A Summer in Williamstown, Massachusetts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Williamstown is a beautiful small town in the northwestern part of Massachusetts and is home to liberal arts college Williams College. This summer, I had the privilege to stay on campus and conduct historical research in the College’s Special Collections library. I am so thankful for the opportunities I received over the summer at Williams, however, in the midst of all of the joy I found on campus this summer, there were quite a few bumps that worked to make summer in Williamstown more expensive and the world outside of the Purple Valley less accessible. Williams is indeed a beautiful, fun place to stay for the summer, with many opportunities and activities for students, but before you commit to summer on campus, here are a few things you need to know. 

            During the school year, when there are papers to write and problem sets to solve, the isolation and size of Williamstown can seem less restricting. However, during the summer, the size and seclusion of the community can quickly become overwhelming and far fewer students are present to keep you company. Along with this, the things a lot of students would do on the weekends are nonexistent: the gym isn’t, there is no additional “assigned work” to complete, and even the library is closed on the weekends. Health and Wellness services are closed until August 12th, however, transportation to doctor’s appointments is available all summer. For a period of time this summer, even busing to North Adams or Walmart wasn’t free with one’s student ID. 

            The importance of having tree transportation to Walmart or Stop N Shop is crucial to the summer experience at Williams due to meal plan requirements. Students staying for seven weeks or more are required to enroll in a meal plan. Summer meal plans start at 50 meals, which costs over $580. Students can upgrade to 75 meals, which costs upwards of $870. Students staying for two to seven weeks must buy at least $150 in EphPoints. I was on campus for eleven weeks this summer and was enrolled in the 50 meal plan, which means if I wanted my meal plan to last all summer, I would have to use less than five meals each week in order to stretch the plan until the school year began. The sheer cost of the meal plan makes food inaccessible over the summer. In order to healthily provide for themselves, students need transportation to grocery stores, such as Walmart, and without the free use of the BRTA, it costs $7 to get there. Going to Walmart three times a month for three months would cost over $60, which again, leaves students in a tough position when providing for themselves. 

            Another issue for students on campus this summer was the chaos that was “Move-In”. Students were moving in and out at different dates, and without any form of assistance unless it was requested. I rented a Zipcar with two other friends for three hours and we still did not manage to move all our items from Mission Park to Prospect House. Some students had CSS officers help them, but after a certain time, CSS stopped offering their services and students were forced to carry their boxes across campus. While moving to a new dorm wouldn’t have been so tough with more time, this option was not granted to students, as the earliest time students were allowed to start moving in was 2 pm, with many at work until 4 pm or later. What makes this even more difficult is that freshman students living in Mission Park lost swipe access at 5 pm, meaning once they left the building, there was no way to get back in. 

            Despite some of the issues that come with living on a college campus over the summer, Williams offers so many perks, it’s easy to let some of these things go and focus on the good. The Williamstown Theater Festival gives student tickets (some of which you can often snag for free), giving students an actual chance to interact with the arts on campus over the summer. CLiA offers transportation to some events in the area as well, such as Third Thursdays, a small street festival in Pittsfield, and a SteepleCats baseball game, the official summer team of North Adams. The peaceful Green River runs right behind campus and is a beautiful space for picnics or poetry writing. Even just sitting outside to read a book or talk with friends is lighthearted and enjoyable. 

            While there are some things that make summer in Williamstown a little more difficult, there are multiple reasons to stay on campus and love it. I’m grateful for the great summer I had in Williamstown and would recommend it to everyone I know. With the on-campus opportunities of research or career-building or simply pursuing your passions, there comes on campus opportunities to relax and enjoy the world around you. The beauty of the mountains is more palpable in the summer and friendships you make are well worth it.