By Amalhin Shek ’13
‘Back to school’ carries different meanings, even within generations. For some, new students, lab members, or peers; while for those of us outside of academia, the end of the fiscal year or arrival of that last quarter- a time to tie up loose ends and reflect on the successes and challenges that made or broke us. In that spirit of reflection- read on for a few of the William and Mary perks that persist in the life of a young-ish member of Young Guarde.
Coming from the DMV to Williamsburg gave many of us NOVA (or DC/MD) folks a reprieve of sorts from the mixing bowl messiness and intensity of the area. Orientation itself, while kitschy to some, in and of itself helped cement lifelong friendships. It helped each of us build our first microcosms of community within and across our freshman halls in the safety of quiet, muggy Williamsburg- shout out to my fellow Barrett 3rd west ladies!
My own experience at the college began prior to move-in. I spent an evening on campus after being admitted as part of the Office of Admissions center for multicultural recruitment’s Escape visit. During that weekend I made my first set of friends at the college, freshmen living in Dupont; members of SASA, MSA, and APO; and admissions office interns who would go on to become mentors and lifelong friends. During that same weekend, I made two major decisions. Critical of course, was saying yes to the admissions offer. The second came after one of my first conversations with a multicultural recruitment intern who told me all about SOMOS, the Student Organization for Medical Outreach and Sustainability. Committing to apply into the program may have indirectly gotten me to where I am in my career more than ten years later.
The welcoming I experienced during that one weekend and orientation are what make a William and Mary alum who they are. It’s the openness, mentorship, and familiarity that to this day members of the student, alumni, faculty, and staff community live through their daily actions. Whether to support me through a parent’s funeral, that next career pívot, or to celebrate life’s milestones-I can always count on those in my William and Mary family.
From the first freshman seminar session with professor Scholnick to my last Maternal and Child Health lectures with Dr. Buchanan-questioning the status quo and digging deep into the why’s of policies, processes, and myriad human behaviors were ingrained throughout my experience. With Dr. Aday, and during each SOMOS seminar session and trip to Santo Domingo I was challenged to reflect on the intended and unintended consequences of what we thought we were accomplishing- a way of thinking that shows up at work every day. In managing infectious disease programming and supporting the COVID-19 response in Latin America, every single day, I get to consider how our technical and political decisions may impact those on the ground and directly affected for both the short and long term. I’m a firm believer that the challenges we experienced in and out of the classroom make William and Mary grads likelier to go out into the world with an eye towards disrupting the status quo and a heart disposed to serve…
Which brings me to the last emblematic perk and trait William and Mary helped myself and so many others hone. Whether it is in educating and building up tomorrow’s leaders by making foreign language learning accessible; advocating for a safer and healthier planet; or humanely communicating the decisions made inside the US Government Machine- if there is one thing we seek out no matter what, it is any chance to be of service to our fellow humans. Daily, I’m impressed by, and so proud of the ways in which my fellow alumni go out of their way to get at the root of challenges to find the most socially just solutions.
While I might not have a crystal ball view into the future, I know I’ll have the support of my William and Mary community, a never ending need to question the world, and a desire to always be in service of our global community, as we collectively work towards a more livable world.
Connect with Amalhin on LinkedIn.