Working with Mandela: The Constitutional Process in Post-Apartheid South Africa

by Phillip Lecky, Class of 2015

The William and Mary Law School, through the International Law Society (ILS) in partnership with the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), was honored to welcome Justice Albert “Albie” Sachs of South Africa on March 31, 2014 for a talk and book-signing. Born in South Africa in 1935 of Lithuanian parents, Justice Sachs was instrumental in fighting against the oppressive white-dominated rule in South Africa. Due to the large numbers of people interested in hearing Justice Sachs speak, his talk had to be relocated to a larger room, and still there was standing room only! His talk was entitled Working with Mandela: The Constitutional Process in Post-Apartheid South Africa.

albie sachs

As Justice Sachs began to speak, it was clear that all in the audience were intently focused on what he had to say for he had an uncanny ability of keeping people hanging on his every word. Whether he was speaking about how he first became involved in the fight against oppression as a juvenile; his memories of the trial which caused Nelson Mandela to be imprisoned for almost three decades; how he lost part of one arm and sight in one eye as a result of a bomb; his activity in regards to crafting a new Constitution in which all South Africans would be treated equally; or his role on the Constitutional Court, his energy and passion for the causes he stood for was more than evident.  What a man! What a legend! I, and, I think it is safe to say, the rest of the William & Mary community collectively thanks Justice Sachs for gracing us with his presence and all that he did to make this world a better place!

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French Cuisine on a Law School Budget?

by Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend came to visit me for the weekend. He lives in Georgia, so whenever he makes the trip up to Virginia to see me it’s a bit of a special occasion. To celebrate, we made reservations at one of the restaurants in Williamsburg that I’ve been dying to try ever since someone raved to me about how amazing its food was: Le Yaca.

Before I go on, full disclosure: I’m a bit of a food snob. Before starting law school, I spent four years at college in a big city, where you can find virtually any kind of cuisine or type of restaurant at literally any hour of the day or night. When I moved to Williamsburg, I had very, very low expectations about the variety of food that I would find here. Fortunately, this is one of the times that I am happy to admit that I was totally wrong. Williamsburg has all sorts of restaurants with delicious fare and international flare—and often with reasonable prices, which is something all law students can appreciate.

Le Yaca FireplaceOne of those places is Le Yaca, Williamsburg’s premier French eatery. A staple for anyone in town who loves the taste of homemade European cooking, Le Yaca has been satisfying palates and filling stomachs here since 1980, and I can totally understand how it got its reputation as one of Williamsburg’s best restaurants. When my boyfriend and I arrived for our dinner, we were greeted by a roaring fire and simple, barn-like décor. The smell that hit us as we walked through the door was amazing—warm bread, wood smoke, and roasting meat, exactly like you would expect in a tiny mountain village somewhere in the Alps.

Le Yaca SteakTo start our three-course dinner, we both had hot bowls of French onion soup and baguettes. For my entrée, I had pepper-crusted beef tenderloin glazed with a Cognac sauce on top of some crunchy greens and roasted potatoes. My tender, juicy steak was cooked perfectly. As I cleaned my plate, I was so distracted by how delicious my meal was that I had almost forgotten that we’d ordered dessert as well. My boyfriend ordered a rich crème brulée, while I ate an airy lemon mousse topped with fresh raspberries. After we finished eating, we stayed at our table chatting by the fireplace, too full to move, before finally leaving the cozy restaurant for the night.

It’s always nice to take some time off between writing memos and applying for internships to enjoy some of the finer things in life. Perfect for anything from a casual brunch to a romantic night on the town, Le Yaca’s inviting atmosphere and excellent menu make it easy to do just that. Sure to please anyone looking for a taste of France here in Williamsburg, this restaurant is not one to miss.

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What They Have to Say: A Faculty Q & A with Professor Griffin

by Scott Krystiniak, Class of 2016

One thing I will always remember about my 1L year is the perpetual feeling of being awestruck by the brilliance and cleverness of all my professors.  What is also fascinating is that these intellectual titans have also gone through a similar chapter in their lives.  In realizing this, I’ve often wondered what all my professors were like as law students or what they experienced during their three years of law school.  Then I decided that I would just ask them and learn exactly what they have to say.

clgriffinjrI recently had the pleasure of corresponding with William & Mary Professor Chris Griffin, a graduate of Yale Law School (he’s also my Property professor).  I prompted him with a few questions that were geared towards his experiences as a law student and now as a law professor.  He was gracious enough to offer his insights and memories, many of which have an apt analog to the various opportunities and offerings here at William & Mary.   Here it is:

What was the most memorable experience or moment you had while you were in law school?

There were countless such moments. The law professor in me would point to a spirited, organized debate one afternoon between two giants of law and economics: Judge Guido Calabresi and Judge Richard Posner. But the former law student in me would cite the three Law Revue skit shows I attended. Each one was held on the last day of classes and lampooned life in law school with all the wit of a great Daily Show or SNL episode. During 2L year, my schoolmates set their sights on our rivalry with Harvard Law School and then-Dean, now Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan with great panache. In my final year, a video cameo by Sam Waterston of Law & Order fame brought down the house. (We’ve all been sworn to secrecy, or I would say more!)

What was your favorite class in law school?  Why?

A seminar called The Civil Rights Revolution with the legendary Bruce Ackerman. The course combined the great 20th Century cases that paved the way for race equality with relevant statutes, legal scholarship, and historical accounts. The course offered a chance to pull back the curtain and understand how the Supreme Court arrived at landmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education. We discussed what was inspiring about them and even identified how they still often fell short in ensuring full equality under the law for all citizens.

Was there any law school class or topic that stuck out in your mind as particularly challenging?

It might sound strange, but I would single out Remedies, a course I now teach at William & Mary. When I saw it listed in the catalog as a student—for the first time in twenty years apparently!—I knew it sounded practically useful and intriguing. It was as if the class would provide a magic key to unlock the secrets of many courses taken in the first year. It turned out to be just that. With that reward, however, came much challenging but no less stimulating reading and lecture time. Now I thoroughly enjoy passing along those insights to our students.

What do you miss most about being a law student?

Thankfully those memories are not too far in the past for me! And while I enjoy being on my side of the podium, I do think fondly about learning directly from great legal minds in the classroom. The most enduring part of the experience, though, remains the camaraderie with fellow law students: commiserating over a paper in the student lounge, source-citing for a journal into the late hours, and of course “law school prom.” My classmates made the three years a genuinely exciting and uplifting time, easily the best educational experience of my life.

What extracurricular activities or organizations were you involved in and how did they contribute to your legal education?

I was most actively involved in journal work, serving as an Editor of the Yale Law Journal and Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law & Policy Review. I learned a tremendous amount about the world of legal scholarship as well as working closely with classmates to produce each issue. I also participated in the work of the American Constitution Society and our Latino Law Students Association chapter. Even though I didn’t share their ethnic heritage, my Latino/a friends encouraged me to be involved and help advance diversity initiatives, which remain very important to me today.

What do you enjoy most about being a law professor?

Without a doubt: the “ah-ha” moment, when I can tell that a student has put together pieces of a doctrinal puzzle. As I see it, my job in the classroom is to deconstruct the rules into manageable pieces and then reassemble them into a coherent whole. I mostly teach first-year students in Torts and Property, so I know I’m doing something right when those “ah-ha” moments occur early in one’s legal education. I also deeply appreciate the freedom of my scholarly pursuits, which involve statistical study of how the law affects us socially and economically.

If you were to give one piece of advice to incoming law students, what would it be?

My advice to the law school applicant, well before he or she hopefully comes to William & Mary, would be: take some time off after college. Thinking about how a law degree will fit within one’s professional goals can only enrich the three years working toward it. I know this from my own experience and those of former classmates and current students. There are so many avenues one can take, and law school is a smorgasbord of options and opportunities. Working for a year or two and reflecting on how best to use the J.D. will make you a much more informed student and allow you to hit the ground running with a purpose. 

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The Cold Never Bothered Us Anyway

W&M Law’s 2014 Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Trip

by David Weilnau, Class of 2014

davidMy name is Dave Weilnau, and I’m a member of the class of 2014. I grew up in Green Lane, PA, and did my undergrad at Ursinus College in the Philadelphia area. I came to law school because I was interested in public service and saw the law as a vehicle for social justice. Three years later, I know I made the right decision. I lead Volunteer Service Corps, a public service organization at the law school. My dream job is to work in a legal aid office and provide free legal services to Virginia’s poor.

One of the best things about William & Mary law students is their commitment to public service. Each spring break, a student group called Volunteer Service Corps leads a squad of citizen lawyers to a (hopefully warm) Habitat for Humanity site to build some new houses, explore some new places, and make some new friends. This year, four of us made the journey: your humble author (2014), Summer Chu (2015), Rebecca Skrzypek (2015), and Elizabeth Buner (2016).

habitat 1

Our chosen site for 2014 was Sumter, South Carolina. Located near the center of the state, Sumter struggles with poverty, crime, and racial tensions. Fortunately, it is also blessed with a caring community that dreams of making Sumter a better place.

We arrived in Sumter on Sunday evening, March 2, and were quickly introduced to our hosts, the generous congregation and staff of the Church of the Holy Comforter, and were whisked away for a baked spaghetti dinner at the Salt & Light Church. Back at Holy Comforter, we made shameless use of the facility’s air hockey table and copy of Dance Dance Revolution before retiring for the evening.

We had a busy first day at the worksite. With the help of a group from Boston College, we framed the porch. But dark, forbidding clouds loomed on the horizon, and our supervisors spoke in hushed voices of the frigid weather to come. That afternoon, we watched in horror as the temperature dropped from seventy degrees to thirty in about two hours. Hard times were upon us.

The following morning, the work site was twenty-five degrees and windy. We had not packed for the temperatures that now confronted us. It was the kind of exposure that recalibrates your body’s sense of what cold is. But we had come to Sumter to build a house, and that was what we were going to do. Without any feeling in our extremities, we straightened the walls and began to install trusses. On Wednesday, a steady cold drizzle soaked us through. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop Summer, Rebecca, and Liz from building some of “the best T’s and corners” our supervisor had ever seen.

On Thursday, alas, the weather finally beat us. Driving rain made work at the site impossible. We spent the day cleaning a local homeless shelter and sorting cans at a local food bank. On Friday, amidst persistent precipitation, we did moving work at the Habitat ReStore. We returned to Williamsburg that evening cold, wet, tired, but triumphant.

I am extremely proud of the group we had this year. We were small in number, but adversity tested us and found us strong. To give up your spring break is one thing; to give it up to hit your numb fingers with a hammer twenty times is something else entirely. I am honored to have worked and spent the week with Summer, Rebecca, and Liz; despite the difficult conditions, they all remained positive and enthusiastic. This was my final trip with Volunteer Service Corps, and I leave with the comfort of knowing that the future of the organization is in good hands.

Learn About William & Mary’s Federal Tax Clinic

by Bridget Claycomb, Class of 2016

It’s getting to be that time of year again: Tax Season. While that might have some of us groaning, the students in the William and Mary Tax Law Clinic are probably ecstatic! The admissions ambassadors had a chance to talk with two students, Jack and Natalia, who took the Tax Law Clinic during Fall Semester . Both third year law students highly recommended the clinic to other William and Mary law students.

Natalia is from Russia and transferred to William and Mary Law School for her second year. She worked as an accountant for four years before she decided that she wanted to pursue law instead of accounting. She hesitated to explore tax law, but after an internship with the IRS, she realized tax law was just the kind of structured challenge she was looking for. She decided to sign-up for the Tax Law Clinic.

Jack is from North Carolina and chose William and Mary for its history and its reputation as being a great law school. He decided to sign-up for the Tax Law Clinic after taking the Federal Income Tax course during his second year of law school. The director of the clinic, Craig Bell, came in to encourage students to apply, and Jack thought it sounded like a great opportunity to gain practical experience and help clients who really needed it.

Craig Bell, Adjunct Professor of Law & Managing Attorney William & Mary's Federal Tax Clinic

Craig Bell, Adjunct Professor of Law & Managing Attorney William & Mary’s Federal Tax Clinic

Natalia and Jack couldn’t say enough good things about Director Craig Bell. Natalia said, “Craig is a nationally recognized tax attorney who has been practicing tax law for thirty years. Learning from him is an invaluable experience for students interested in tax law.” Jack agrees, “Craig is a great teacher that fosters corroboration between the student teams and seeks to build the class into a firm. Craig is also a successful attorney that has a wealth of practical experience to convey to the students which take the clinic.”

The clinic has both classroom and practical elements. Students are taught strategies and knowledge that they can apply to their cases and clients. Both students stressed how valuable it is to participate in clinics during law school. Jack said, “Some people complain that law school lacks the practical experience necessary to practice law; taking a clinic is a great way to gain practical experience in law school.” Natalia agrees, “ The Clinic gave me real perspective and showed me how I would apply the knowledge and theory I am learning in class to the real world.” “I met and conferenced with a client. I had a real opportunity to help a real client with a real problem,” says Natalia. Jack adds, “The clinic allows us to help people in need of legal services that otherwise would not be able to afford said services.”

For more information on the tax law clinic, click here.

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Getting to Know Faculty

by Liz Berry, Class of 2016

IMG_7257After two semesters at W&M, I’ve had eight different professors (six doctrinal, one Writing Practice, and one Adjunct). With larger classes than at my undergraduate institution (not that it was hard to do…I had classes of four people sometimes), I was expecting that I wouldn’t really get to know my professors. Luckily, I was wrong. All of my professors have been so open and willing to meet with each and every one of their students. Some professors schedule brown bag lunches (and supply Extraordinary Cupcakes) to get to know their students, while others are willing to walk over to the Blue Talon/Trellis/Cheese Shop in small groups for a more intimate lunch. Coffee meetings are also eagerly welcomed (and really, how can you turn down coffee in law school?). In any case, the professors at W&M want to get to know the students just as much as the students want to get to know them.

The Public Service Fund auction (where students and faculty auction off activities) really proves my point. Professors auctioned off dinners, cocktail hours, Mad Men season premier parties, and even game nights. The proceeds went to PSF, but students get to spend the time they purchased with their professors. And the professors were happy to do it. You can tell that students love their professors when they buy time with them for $400 (although I think the professors would do the same type of things for free!).

So. Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professor and ask to get lunch, coffee, or even a cupcake together. They’d be more than willing to do so.

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BLSA Oliver Hill Banquet

by Phillip Lecky, Class of 2015

OliverHillDinner2014 (32) (2)On Saturday, February 23, 2014, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) organized another phenomenal celebration of the life of Oliver White Hill, civil rights lawyer and activist, instrumental in the Brown v. Board of Education decision which provided for the desegregation of schools.  BLSA has been hosting the Oliver Hill Banquet in honor of Hill for almost 20 years.  This year, the Banquet was held in conjunction with the William & Mary African-American Alumni Reunion. The weekend was also notable as it celebrated the 60th Anniversary of William & Mary’s first African-American graduate, Edward Travis.

OliverHillDinner2014 (170) (2)Present at the Banquet were alumni of course, faculty members, families of students, and current students.  After a riveting speaker, the BLSA board recognized numerous current students for their achievements and activities throughout the year. Dean Douglas also reiterated the fact that BLSA was recently voted as the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Year for this school year.  BLSA’s mission at the beginning of the school year was to win this award, and despite the difficulties, and moments when the goal seemed impossible to achieve, that is exactly what they did.  Congrats to BLSA for a memorable Oliver Hill Banquet and wonderful year!

OliverHillDinner2014 (166) (2)

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How “GRF” Becomes a Verb – Life as a Graduate Research Fellow

by Lauren Bridenbaugh, Class of 2016

It is undeniable that cost is a significant factor in deciding what law school to attend. Between in-state versus out-of-state tuition, living expenses, and available financial aid, there are many factors to consider in determining what law school has the “best value” for you. Scholarships can play a substantial role in making the cost of a law school manageable. Luckily, a key program at William & Mary can put a serious dent in William & Mary’s already comparatively low cost.

Law LibraryThe Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRF) was part of my financial aid package when I was accepted to William & Mary. GRF’s are for out-of-state residents and gives the student in-state tuition and a stipend in exchange for working 8 hours per week. The type of work each 1L GRF receives varies but it typically consists of four hours per week in the law library and four hours per week working for an administrative office. For example, I work four hours per week for the Reference Desk in the library and four hours per week for the Admissions Office (part of my GRF is writing these blog posts for ya’ll). However, other students work for the Circulation Desk in the library, the Office of Career Services, and many others.

Depending on what office you are in, your experience varies but there are a myriad of benefits beyond the in-state tuition and stipend. GRF is listed on your resume as an honor which is obviously attractive to potential employers. It also gives you connections working with the administrators in your particular office and the law librarians. You often learn a lot about doing research in the library and where various books and journals are located. Furthermore, after your first year you have the opportunity to fulfill your GRF hours by working as a research assistant for a professor, working as a legal practice program fellow, or continuing to do library/administrative work.

If you have been offered a GRF, it is an offer worth considering. You make connections with faculty and staff, learn a lot about the operation of the law school and the law library, have the opportunity to work with professors, and impress prospective employers, all with relative ease!

Read about other GRF experiences:

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A Day in the Life of a 1L

by Liz Rademacher, Class of 2016

Now that I’ve finished the first half of my first year of law school at William & Mary, I feel like I’ve started to settle into a routine. My schedule’s a bit different each day, but here’s a glimpse into a random Thursday in the life of a 1L:

7:00 a.m. My alarm clock goes off. Time to wake up!

7:09 a.m. Okay, so I hit the snooze button just once. Waking up for real now! Time for me to shower, eat breakfast, and pack up my things for the day before I make the ten-minute commute to the law school for my first class this morning.

8:30 a.m. Time for Legal Practice! My Legal Practice class meets three times a week, twice with a legal writing professor and once with an adjunct professor who teaches my class other legal skills. Some weeks, we’ll have lectures with the law school librarians instead of meeting for class. Today my class is reviewing the basics of persuasive legal writing. I have class with my Legal Practice firm, which has only 13 other people in it.

10:00 a.m. Now I need to go to Contracts, my largest class. We’re learning about which kinds of promises are legally enforceable in a contract today (it’s more exciting than it sounds).

11:30 a.m. Time for Property, where we’re learning about adverse possession. Just a little over an hour until I’m done with all my classes for the day!

12:45 p.m. All finished with classes and now my favorite part of the day, lunch hour, is finally here. The law school purposefully doesn’t schedule classes during this time of the day to give students a chance to go to events or meetings and to eat lunch. Today, I’m going to a panel of guest speakers the Office of Career Services has organized to hear about legal careers within local, state, and federal government offices. Like most events that OCS plans during this time of day, there’s free pizza!

2:00 p.m. Time to hit the books. After the OCS event ends, I grab a snack from Greenberry’s, the law school café, and head to the law library with some of my friends. We grab a table in the sunny reading room on the first floor with a view out the window of some trees. I unpack my books, queue up my favorite study music playlist, and cozy into a reading for my Constitutional Law class.

4:30 p.m. After finishing up my reading and taking some notes, I head to a Public Service Fund meeting. I’m on the general board of PSF, so I help to plan events and fundraisers throughout the year. This meeting is about PSF’s annual fundraiser auction, which helps to raise money for students who work in unpaid public service internships over the summer. We meet for about an hour to talk about food, entertainment, and decorations for the big night.

5:30 p.m. I head home where my roommate and I like to unwind after a long day by eating dinner together. I warm up a bowl of soup as we chat about our days, and then we watch an episode of Scrubs before hitting the books again.

7:00 p.m. More reading.

9:00 p.m. I take a quick break and call my mom to say hi before I start to write a cover letter for a summer internship. Tomorrow I’ll bring it into OCS to ask one of the career services deans to review it for me—they give awesome feedback!

9:30 p.m. Done with work for the day. I surf the web for a bit and send a few emails before shutting down my laptop and curling up in bed with a good book.

11:00 p.m. Bedtime!

And there you have it—a day in the life of a 1L.

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Mock Interviews– Connecting 1Ls with Alumni

by Liz Berry, Class of 2016

It’s interview season for 1L’s and the pressure is on. For 1L’s straight out of undergrad (like yours truly) interviews with potential legal employers are a whole new world. And frankly, slightly daunting. I’m fairly certain in my first interview, I forgot my first name. I believe the interview went something like: You want to know my name and why I wanted to go to law school? Um, those are very good questions. Let me get back to you on that…

And what’s the best way to overcome interview jitters (and remember your name)? Practice, practice, practice. I’ve found that the more interviews I’ve done over the past month or so, the more confident I’ve become. The Office of Career Services had been so helpful in prepping for interviews. I’ve worked with my Dean about how to answer certain questions and, best of all, OCS set up an entire Mock Interview Day. W&M Law alumni from various legal fields were invited to campus on Friday morning, and any 1L who signed up had a “mock” but very real feeling interview with someone in a field they were interested in.

My interview was with an Assistant Attorney General of Virginia (which was perfect, since I’m interning with the Ohio Attorney General this summer. Good work matching us up, OCS).  And while this time I didn’t forget my first name, my interviewer asked some hard questions for which I was slightly unprepared. And honestly, I think that was the best thing that could have happened. I learned how to think on my toes, and the feedback I received after the interview ended gave me a better idea of ways to answer when I’m unprepared. My interviewer spent at least fifteen minutes giving me advice on how to give better answers, and how to better present myself in the future. (Sorry to the person who was interviewing after me…I was so caught up in chatting with my interviewer we may have blown past the 30 minute mark. But really, doesn’t that just show how much our alumni are willing to help? Love it.)

Overall, I think the practice interview was a very valuable experience. Interviews can only get easier from here on out…or at least I’ll be more comfortable with them. And that’s all I can ask for.

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Aromas Café Offers More than a Sweet Scent to Students

by Graham Bryant, Class of 2016

One of the most important things to look for when deciding on a law school is the availability of quality caffeinated beverages close to the campus. Conveniently, Aromas Coffeehouse, Bakery, and Fresh Café has the denizens of William & Mary covered.

Aromas stock image (2)Conveniently located on Prince George Street—an easy ten-minute walk from the law school and one street away from Colonial Williamsburg’s Duke of Gloucester Street—Aromas is an institution among William & Mary students. I also was a William & Mary undergrad, and I can honestly say that Aromas was in my top ten reasons for choosing William & Mary Law School.

Aromas offers something for everyone. If you’re into live music and local artists, they have music nights each week and occasionally even host open-mic nights. If you simply want to get your tea—or coffee—and a pastry and run, that’s fine too. You’ll just have trouble choosing among their plethora of tea and coffee blends, or settling on only one made-on-site-that-day pastry. Finally, if you want to relax with a group of friends and share a meal, Aromas has an extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu that’s surprisingly affordable—even on a law student’s budget.

aromas-interior (2)In fact, one of my favorite things to do is get Saturday morning breakfast at Aromas before beginning the day’s work. And I’m not alone—every morning I’ve been there this year, I’ve run into other law students.

Despite being incredibly popular with tourists, Aromas remains a remarkably student-friendly location. Sure, my Saturday morning breakfast outings are typically swarmed with vacationers, but there are always students working on their laptops or doing readings. In fact, I drafted a sizable portion of my Civil Procedure outline while sipping tea on Aromas’ front patio. This student-friendly atmosphere is a cornerstone of the Aromas mystique, making it a great place to meet with other law students or even undergrads.

If you really want to become a regular, though, stop by Aromas at night. Usually, only locals and students are around in the evenings, and the friendly wait staff will soon know you by name. In addition to avoiding the tourist crowds, all the live music events happen at night.

As a prospective member of the William & Mary Law community, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Aromas is the best place in Williamsburg to purchase bulk coffee beans and loose-leaf tea. It’s not well advertised, but if you ask them, they’ll be happy to sell you a bag of that bean blend you love so much. You might just need to have a healthy supply when finals crunch time approaches.

So if you’re in town to visit the school, I would encourage you to stop by Aromas and get a feel for downtown Williamsburg. If nothing else, grab a slice of their chocolate overload cake. You can thank me when you start in the fall.

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