About Marie Leighton McCall

Hello! My name is Marie Leighton and I am a member of Exeter's Class of 2018. It is my third year at PEA and while I am far from my home in North Carolina, my wonderful dorm of Hoyt Hall has become my second home. I enjoy spending time with my classmates and friends in clubs such as Model UN, Business Club, and ESSO American Sign Language, and with my teammates on the rowing team. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at mlmccall@exeter.edu

Fun in the Sun!

Before I arrived at Exeter, I had no idea how many different ways my friends and I would find to have fun!  This past Sunday was Easter and some students left campus to spend the day with families and friends.  Sunday was the warmest day yet of the year – the high reached 80 and we had beautiful blue skies (at home in North Carolina, we would describe the sky color as “Carolina blue”), with a light breeze and green leaves just beginning to peek through on the trees.



In the morning, some friends of mine and I attended a morning service at one of the churches in town.  After church, I met up with another of my friends for an Easter picnic brunch on the quad.  The quad is a beautiful large and open green space located between dorms on the south side of campus.  It is the perfect spot for kicking around soccer balls, throwing footballs, playing Frisbee, and sitting on the grass to enjoy the day.  My friend and I laid out a blanket and placed on it all of our culinary delights from local grocery stores and our textbooks (for later use).  We soon had our “spread” set up and were enjoying strawberries and biscuits with whipped cream, a baguette, cheese, watermelon, and Easter candy.  As the afternoon wore on, people came and went from the ever-popular quad. A number of our classmates stopped by to hang out with us at our spot under the shade of a large oak tree.  We shared our food, talked, read, and did homework together until late afternoon.  It was a wonderful day with friends and, as a bonus, we even managed to get some sun and get our homework done as well!

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Picnic Fina;

Here’s looking to more warm days, clear skies, and time with friends ahead!

Fun in Town!

Even though we have had three big snowstorms this winter, we Exonians can’t be kept indoors.  We all make our way through the snow together to go to games, campus events, or hot spots in downtown Exeter.  Downtown has everything we need and a lot of what we want as well.  There are great places to eat: everything from a Chinese restaurant, to a sandwich place, a Mexican restaurant, a lovely restaurant, a bakery, and many more.  If you’re craving something cold and sweet, Stillwell’s ice cream is famous for its delicious large servings and friendly people.  
The flower shop and the bookstore are two of my favorite places to stop along the main street.  We also have a music store, comic book store, home décor shops, antique store, gift gallery, and more.  Since they are all locally owned businesses, you get to know the owners well if you are a regular.  D2 Java, the local café, is a favorite of many Exonians and a good example of this.  The people who work there often remember the orders of some of my friends and I as soon as we step through the door.  At the Inn by the Bandstand, the Innkeeper and co-owner both enjoy meeting Exonians, hosting them for tea (see below!) and being local contacts for international students. 



What I love about the town of Exeter is that it is not separate from the Academy at all.  The town is easily accessible and you will find a student or teacher, probably more than one, at the café, bookstore, or walking down the main street at any given hour of the day. 

Tea at the Inn by the Bandstand

The Holidays are Here!

As the cold fronts come in, so too does the holiday spirit!  From the dining hall to the dorm, signs of festivities can be found all over campus.


This particular decoration was in Wetherell Dining Hall

First things first, what would the holidays be without music?  On the Friday before winter break, our concert band, jazz band, acapella groups, symphony orchestra, and choral groups graced us with both wonderful renditions of classic holiday songs as well as a few new twists (see below!).  The holiday concert is held nearby in Exeter High School’s auditorium, and there are buses to take students to and from the performance.  What I really like about going is getting to see and experience this terrific event with teachers, my fellow Exonians and their families, and people from the town of Exeter.

Those performing included our Jazz Ensemble, acapella groups, Symphonia, Concert Choir, Concert Band (counterclockwise from top left), and more!

One of the many fun events hosted on campus during the holiday season is the gingerbread house competition.  Students form teams to try and make the most artistic, clever, and, don’t forget, stable gingerbread house.  The event is supported by local bakeries who provide the gingerbread and icing for each group.  The Student Activities office supplies the candy.  Grainger Auditorium in the Phelps Science Center was almost completely full with students having fun with friends, teachers, and staff while architectural masterpieces were being created, huge messes were being made, and more than a few marshmallows were being surreptitiously eaten.  My team’s plan was to set up the house structurally first and then begin with the fun part: decorating!  We dubbed our décor “business in the front, party in the back.”  The event ended with icing everywhere, a few toppled houses, and prizes going to the top three teams.

Coming from the South, I was not prepared at first for the early arrival of snow.  However, I have since learned that there is a large positive that comes with snow: epic snowball fights!  The best one, by far, happened as my three friends/teammates and I walked out of the gingerbread house-making competition.  Two of our friends were crouched and waiting with snowballs in hand.  I ducked and ran our sugary creation into Grill in the student center and returned outside to join in the fight!  We formed our teams and aimed for each other using a snow bank as a dividing line.  About half an hour and a few frozen hands later, we all went inside to warm up with big smiles on our faces!


Finally, one of the biggest holiday celebrations on campus is Secret Santa.  Most of the dorms call it “angeling.”  In some dorms (mostly boys’ dorms) it is a one-night affair, but in others (mostly girls’ dorms), it spans days.  In wonderful Hoyt Hall, we chose names out of a hat and prepared gifts to give our “mortal” to whom we would play “angel” over four days during the last week before winter break.  While staying within a chosen monetary limit, we left gifts for our mortals over the first three days, building up to our big reveal on Friday night!  I’ve found that people can get very creative: from decorated rooms to monogrammed blankets to a note from each girl in the dorm.  On the final night, everyone has one chance to guess before being told who their angel is and being given their final gift.  It is always a fun time in the dorm with all of us together, and there is always lots of laughter.

Academy Life Day

One of my favorite days of fall term is Academy Life Day.  Every year, there is a day set aside within the first few weeks of school when no classes are scheduled and the time is instead to be spent with your dorm mates (if you’re a boarder) or with your fellow advisees (if you are a day student).

This year on Academy Life Day, my wonderful dorm, Hoyt Hall, spent a fun day on campus.  After an all-dorm breakfast in the dining hall, we made our way into the art building.  Here we drew names of fellow dorm mates out of a cup and began working on painting canvases for the girl whose name we had chosen.  After painting, singing along to music, talking, and laughing, we left our masterpieces to dry.  Upon heading outside, we were divided into groups and sent on a scavenger hunt!  We ran all over campus serenading faculty, doing jumping-jacks, and generally ticking off as many activities on our list as we could, all the while laughing, taking pictures, and enjoying our time together.  The ladies of Hoyt Hall concluded our Academy Life Day by exchanging our canvases, sharing our scavenger hunt progress, and eating food catered by a local restaurant.  After lunch, the remainder of the day was ours to enjoy as we wished.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my own dorm’s activities, they were by no means the only fun events that occurred on this day.  Other dorms and advisories had dodgeball tournaments, went off campus to apple-picking orchards, went to the beach, and one dorm even went to play miniature golf!  There are so many ways to enjoy this day off from classes!  One of the best aspects of the day is that this bonding time is specifically set aside in the busy Exeter schedule.  By this point in the year, new students have met many new people, but this day provides an opportunity to get to know those who live closest to us much better.



As summer comes to a close, we Exonians are enjoying every last moment before we return to campus on September 7.  Summer has taken us all over the globe, whether our vacation took us home, on a family trip, on an Exeter Summer Program, or to a job or internship.  Hearing about what some of my classmates have been doing over the summer shows me how far Exeter’s reach truly is.  From studying physics in Tokyo, to going on an archaeological dig in France, to taking part in a service trip to Costa Rica, Exonians have kept busy while away from campus.


John's Japan Picture

Odaiba in Tokyo Bay

This summer I not only found myself on multiple college tours – the life of a rising upperclassman is truly exciting – but also with many chances to absorb information, culture, and experiences.  I was lucky enough to spend some time in Europe with my parents and, as is usual when it comes to our trips together, we spent our fair share of time in museums.  One of my favorite places to visit in London, our first stop, is the British Museum.  It is a humbling experience going there as I am always amazed by how much there is to see and learn.  Two of my favorite exhibits feature works by ancient Egyptians and Assyrians.  Other highlights included enjoying the history of Edinburgh Castle, Napoleon III’s apartments in the Louvre, and watching players tee off on the first hole of St. Andrews’s Old Course.


Friezes from the Parthenon, British Museum


Summer has been a wonderful time to spend quality time with my family and recharge the batteries, but as the beginning of the school year draws near, I am looking forward to going back to my second home, which is what Exeter has become for me.  There are so many exciting things waiting for us when we return to campus – seeing and catching up with friends and teachers, meeting the new students, going to the barbeque on our first day back, Opening Assembly, Academy Life Day, and so much more!  As a tour guide, I am also excited about the new school year bringing prospective students who would like to learn more about Exeter.  I hope to see some of you this year!

I was excited for summer to begin and now I am excited for school to resume.  Upper year – here we come!

Politics Come to Exeter

Hello all!  I hope you are enjoying some warmer weather than we are here in New Hampshire.  It has been a fun first half of spring term with lots of dances, performances, and other fun events, including a personal favorite of mine – crew races!  One process that just came to its conclusion on campus was the Student Council elections.  Each year, in addition to voting on class and dorm representatives, the student body elects an executive board for Student Council consisting of a president, vice president, and secretary.  As is to be expected, those elected will help lead council meetings and act as liaisons with faculty and the administration in the coming year.  We witnessed an exciting campaign this year with many posters, videos, endorsements, a debate, and even a rally!

Continuing with the political theme, one of the perks about Exeter is that we are located in New Hampshire.  “Why is that exciting?” you may ask.  Being in the first primary state, it means that Exeter is abuzz with presidential candidates and media outlets for a few months every four years.  Fortunately, many of the candidates who came to town worked their schedules around PEA’s class schedule, whether they planned to or not.  I was fortunate enough see Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and some of my friends were able to see Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush.  No matter your political affiliation, it is such a unique and interesting experience being able to see these political figures in person, shake their hands and hear their ideas.  Their arrivals also brought many discussions to campus in dorms, classrooms, and clubs such as the Democratic and Republican clubs.  Though there are disagreements on policies, this election has highlighted one of my favorite parts of Phillips Exeter – the fact that there are so many people from different places, with different backgrounds and opinions who can bring new ideas to the table, Harkness or otherwise.



Photo taken by my wonderful proctor, Caroline del Real ’16





Business Club Goes to Manchester

Business and pleasure are not two things that often go together.  Luckily for me, I was able to enjoy both last weekend at the FBLA New Hampshire State Conference.  FBLA, or Future Business Leaders of America, holds regional, state, and national competitions around the country.  After leaving the Academy early Thursday morning, the PEA Business Club was taken via buses to a hotel in Manchester where the FBLA conference was being held.  We checked in, put our bags in our respective rooms, and filed into the opening ceremonies as a group.  We were thirty among approximately three hundred students in all.  During opening ceremonies, we were introduced to our FBLA state leaders and we listened to a presentation on leadership and what leadership means in every aspect of our lives.

After lunch, there were workshops on leadership, caucuses for next year’s state leaders, and competitive events.  My teammate and I arrived early to our competitive event, where we were handed a case study and given twenty minutes with which to review it and come up with a business plan.  Our particular case study dealt with a small business and its plan of succession.  We were given seven minutes to speak (my teammate and I left all of 3 seconds on the clock!) and then there was time set aside for the judges to ask questions about our business plan.  Other competitive events included tests on topics ranging from economics to business math, impromptu speaking competitions, prepared speeches, and entrepreneurship product presentations.  We all enjoyed the events of the day, which culminated in a game night and dance.

The next morning, a few of us went for a swim in the hotel’s pool before preparing for the last workshop.  The morning swim was a fun way to start the day and a nice change from our school schedules.  After breakfast, the attendees were divided into groups and attended workshops on different charity organizations.  My workshop was hosted by a woman who works with the New Hampshire chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  She spoke about how schools and businesses can get involved in changing the lives of so many children deserving of a vacation from the problems they face every day.  It was so moving to hear her share some of the stories of children who had received wishes.  In the final meeting of the conference, with everyone in attendance, the woman from Make-A-Wish Foundation and representatives from other charity organizations received donations gathered by FBLA chapters across the state.

The FBLA conference gave our Business Club a wonderful opportunity to learn about leadership, to test ourselves on what we had studied, and to meet other future leaders from communities near our own.  Exeter had a very successful conference – many of our club members medaled and made the cut for the national competition this summer.  We look forward to this summer’s results and to returning to our state competition next year!

FBLA States

Why I Chose Exeter: Opportunity

To those of you who have been waiting for March 10, you’ve made it!  Now, you have a choice to make.  When I was in your shoes two years ago, it was a pretty simple one for me.  There were so many reasons why Exeter was the right choice for me and one of the biggest ones was that Exeter has so many opportunities just waiting to be explored.  When I flipped through the course catalog, spoke with my tour guide, and looked at the website, I knew that being at Exeter would open the door to many amazing opportunities.

This past summer, following my prep year, I was fortunate enough to take part in one of those opportunities.  I traveled to Japan with eleven other PEA students and the head of the Japanese language program.  Though I do not study the Japanese language, I applied for the trip hoping to learn from going somewhere I had never been and experiencing a culture very different from anything to which I had previously been exposed.  I lived with a host family and spent my days at a Japanese high school with the other Exeter students on the trip.  We also went on excursions to temples and markets and learned the language.  The trip gave me a chance to get to know some of my classmates better, to experience a different culture, and most importantly, to try new things, whether that be new food, new experiences, or navigating a foreign city alone.

Japanese Market

A market in Tokyo

Not only does Exeter have summer trips through each of the language programs, but you can also study abroad for a term or a year in Spain, China, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, etc.  There have been programs through the history department to Gettysburg and Nashville to study the history of the Civil War, and this past fall, there was a trip over Thanksgiving break sponsored by the Art Department to New York City.  Exeter can take you from Taiwan to Cuba, and many places in between.


The Exeter students with our host siblings and classmates on our last day in Japan

In addition to the extensive classes and trips that are available, there is also an immense variety of clubs and sports in which you can take part.  Having all of these opportunities available was one of the driving forces behind my decision to come to Exeter, and now that I am here, all I have to do is be open to them.