I came to Vassar from overseas. As any of my teammates will be quick to point out, I am a faux Brit, both my parents are American but I spent the majority of my childhood in London, England. Needless to say Vassar was a bit of a culture shock, not only in its American-isms, but…it’s Vassar. I would say that I was a less than exemplary student my first two years, finding my energy going in other directions, rarely constructive. It wasn’t until my junior year that I started to understand just how amazing this place is. I declared my English major at the beginning of my junior year, having taken only one and a half credits. Clearly I had a lot of catching up to do. I got extremely lucky; I took courses with Professors Paul Russell and Karen Robertson. Prof. Russell would become my major advisor, and has helped me a great deal as I have navigated through a hectic couple of years. Prof. Robertson taught me Shakespeare, and it is to this day one of the best classes I have ever taken, and has inspired my interest in that area ever since. Although I did not end up writing my thesis on Shakespeare, it was Prof. Robertson who led me down the path to pursuing and completing a thesis. At the same time that I began my English major I also joined the rugby team. This move has shaped my last two years more than anything else. The reader may not know this but we made it to the national championships in both of the past two years, last year it was for 15s, and this year it was for 7s. We were crushed in both cases, but the teams we played had rosters that stretch into the 60s, while we were lucky if we could field two teams. It is also through rugby that I have had the pleasure of being coached by Tony Brown and Mark Griffith, two extremely good coaches, without whom our rugby program would not reach the heights that it does on such a consistent basis. Tony’s from England also, and this past year has seen the “locker room banter” reach new crassness, the content of which cannot be repeated on
this page, but I will say that the relationship that I have been able to foster, not only with Tony, but all the members of the rugby team has been one of the highlights of my time at Vassar. We travelled to Denver this past weekend (the weekend before graduation) to take part in the 7s National Tournament, and as I have already said, we got crushed. However, my Dad said to me when I spoke to him afterwards, “How many people can say they’ve been to Nationals?” And it’s true, there aren’t many people who can claim to have competed at the national level, and at Vassar, even fewer. We are not a school that values athletics very highly. One of my conceptions of America, living in England, had been cheerleaders and jocks, and all that good old American spirit, but to my surprise Vassar offered none of that, and I think that that is one of the details that sets us apart, and something that I have come to appreciate. It was great to get some recognition for making it to Nationals, but I have always found that the recognition from a professor for a paper well written, or presentation done well has been the ground for my richest feelings of accomplishment. And of course, as anyone who has ever written one of these must say, the friendships that I have made here have been some of the most fruitful of my life. One friend, who has unfortunately had trouble getting his life together and won’t be graduating with me, will always stand out in my mind and, even though he’s on the other side of the country, we still talk on the phone every now and then. And I don’t think that’s the exception, I think that’s the norm of the friends I’ve made here. It hasn’t always been easy adapting to Vassar and America, but it’s not something that I would change.
—Erik Quinson is an English major. Along with being a part of the rugby team at Vassar, he was also the Sports Editor of The Miscellany News.