Swat has many students from urban and suburban areas, but I did not expect the community to have such a diverse group of students from rural communities. The experiences and unique perspectives from my peers are voices that should be highlighted because of the important role that Swatties from rural areas play in the Swat community. I sat down with Thomas Callahan ‘22 to talk a bit about his experience coming to Swat from a small town and how that has shaped his experiences so far. We have a lot of overlaps between us: we are both first years; we took two courses together in Philosophy and Religion; and we share a similar love for country music.
Hometown: London, Kentucky
Favorite Spot on Campus: Empty Kohlberg Classroom to hang out
Fun Fact: I’m a Balloon Artist!
Chris (Interviewer): What is your hometown like? How would you describe your town’s community?
Thomas: It is definitely calm, and compared to urban areas it is small. We have one of the only Starbucks in that region of the state. London is in the foothills of the mountains. If you go 20 minutes in any direction outside of town, you end up going farther in the heartland of Appalachia. We are right on the interstate, which is a game-changer. You would never imagine that an interstate would be a game-changer in 2019!
Chris: What was your high school like?
Thomas: We have two high schools for the county, and most of our sibling counties have one. I would describe it as a typical high school, but I would say we have a few unordinary things. Like in freshman biology class every other Friday, we would clean the chew (or baker or dip) out of the lab sinks. I think that it is a microcosm of our culture at the high school.
Chris: Why did you choose Swat? How did you feel before coming to orientation, and was the transition easier or more difficult than you expected?
Thomas: I heard about Swat because one of my friends mentioned in November of my senior year that Swarthmore might be a good match for me. I am a first-generation college student as well, and ever since early in high school when those first few conversations about college began (and I think that this applies to a lot of first-generation college students), the location was not my top priority—we were focused more so on the best school and fit. Among the schools that admitted me, it came down to the culture of the communities at that point. I was so excited to come to campus before I came here for orientation. I did not feel lost when I came here, and having a group of people to bond with during orientation made the transition easier. One fear I had coming here was that it was going to be a bunch of city folk and I was concerned that others would look down upon people from a rural area—which is for sure not the case!
Chris: How do you describe Swarthmore to your friends back home?
Thomas: I usually associate Swat with Philly when I talk to friends back home. Very casual and simple.
Chris: Is there anything in particular that you wish your friends at Swat would know about London?
Thomas: London is the seat of the county. Which is fascinating because many people in the South do not refer to towns—we refer to counties. We are right near the original KFC location, which is our little claim to fame.
Chris: As a student from a rural community, what perspectives do you think you bring to campus with that background?
Thomas: In a way, it breaks up the monotony of the dialogue. People from urban and non-rural areas might be confined to a point of view as a person who has far more access. Regardless of financial status, they at least have proximity to access. Whereas if you are from a rural area, it is a separate world where that access is not on a similar level.
Chris: How does the town of Swat compare to your hometown? Is it bigger or smaller than you expected?
Thomas: On the outside, the quaint vibe is shared but once you go inside the boutiques at home, there is a unique Southern vibe. Farmers markets are common.