Location + Environment

I never really watched Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? or played any of the franchised games for that matter, but I am often asked where in the world is Swarthmore College?

So let’s talk location and environment.

The borough of Swarthmore, home of the college and a quaint town center. The town center where Chester Rd., right, and Park Ave intersect is shown with the clock at the Swarthmore SEPTA station on Nov. 5, 2013. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )
The borough of Swarthmore, home of the College and a quaint town center. The town center where Chester Rd., right, and Park Ave intersect is shown with the clock at the Swarthmore SEPTA station on Nov. 5, 2013. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )

Swarthmore College is situated in the town of Swarthmore, in the greater southwest Philadelphia area. My go-to heuristic to navigate campus is that Swarthmore is like a big rectangle with all the buildings on the perimeter and grassy expanses in the middle. Parrish Hall divides the rectangle, with (nearly) everything uphill being academic, and things downhill being social/residential. The train station and Swarthmore Borough mark the bottom of campus. With that train, it is a quick 25-minute SEPTA trip into Philadelphia, which is the first U.S. municipality to be named a World Heritage site (!!!), and has a myriad of places to explore and things to do. See past posts on Chinatown, Restaurant Week, Motown Philly, Philly Top 4, and dancing in the city!

PC: Hanyu Chwe '16
The view across Mertz field looking at the dining hall, Sharples. I saw this view everyday when I lived in Mertz last year. PC: Hanyu Chwe ’16

Being an arboretum, Swarthmore’s campus continually stuns me with its beauty. Any time the weather is remotely acceptable, I’m studying outside either in the iconic adirondack chairs that smatter the beach or just on the well-maintained grassy spaces. (Fun fact: I’ve heard that Parrish Beach takes it name from a past engineering April Fool’s prank in which tons of sand was brought in to cover the grassy expanse. Contrary to what one may think, Swarthmore has no literal beach, although it’s only a two-hour drive down to Rehoboth Beach in DE!) I keep meaning to read Alain de Bottom’s Architecture of HappinessThis book explores how characteristics of our physical environment influence our psychological wellbeing.

Bell Tower
It is always easy to pick out the bell tower, one of the best landmarks. Be sure to climb to the top before graduating. You can see all of Philly from the top!

My rural home in Massachusetts is not lacking in natural beauty. Just look at these photos from my last blog post! But no place is like Swarthmore. No place has such a high concentration of endless lovely places. Whether it’s the architecture of Upper Tarble, the Kohlberg courtyard garden, or the Crum Woods, Swarthmore is stunning. More than just beauty, it is the diversity of flora. The grand, tranquil, and powerful amphitheater has a very different vibe from the delicate, sweet rose garden.

One of my favourite paths on campus to walk. I typically traverse this area going up to LPAC, Science Center or Martin (Biology building).

I spent my summer at the University of Virginia. One of the main things it made me realise about Swarthmore is that we have no brick buildings. UVa was beautiful, in a very traditional, big school kind of way. But Swarthmore is special. It has a lot of character. Some people knock at the lack of architectural uniformity among our buildings. Personally, I love it. If I find myself mentally stuck or having writer’s block, sometimes all I need is a change of location.


There is an entirely different vibe if I am studying in our main library (McCabe), the music library (Underhill), or science library (Cornell). And those are just the libraries! In addition, there are spaces like the Science Center coffee bar, designated study spaces like the math/stat lounge, dorm lounges, and dorm rooms to compare. Each building is a world unto its own. I am so appreciative of Swarthmore for its campus and location. Its spaces give me the kind of space I need to think. It is a privilege to be surrounded by such beauty all the time, with both nature (Crum Woods) and city (Philly) in close proximity.

Swarthmore, you are beautiful.




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