the weekends. While everyone has their preference, most would agree that even the best food is a step down from home cooked dinners put together by your parents. The strangest thing I’ve had to deal with is getting unquenchable cravings for food I can only have at home from local restaurants that simply don’t exist here.



  1. Reality Check: When things turned out not to be as easy as I had expected, I learned how to ask for help. In high school, I stubbornly sought to figure out everything on my own. Here, however, there is an overarching sense of collaboration among friends who bond through joint suffering and eager professors who will (most likely) not judge you for asking questions. 
  2. No Car: When a car is removed from your potential methods of transportation, you inevitably learn how to navigate the world in a new way. For some it means biking or roller skating or mastering the WATA bus; For me it meant walking. It meant taking wrong turns and finding new hidden corners to claim as my own.
  3. Starting from Scratch: The thrill of college comes in part from the fact that most of the people you’re all of a sudden surrounded by know next to nothing about you. If you’re into reinventing yourself, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. If you’re relieved to finally be in a place where you can comfortably be the version of yourself that you’ve shaped over the last several years of your life, this is the perfect opportunity to do that. Everyone has both a blank canvas and an interest in seeing the art someone else creates with theirs. 
  4. Privacy?: The doors and walls, at least in Monroe Hall, are incredibly thin. You may share a room with one person, but you really could have up to 24 roommates. Roommates who will gather around a table and watch your name move around the Find My Friends map, roommates who don’t even need to hear from you to know you need checking-in on. It may feel smothering to some, but that’s what the Tribe is for.
  5. Dining: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That can be a challenge in the dining halls, but after a while, you learn to get creative. There are different ways to top a waffle for each day of the week, most efficient ways to crack and peel boiled eggs. Eventually this creativity built in the dining halls can be harnessed and applied to other disciplines. Maybe that’s why they’re the way that they are.


Lost Socks – Part of my orientation involved closing out each day with a high, a low, and a buffalo, so I figured it would only be fitting to include one here. When I lived at home, I would constantly lose socks due to dogs, so I was curious to see if I would lose socks here. I have, and so have many others in my building. Our solution to accidentally rehoming someone else’s single socks was to hang what we took on our doors. Particularly crazy ones that don’t get claimed turn into jokes, and at any given moment your door could possess the beloved, yet dreaded, toe sock. 

Another thing you might be able to find in the halls of your freshman dorm are moments of in-it-togetherness. There are days where it can be lonely, where it can be overwhelming, where it can feel far from home, where it can feel unlivable due to the heat. But there will always be people there to catch you if you fall crying to the ground. There will be people to brace you when you are laughing to the point of weakness. There will be people to stay up with you to study for yet another midterm. There will be people to answer your late night texts of worry and imposter syndrome. There will be people to open the door for you to lie on their carpet and rant. There will be moments when you can step back and think about how even the worst days can warm your heart a little bit. 



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