Hmm…: How answering a question as a tour guide led me to reflect on the friendships and people that matter most

As part of a team of student tour guides last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of prospective students and answering hundreds more questions through our Swarthmore Virtual Tours. One of my favorite parts of answering questions on these tours is that we get to hear about what pieces of Swarthmore you are curious about.

Some of the hardest questions to answer are things like “What is your favorite class that you’ve taken?”, “Who is your favorite professor?” or, my favorite:

“What is your favorite place on campus?”

Recently, I responded to this last question by saying: I’ll give you the short answer which is the Scott Arboretum, because if I let myself say anything more, I will talk about this for twenty minutes. Email me if you want the full list!

And to my surprise, someone did! A student emailed me the next day, writing, You said you would be willing to elaborate about all of your favorite places on campus. I would love to hear more!

Thank you so much to that student for inspiring this post, and for prompting me to reflect on why these spots are so dear to me.

Mary Lyon Dorm

  • Image shows the exterior of Mary Lyon dorm, a pale yellow and brown building with blossoming pink cherry trees in front of it
  • Image shows the exterior of Mary Lyon dorm, a pale yellow and brown building.

I have lived in Mary Lyon (or ML) for two years. It’s sort of known as the quirky dorm at this quirky school and I love it dearly. A 15 minute walk from Parrish Hall and the academic buildings, ML is a lovely, homey place. I really like that it’s a bit further from the center of campus; the short walk/shuttle ride has created a wonderful pause and space for me between home and classes.

We are the only dorm with breakfast, which is served on weekends. The dining hall serves normal breakfast on Saturday but opens at 10 am on Sunday with a lighter breakfast: offering things like cereal and bagels, but no eggs or hot food. With ML Breakfast starting between 8 and 9 am, many early risers, ML fans, and people who used to live here walk over for breakfast.

We hang out and do homework in the lounge on the weekends. The Mary Lyon Halloween party– known for fun crafts as well as snacks, mocktails (virgin cocktails), music and dancing– is the most fun I’ve ever had at a party. This year, one of my friends and I made Sesame Street characters at the cookie decorating table (see Oscar the Grouch above). My closest friends are people from ‘ML First’, or those fifteen of us who lived on the first floor my first year. Groups of us still eat together multiple times a week.

Sharples Dining Hall

I love that we have only one dining hall: Sharples. I routinely eat dinner over the course of three hours, sitting with several sets of friends. I spend a lot of time here. We call the three sections the loud/big/main room, the quiet room, and the back/middle room. I pick where to sit depending on what I’m in the mood for (some space and a quiet friend, an energetic group to pull me out of too-hungry-grumpiness, etc…).

The Admissions Information Session Room

Weirdly enough, this room is one of my favorite places because it’s so beautiful and the way the light streams in makes it a very airy yet cozy space. I wandered up to admissions at some point last year and stuck my head in and studied there for an afternoon because it was so beautiful and calm.

The Cherry Border and Lilac Garden

The cherry border and the lilac garden are just so gorgeous in the spring. As in, they are unbelievably stunning. They form this beautiful space almost like a park that is at the edge of part of campus. I painted the lilacs for my final project in my first art course and one time last spring I dragged my friends up the hill with takeout dinner from Sharples to eat in the cherry border.

The Amphitheater

The amphitheater is practically a required favorite place on campus. Just look at it!

The Math/Stat Living Room, AKA the Math Lounge

This is a space off of the mathematics and statistics department hallway. Two of the walls are blackboards and there are tables, chairs and couches where any students are welcome to study, hang out, or nap. I come here to look for friends or find people to walk to dinner with. It’s usually where I come first thing in the morning if I don’t have class.

My favorite places are favorites more because of the people I spend time with and the experiences I’ve had there. Yeah, campus is really beautiful, but the Math Lounge will stay with me after graduation because when I think of it, I will remember my friend Ghazi drawing a rickshaw climbing K2 on the chalkboard. I’ll remember spending time with professors and classmates at the math/stat department afternoon cookies and hangout time.

I’ll remember Mary Lyon by the first person I met there: my close friend Zoe who introduced herself to me (and joined me in my outgoing- and talkative-ness!) I’ll think of how proud my roommate Ellie and I were each time we cleaned up our room freshman year.

When I think of the amphitheater, I will remember looking up at the class of 2023 and being one of the first people to welcome them to campus as part of the First-Year Orientation Committee. I will smile at how Charlie and I tried to memorize the alma mater before our First Collection started. I will remember stopping on the trail for an hour to watch a juvenile red-tailed hawk eat a mouse less than 50 feet away.

I have two more years at Swarthmore, so there are bound to be additional and different memories that also populate these places. What I’ve realized today is that when I share my favorite places at Swarthmore I really end up answering the question:

“Who are your favorite people, where have you spent time with them, and where have your favorite Swarthmore memories taken place?”

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