Swarthmore is a place of many firsts. During the school year, it was my first snow day, pride parade, sociology course; my first time on a SEPTA train. The most important first was before the semester even began. Going to college was my first time traveling out of state in five years.
To accomplish this feat, we decided to drive. It took 15 hours to travel from Central Florida to Swarthmore.
When we finally arrived on campus, I was feeling a mixture of emotions. Excited, confused, and above all, nervous. It was the Sunday before orientation and the campus lacked students. The arboretum’s trees were imposing giants. I felt meek in comparison. Being a shy person in high school, I wasn’t sure how I’d fare during freshman orientation week. Placement exams? A swim test? (Spoiler alert: I survived.)
I thought the first day would be a lot more anxiety-inducing than it really was. After all, I had been hyping up for it since the beginning of the summer. While struggling to read a campus map at DuPont Parking Lot, one of Swat’s deans walked by and noticed the concerned look on my face. Without hesitation, she introduced herself and offered to walk my family to Parrish Hall. And later, while we walked away from Parrish, an alum and his family gave us a mini-tour of campus. I hadn’t expected to be in a place so receptive, but by the end of the day I knew that I was welcomed here.
Arriving early to campus gave me the means to adjust to such a large change. That Sunday, the people I met were always eager to help, even if I might have been quiet and reserved. At a time when college wasn’t in session, Swarthmore’s residents and staff were still there, able to offer guidance.
Since then, I’ve grown comfortable at Swarthmore. Although I hadn’t memorized the whole campus map, I felt oriented enough for orientation week. I’m grateful for those I met on the first day, and I hope to spread the same positivity that I received—whether that be in giving directions or a smile.