Pros and Cons of Study Abroad 

While study abroad can be an exciting experience, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons when deciding to commit to this big decision.


  • Enhance language skills: Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity to enhance language skills, especially if you are unfamiliar with the local language or have only a basic understanding.
  • Making new friends: Relocating to a new location opens the door to a broader social circle, offering numerous chances to forge meaningful connections and friendships.
  • Exploration of New Opportunities: Being in a different country may expose you to unexpected opportunities in various aspects of life
  • Building Independence: The distance from home necessitates a level of self-reliance, which can help you develop independence and life skills


  • Financial Costs: The considerable expense associated with moving abroad, even for a short duration, can be a significant drawback
  • Language Barriers: Navigating daily life in a country with an unfamiliar language can be challenging and stressful, contributing to difficulties in effective communication.
  • Homesickness: One of the most common challenges of studying abroad is homesickness, as being far from friends and family can lead to a sense of longing and emotional strain.
  • Culture Shock: While immersing yourself in a new culture is enriching, it may also result in culture shock, requiring adjustment to different customs, traditions, and ways of life.

A Brief Overview of Housing 

General housing selection begins today! Whether you are a returning student, incoming freshman, or prospective student, check out this blog post for a brief overview of housing. 

All first and second year students are required to live on campus to help build friendships during the beginning of their college experience. The freshman housing includes the Botetourt Complex, Bryan Complex, Dupont Hall, Green & Gold Village, Hunt Hall, Lemon Hall, Monroe Hall, Randolph Complex, Reves Hall and Willis Hall. Most of these residence halls are double rooms with either hall or shared bathrooms and are located close to either dining hall. Each residence hall will include laundry machines, a shared kitchen, and lounges for all residents to share. For my first year I was in Nicholson Hall (part of Botetourt Complex!). Being in a hall style residence hall helped me meet lots of new people which was especially helpful as a spring transfer student. 

For returning students, more housing options are available. Barrett Hall, Bryan Complex, Chandler Hall, Hardy Hall, Jefferson Hall, Landrum Hall, Old Dominion Hall, and Randolph Complex are hall style. One Tribe Place and Richmond Hall are suite style with private/shared bathrooms. Tribe Square, and Ludwell Apartments are apartment style which include in-unit kitchens, living area, private bathrooms, and separate bedrooms. Greek Life Housing is also available to those in sororities and fraternities. 

For upperclassmen, it can sometimes be challenging to find on-campus housing due to limited campus spaces. However, there’s currently construction happening across campus to increase the number of beds available to students that will continue for the next couple of years. Those who are unable to acquire on-campus housing can rent out houses or apartments near William & Mary. Off-campus housing resource fairs also occur each year to help students find nearby apartments. 

Learn more about first year housing here:

Learn more about upperclassmen housing here:

The Institute for Integrative Conservation 

This past month I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the Institute for Integrative Conservation through my Conservation Biology class! If you’re looking for more research opportunities, try checking out the Institute for Integrative Conservation (IIC). The Institute for Integrative Conservation here at William & Mary connects students with research opportunities that solve real world conservation problems!  They have three main ways to get involved: a GIS semester project, semester project, and year long project. Projects are highly interdisciplinary making it a good fit for any major. 

You don’t need to be a conservation major to get involved. Many projects include aspects of chemistry, biology, and business. Doing research projects within the IIC can be a good way to learn more about human interaction with the environment and how to prevent and find solutions to both community and global scale conservation issues.

Students are paired with partners to create, develop, and carry out research projects in order to implement solutions. 

If conservation is something you are passionate about or interested in learning more about, check out the IIC for both research and other opportunities. 

Check here for more information:

Process of Declaring a Major

Congratulations! Have you reached the credit limit or decided what major you’d like to pursue? Here’s a brief guide to declaring your major:

1. Decide your area of study

Do you want to declare a major, double major, major + minor? In what area would you like to study? You probably already have an idea of what you want to major in, but if still unsure try using degree works to see the specific requirements for majors you’re interested in. Degreeworks will tell you what classes you will need to take for your intended major/minor. This will be especially helpful later on for making a rough schedule of when you’ll take each required course. Also note that some majors have other requirements (ex. Business majors must apply to the Mason School of Business)

More info on how to choose a major:

2. Complete the Declaration of Major Form
This form will be what you submit to the University Registrar for official approval and declaration. On the form there’s a section to list required courses for your intended major and list when you will complete them / when you completed them. (This is where degree works comes in handy!) You must meet with your major advisor before submitting this form, but it’s a good idea to fill it out before meeting with them to fully understand the requirements you’ll need to complete.

3. Find and meet with your major advisor

Your major advisor must be in the academic discipline you intend to major in. Try making a list of professors you’ve taken a class with and/or have a good relationship with. For instance, my major advisor is also the professor I’m doing research with! After asking and settling on a major advisor, meet with them to discuss your future plans and complete the declaration of major form.

More info on major advisors: More information on declaring your major:

Yule Log Celebration 

One of William & Mary’s most beloved traditions is the Yule Log Celebration. The Yule Log Celebration is a long lived tradition for expressing gratitude for the past and present while also welcoming new beginnings going into the new year. It also stands as a way to bring the William & Mary community together to celebrate the joy of the season. 

Occurring annually around the end of the fall semester, this celebration in the Wren Courtyard spreads holiday cheer with students, staff, faculty, and alumni across the world. With festive music, singing, poems, and stories, the William & Mary community celebrates the end of a semester and reflects upon the themes of peace, joy, and gratitude. The Yule Log is carried through the crowd into the Wren Building to be lit for a fire. Students have the opportunity to toss sprigs of holly into the Great Hall fireplace for good luck as well as decorate the trees around the Wren Building with messages of gratitude on paper doves to share appreciation for the past and present. After, cider and cookies are shared among participants. 

Those unable to attend in person have the opportunity to attend the virtual celebration or an alumni gathering. Regional Yule Log Celebrations can be found here:

Recipes from the celebration, a digital Great Hall fireplace, and Yule Log gifs are available as well. 

This year’s Yule Log Celebration will take place Saturday, December 16, 2023 at 5:30 p.m ET.

Learn more about it here!

The Ultimate College Bucket List for Your First Semester

Welcome to the tribe spring transfers! As you begin your journey at William & Mary, consider adding these to your college bucket list. I’ve compiled a list of academic and social ideas to create the ultimate bucket list for your first semester! 

  1. Join a club or organization of something you’re interested in
  2. Explore all floors of Swem
  3. Attend a lecture or workshop outside of your major
  4. Pet a dog at the Williamsburg Farmers Market 
  5. Host a movie or game night to meet new people 
  6. Attend a formal dance or event
  7. Volunteer for a local charity or community event
  8. Start a study group with students in your class 
  9. Go kayaking on Lake Matoaka 
  10. Find your favorite pancake house 
  11. Attend an AMP Event 
  12. Write a letter to your future self to open on graduation day 
  13. Join an intramural or club sports team
  14. Attend a Career Center networking event 
  15. Participate in a research project 
  16. Take a class outside of your comfort zone 
  17. Have a picnic on the Sunken Garden 
  18. Try a fitness or wellness class 
  19. Create a photo diary of your first semester
  20. Connect with other transfer students!

A Wintery Williamsburg Playlist 

As the temperature gets cooler, leaves start to fall, and Williamsburg transitions into a wintery wonderland, it becomes the perfect time to take a walk listening to a cozy winter playlist. In this post you’ll find a playlist curated by STEP blog writers that captures the holiday feels of Williamsburg for your next winter stroll around campus and Colonial Williamsburg!

  1. Evergreen – Richy Mitch & The Coal Miners 
  2. Holocene – Bon Iver
  3. Heartbeats – José González
  4. Need 2 – Pinegrove
  5. Northern Wind – City and Colour
  6. Savior Complex – Phoebe Bridgers
  7. The Stable Song – Gregory Alan Isakov
  8. Sweater Weather – The Neighborhood 
  9. Winter – Joshua Radin
  10. Sparks  – Coldplay 
  11. Shotgun Down The Avenue – Shawn Colvin
  12. A Light Change – Grouper 
  13. Constellations  – Duster
  14. Simulation Swarm – Big Thief 
  15. Reflecting Light – Sam Phillips 
  16. From the Dining Table – Harry Styles 
  17. Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
  18. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable – The Smiths 
  19. Didn’t Want to Have to Do It – Cass Elliot
  20. Trouble – Coldplay
  21. Where Do I Go – Lizzy McAlpine 
  22. Moon Song – Phoebe Bridgers
  23. Into Dust – Mazzy Star
  24. The Gold – Manchester Orchestra, Phoebe Bridgers 
  25. Moonlight on the River  – Mac DeMarco
  26. London’s Song  – Matt Hartke 
  27. Swollen – Fransisco Martin 
  28. Dark Red – Steve Lacy 
  29. Problems – Pinegrove  

Here’s the link to the spotify playlist!

There is Always Time to Close the Textbook – Emma Dunlop

I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say that the week before Thanksgiving is one the hardest of the entire semester. The air is getting colder, the sun is setting sooner, and final exams begin peeking their heads around the corner. The final trek to break can feel endless, as most students try to cram in exam prep, essays, and final assignments.

But is this week of stress worth the almost-week-long break? For many students, Thanksgiving break translates to Thanksgiving “break from my dorm.” It’s common for students to use their time at home to continue studying for final exams and beginning their final projects. However, there is always time to close the textbook, and what better time than Thanksgiving break? Here are some ways to shake off those academic burdens during your time off.

1. Plan out your study schedule for the weeks following the break.

For me, I start to de-stress once I have a plan. If I know how I’m going to accomplish my end-of-semester goals, I’m more comfortable taking time for myself and fueling my body. And, it helps reassure me that I have enough time to get everything done!

2. Make a study playlist in preparation for finals season.

Music is a great way to spice up your studying. With a peppy playlist in hand, the motivation to study after the break is sure to pick up. Say goodbye to study dread during break!

3. Engage in some activities that take your mind off of your classes.

Wind down with a spa day, eat out with some friends, or start crafting for the holiday season. These are great ways to take your mind off school, while still fueling it for the weeks ahead.

It can be hard to completely step back from academics during such a busy time in the semester, but preparation and planning are on your side. Use these tools to ease your mind and make memories during your days away from due dates.

Emma Dunlop is a sophomore intending to major in Marketing here at William & Mary. A transfer student herself, Emma spent her first semester of college in London and arrived on campus in the Spring of 2023. In addition to starting as a STEP blog guest writer this semester, Emma is also a member of the William & Mary Accidentals, the Student Environmental Action Coalition, and Women in Business. She is so excited to get writing!

4 Spots That Make W&M Special 

William & Mary is the second oldest university in the country, so campus has been witness to decades of academic success and historical significance. Over time William & Mary has gained specific 

The natural beauty and historical charm of these four key spots help make William & Mary’s campus unique and special. 

  1. Wren Building 

Starting off with arguably the defining building of William & Mary is the Wren building. Not only is it the oldest academic building in America still in use, it is also still home to some classes such as religion. It’s become a tradition that most W&M students try to take at least one class in the Wren building. It also serves as a symbol for the academic journey of students. Students begin their academic journey through the Wren Building during convocation and also conclude their W&M journey back at the Wren Building on their way to Commencement. 

  1. Crim Dell

Crim Dell is another key picture that you’ll see when looking up William & Mary’s campus. The beautiful bridge over a small pond is picturesque in all four seasons and is home to many species of wildlife! (You might spot a turtle when walking from Sadler to ISC!) There’s also a superstition that walking across the bridge with a loved one bonds the two together forever. 

  1. Sunken Garden 

What makes our main garden so special is that it’s sunken! Sunken Garden is located in the center of campus and between two rows of academic buildings. The sunkenness creates a grass border perfect for relaxation or studying! It also serves as a place to hang out with friends and is usually the main location for special events like homecoming and formals! 

  1. Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre

At William & Mary we are blessed with the backdrop of Lake Matoaka on the outskirts of campus. The Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre frames the lake which makes it the ideal place to observe it or attend outdoor concerts! There’s also sometimes special events like sunset yoga that take place underneath the amphitheater stage itself. 

Favorite memories from my first year – Ellie McMahon

There are a lot of words that William & Mary students use to describe GGV. Lack of air conditioning, communal bathrooms, and subpar just to name a few. Though its reputation precedes it, GGV is arguably the best place to build a community as a freshman. For me, no air conditioning on the third floor meant spending more time in the shared lounge, and many of my hallmates did the same as we formed quick and long-lasting relationships. 

There were so many opportunities thrown at me the first few weeks of freshman year. The club fair with over 500 student organizations, all the tabling at Sadler, and the countless events we were dragged to by our OAs. But none of them impacted Lion K like IM softball. When sign-ups first rolled around in September, our group GroupMe was frenzied on the guys’ side and almost silent from the girls. There was no way my third floor girls hall was forming a softball team, but plenty of the guys downstairs had played baseball in the past or were looking for some way to occupy their Sunday nights. Whatever it was, the Zaddy Lions were born. Even though my floor wasn’t involved in this team in any way whatsoever, if we were anything as a group, we were enthusiastic. In the beginning of freshman year Lion K did everything together- meals, Target runs, birthday celebrations- there was no reason we wouldn’t cheer on our softball team as well. 

On the night of the first game, as the actual team was in the lounge strategizing, the third floor was doing arts and crafts. Each of us carried a letter on a plain white sheet of paper, enough to spell out Lion K with a hand drawn lion in the middle. Nothing will ever compare to the reaction we got when we arrived at the IM field just as the first pitch was being thrown. The whole team loved the signs and it was so much more fun to watch than I expected. These people I’d known for less than a month had become my closest friends which meant we spent every waking moment together. 

From that week forward, we showed up to every game, signs in tow, until they got too worn to carry. By the end of the season, each player had his own superlative, ranging from Girlboss Gari to Risky Robbie. These signs were made out of posterboard (and turned out to be a lot more durable). Each year since then, the Zaddy Lions have reunited over their love for softball, each coming from new friendships and organizations, but never forgetting the relationships made in GGV. Even the girls have made it to a few more games, proof that freshman dorm camaraderie is something that lives on forever. 

Author bio: Hi everyone! My name is Ellie and I’m a junior here at W&M. I’m majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Hispanic Studies and hope to incorporate a bit of both into my future career. I’ve always enjoyed writing but have never been able to pursue it seriously, and I’m so happy to be able to write for the STEP Toward Success Blog as a guest writer!