Dear freshman quad of Wharton AB 101,
Currently, I’m sitting at a recliner at Gate D6 at the Philadelphia International Airport, the same airport I flew into in August to move into my new school. Most of my belongings are in storage in Swarthmore; I just have 2 large suitcases that are probably being loaded onto the plane right about now. My best friends are all on trains or planes or cars going on their respective paths home – two to New Jersey, one to Boston, one to Illinois, and one to Mumbai. My home for the past year (Wharton 101) is empty and lonely; soon, you guys – the new freshmen – will move in and hopefully restore its vitality. That room was the center of our lives last year; we shared tears with each other after move in day, celebrated birthdays, spent late nights cramming for finals, FaceTimed sad parents, did face masks on Sunday nights, brought new friends over. Here are a few reflections and recommendations that I picked up throughout my freshman year.
Add photos to the room of your friends and family from home. Tell you roommates about who you were in high school and about the people that have informed who you are today. Tell them about your best friends, your siblings, your parents, your pets. Maybe even introduce them on move in day!
Spend time in the Wharton Courtyard! It’s one of the most calming and beautiful spaces on campus – even if the bees do get a bit too up close and personal for me in the spring. Attend the barbecues that people host in the area and on sunny days, bring your work outside and relax by the benches. On less busy days, bring out music and your favorite snacks. My quad and I were particularly partial to chocolate ice cream cones and Fleetwood Mac.
Invite friends over to the quad. You’re lucky, you have a larger room than most freshman on campus. In the beginning of the year, everyone’s social life is a bit shaky; people miss their parents and old friends and putting yourself out there to a class of around 400 is never easy. If you meet a cool person in your computer science or ceramics class, introduce them to your roommates as well! Sickeningly cheesy but true: the more, the merrier.
Now, on to the more general advice and reflections…
Take classes that don’t come as naturally to you. I am a self-proclaimed humanities person, but this past semester I dabbled in computer science (CS 21). While the course was extremely challenging for me and the “accumulators,” “for loops,” and “while loops” gave me nightmares, I’m so glad that I challenged myself and dove into something unfamiliar. That’s the beauty of a school like Swarthmore – even though I’ll probably major in economics, sociology, or art history, I was able to take a computer science course.
Take time and get to explore Philly. Even though the 20 minute train ride might seem like a long journey or the 30 page reading from sociology might seem more important, make sure to venture into the city every now and again. Explore the museums (I personally recommend the Barnes Foundation), try classic Philadelphia food spots like Reading Terminal, visit the colonial tourists sites (Venturi’s Franklin Court is a nice spin on preservation architecture), and wander the streets of City Center.
Attend the various events on campus. While Swarthmore is a tiny school, the campus life is abuzz with different perspectives, voices, and community groups. Attend Enlace’s pub nights for fun dancing to Spanish pop. Stop by poetry readings from different English classes. Join protestors for issues that are important to you. If singing is your thing, join an acapella group like Grapevine or Offbeat.
Moreover, begin your freshman as open-minded as you can possible be. Be open to meeting new people, learning in a different environment, living without your family, trying new foods, listening to music from new cultures. Embrace the newness.
Elena, rising sophomore and former resident of Wharton 101