The Mason Spirit: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of George Mason University

Mason Memories: A Matter of Miles

When I chose George Mason, it wasn't for the same reasons most high school seniors give when choosing a college. It wasn't for the academic programs or the sports teams or the campus life, although all those things seemed just fine to me during my campus tour. The choice for me, quite frankly, was a matter of miles.

I chose Mason because I wanted to go away to school and enjoy a true college experience, but my parents insisted that I be within a few hours drive from home. At 90 minutes from my hometown of Baltimore, Mason was the perfect compromise. So in August 1988, I made the first of many drives south on I-95 and around the Capital Beltway to Northern Virginia.

During my freshman year, I heard Mason called "just a commuter school" and the word "transfer" often as I walked the dorm halls. But I wanted to put more effort into my college experience, so I dismissed the negative connotations, made friends, and stayed.

My freshman-year friends became my sophomore-year housemates as we, in true Mason fashion, moved off campus. Four girls in a townhouse, we made college life our own as we decided on majors, decided on boyfriends, joined sororities, got jobs, took government internships, got A's, joined honor societies, got D's, joined study groups, laughed, cried, and fought. We even took summer classes to stay together May through August. Soon, Northern Virginia became more of a home than a home away from home.

When graduation came, I moved back to Baltimore, but only lasted six months there. I moved back to Northern Virginia, where I still live, married to the frat guy I began dating my junior year. We have two children and a happy, busy life.

Mason can be a school of connections, both personally and professionally. Many of my high school friends who attended prestigious universities far from home found that after graduation they were left with long-distance friendships and no support system for finding a job. Yet for me and many others, attending George Mason has brought lasting friendships, thriving careers, happy marriages, and, ultimately, family life. I am always amazed by how many Mason alumni are still connected. My three closest friends today not only are alumnae, but also met their husbands at Mason as well. We studied, partied, and in some cases lived together during those four years. Eleven years later, we have become four successful families living in the suburbs of our alma mater.

The 90-minute compromise that determined my college choice still proves beneficial—now, I can take my kids to visit their grandparents in just a few hours. As it turns out, maybe mileage was a pretty important factor in choosing a college after all.

Trish Longbottom Wilmans, B.A. English '92, is married to Jim Wilmans, B.S. Accounting '91. They reside in Ashburn, Va., with their two children: Rachel (5) and Brian (2).

Do you fondly remember certain places within the George Mason community that exemplified the "college experience"? Were you befriended by a mentor or professor at George Mason who influenced your life? If so, tell us about it. Send your submission to Alumni Affairs, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, MS 3B3, Fairfax, VA 22030. Please keep submissions to a maximum of 500 words.