Distance from home is something I always considered when I was looking at schools. Coming from Easton, PA, I looked into schools near my house like Moravian College, Lafayette College and Lehigh University. Lafayette, another small liberal arts college, is just six blocks from my house. And for a moment, I thought of applying to Pomona College and looking into a few other colleges in California. Ultimately I decided that schools far away would be a hassle. First, it bothered me that I would have to fit everything I need for school into two suitcases and carry-on luggage. I couldn’t possibly part with all of my guitars.
Second, I knew I wanted to get away from home and discover new places, but I didn’t want to feel like I was completely out on my own. For this reason I crossed those schools off my list.
Swarthmore, being about an hour’s drive from home, is the perfect distance from my home. My family can visit me easily for all of my mariachi shows, club soccer games, and orchestra performances. However, for certain members of my family, this ended up being more of a ‘con’ than a ‘pro.’ My cousin gets annoyed every time I invite her to my orchestra concerts. She probably wishes I went to school further away. In the past, she has gone to almost every orchestra, marching band, and jazz band concert for both me and my brother since we were in elementary school. Considering how much she dislikes these types of music, it was a lot, almost too much, for her. I guess she thought that when I left for college, she would get a break from the boring concerts. But lo and behold, Swarthmore is within driving distance! Now she is sentenced to four more years of concerts and shows until I graduate. Still, she sits in the back of Lang Concert Hall so she can text her friends and browse Facebook without disturbing the rest of the audience.
Being close to home is always great for those times when I get homesick. It’s pretty inexpensive to travel back home, especially compared to some of my friends who need to fly halfway across the world. It’s easy to visit home for family events like birthdays, recitals, and weddings. Just a few weeks ago, I attended my second cousin’s preschool graduation. Its nice to know that if there is ever an emergency, I’m just over an hour away from home. My mom always drops off groceries or home-cooked food when she visits or passes through Philadelphia on her way to DC, Maryland, or Virginia. I still get some of my mom’s favorite dishes, like craw fish etouffée, or I’ll get some authentic West Indian food that she makes so often. Sure, Caribbean bar at Sharples is great, but it’s no match for my mom’s cooking.
I definitely wanted to get away from my old high school, but at the same time, I didn’t want to lose my best friends. Swarthmore turned out to be the perfect option because it is easy to stay in contact with my friends from high school. Many of them also ended up going to school in the Philadelphia area. My best friend (and Prom date) now goes to Drexel. We get to hang out all the time and do tons of cool things in the city. Last semester we went to the Theater of the Living Arts to see the Flatbush Zombies and Underachievers perform in concert together.
Frequently, I’ll take the train to University City and meet him for lunch or he’ll come to Swarthmore to attend our free campus events, shows, parties, and concerts. A lot of my friends from high school like to visit me at school because it’s not too far, and because Swarthmore is a cash-free campus. When Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan performed at Swarthmore for Worthstock, my friend came for the free show. And last year, my friend and I were able to go see the rapper Angel Haze perform at Haverford College for free.
The train station on campus keeps us networked into the larger community of city-schools in Philadelphia even though we’re in the suburbs. I can get to UPenn and Drexel in less than 30 minutes, and to Temple University in 40 minutes so I can visit all my friends there and stay in contact with my old friends going to school in the city.
I wanted to hold onto the things I love about home, but still have the independence and freedom of moving away. At Swarthmore, I can stay in contact with my best friends from high school and hang out with them occasionally, and I can easily make it home to visit family. I’m learning to live in a new, exciting environment that’s far enough away from home to get the freedom I wanted as a college student, yet I get the security and comfort of knowing my family is close enough to help me out when I need it. Swarthmore’s location is the perfect combination of sentimentality and convenience for me.