Stories including South Commons

Vassar on a Whim

I came to Vassar on a whim. No, really.

I applied here because Vassar would give me the option to study the subjects I was interested in, because I thought it would be cool to live in New York (even though I’d never been farther north than Missouri,) and because I liked the name. My dad and I were touring colleges and universities in Philadelphia when my mom called me to say, “You just got a big letter from Vassar College. Should I open it?” She read the acceptance letter to me and told me she was proud of me. My dad asked if I wanted to go see the place. So we took a four-hour side-trip up to Poughkeepsie. It was during Vassar’s Spring Break, and we’d come unannounced, so there weren’t any tour guides available to show us the campus. We wandered around in a warm downpour, comparing Vassar to the schools I had visited in my search for the perfect school. Less urban than the schools I had seen in Philadelphia. Less uptight than the schools I’d visited in Arkansas. Less of a swamp than the schools I’d toured in Florida.

My dad and I drove back to Philadelphia, and he dropped me off at the airport so I could catch a plane back to Hot Springs, Ark. I spent a great deal of the next week or so sitting on the floor of my dorm room at boarding school with admissions brochures from the colleges and universities that had accepted me and a legal pad filled with lists of pros and cons and headed with acceptance deadlines. I was nearly to the point that I was going to have to just throw the brochures in the air and pick the school that landed on top. I closed my eyes and recalled my walking tours of several campuses, and in what may be one of the rashest decisions I’ve ever made in my life, having never stayed overnight as a prospective student, nor sat in on a class, nor even spoken with a current student, that day I thought, “Yeah, I can see myself at Vassar.”

A lot of the things I’ve done on whims or without much careful forethought since coming to Vassar have worked out surprisingly well. Freshman year, in a moment of little-sister vindictiveness, I signed up for the rowing team. (Anything my big sister can do, I can do better, right?) I can’t count the number of times I wondered what I’d gotten myself into, but my teammates kept me coming back, and four years later, that whim was justified when my boat got a gold medal at the nation’s largest collegiate regatta. (Sorry, I can’t help but mention it; I’m still coming down from that high, and my friends have told me I need to brag about it more.) My sophomore year whim came from a panic-stricken moment when I realized I was half a credit short of being a full-time student one semester and hastily added Stagecraft. Not only did I absolutely love the course, I left it with two work-study job offers. I took a job in the scene shop, working for Technical Director Paul O’Connor, who let us play kickball and play with power tools and cut out tiny giraffes with band saws, who told the best stories and who didn’t mind that I treated him more like a big brother than an employer. At the end of sophomore year, my next whim was to declare a double major in psychology and cognitive science, even though I was kind of advised against it due to a potentially frustrating amount of overlap. That ended up not working out so well, mostly due to my inability to be decisive when it came to crunch time for the cognitive science thesis, and I ended up dropping the cognitive science major so I could still retain at least a little bit of my sanity-but hey, I learned something about myself, so it wasn’t a total loss. My big whim at the end of my junior year was to run for president of the South Commons because it didn’t look like anyone else was going to do it. While I ended up maybe not being the most effective or inspiring leader, I did get to learn more about how best to work with people (figuring out quickly that I needed to include a “too long; didn’t read” option on important e-mails). My big whim for this year will come when I decide what to do with my life after graduation. As I’m writing this, I have no idea what I’m doing in the fall, and my decision strategy might be to play “employment roulette,” but I’m hoping my whims will continue to work for me.

Our Experience on Iced Brew, Vassar’s Synchronized Skating Team

To meet us now, you’d never guess that we have only known each other for two years. We are the two graduating seniors from Iced Brew, Vassar’s synchronized skating team, and being on the team has brought us really close together. The team has been a large part of our college experience.

Hannah: Recently I realized that I made good on a promise. On the supplement to my Vassar application, I responded to the question “what will you contribute to the Vassar community?” with a lengthy explanation about my ambition to start a synchronized skating team at Vassar. I skated on a team for nine years prior to coming to Vassar and hoped to continue to skate in college. Even though there are many other schools around the country with established teams, I was drawn to Vassar for its academics and atypical student body over my desire to skate. Therefore, I decided to try and have the best of both worlds and start a team at Vassar. When I arrived on campus freshman year and met my fellow classmates, it seemed like this would be a quirky enough thing that students would be interested in it. Thus, in my sophomore year, Iced Brew was born. It’s been a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding three years. I may have had to build everything up from scratch, including many of the members who had never skated before, but I’ve loved every minute of it. To me, being the founder and president of Iced Brew is the greatest accomplishment of my college career.

Allison: The last thing that I expected to do in college was join a synchronized skating team. I was a singles skater for many years, but quit long before coming to Vassar. Instead, I did a little tutoring at Poughkeepsie Middle School and joined the student committee at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. In fact, when I first saw the posters recruiting members for Iced Brew, I didn’t even consider joining. My hallmates spent an entire year encouraging me to sign up, and during the fall of junior year I finally joined the team. Not only did joining Iced Brew bring me back into a rink, it has also led me to experience more aspects of life at Vassar than I knew possible. The members of the team have majors in every subject, and participate in a variety of other activities on campus. This year Hannah and I live together in the South Commons, and we spend tons of time figuring out how to keep the team fun and focused. This season I became captain of the team, and have enjoyed my position as co-troubleshooter and team cheerleader. This experience has brought me close to students of all years, backgrounds and interests, as well as rekindled my passion for skating.

Hannah & Allison: Together we have won gold medals at two local competitions, performed exhibitions for our peers, and baked tons and tons of cookies for fundraising bake sales. The team has grown tremendously (from six to 24 skaters in three years), and we’re both really proud of our role in Iced Brew’s development. We’re completely student-run, and as a result, we’ve had a lot of freedom, but also a lot of responsibility. Iced Brew will be our legacy at Vassar and will provide students in future classes an opportunity to be a part of this unique community. Iced Brew has enriched our college experiences greatly and we hope it will do the same for others for years to come.

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