Having grown up in Swarthmore for the entirety of my life, I would like to think I’m at least somewhat attuned to the culture of the borough of Swarthmore, which is comprised of approximately 6,000 people (a number that includes the College’s student body). My family receives a copy of the town’s newspaper, “The Swarthmorean,” every week, and I am guilty of having spent a fair share of my weekend nights eating in Renato’s Pizza. Although I was, at one tragic stage in my life, spending my Friday and Saturday nights hanging around the town of Swarthmore, I would like to think I was not a nuisance to college students. Now, having the perspective of a student at Swarthmore, I cringe at the ways in which I elected to spend my time. The adolescent, license-less middle schoolers (‘Ville Rats’) who loiter outside of Dunkin Donuts on any given Friday night, though, misrepresent the constituents of Swarthmore, as ‘Swatties’ often find ourselves immersed in the lovely community of Swarthmore. And even though I thought I knew everything there was to know about Swarthmore, I repeatedly find myself doing something new each weekend.
The first experience that comes to mind when I think of engaging with the townspeople of Swarthmore is a tradition that the Men’s Basketball team participates in a few times each semester: PB&J night at a local church to feed the homeless. About once a month, our team congregates at the Swarthmore train station—which is conveniently located at the foot of campus—and together takes the five-minute walk to a local church. Once we arrive, we slap on latex gloves, divide ourselves amongst the various tables, and let the fun commence. No, the fun component of this outing is not actually making hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but rather conversing with the citizens of Swarthmore and other students who are willingly serving. I think what makes this experience unique is how invested the community of Swarthmore is in the lives of the College’s students. On one occasion, an older man talked with me and a few other teammates about our team’s basketball success, and he expressed how grateful he was to be able to witness a Division III Sweet 16 and Elite 8 come through the small town of Swarthmore. Another time, we found ourselves making sandwiches next to a Swarthmore professor who teaches Environmental Studies, which was lucky for a teammate who, at the time, was considering taking classes in her department. Aside from sharing laughs with familiar faces, service opportunities like these leave you with a sense of fulfillment and allow you to branch out and strengthen your connection to a greater community.
While Swarthmore is indeed a small town, there are countless social avenues to explore in the area, whether it be in Philadelphia or Swarthmore. After all, I’ve lived here for about 18 years and I still entertain myself every weekend. Some popular happenings that students enjoy in Swarthmore include the Swarthmore Farmer’s Market that is held every Sunday morning, the Food Trucks that pop up once a semester, and Quizzo, which is hosted once a month by the Co-Op. Obviously, the opportunities offered by Philadelphia augment the Swarthmore experience, and the accessibility to the city (a 30 minute train ride) encourages students to capitalize on Swarthmore’s prime location.