It’s 8pm in Hawaii as I leave for the airport, bags packed and ready to return to Swarthmore College for the spring semester. I have everything I need with me: my trusty laptop, stationery, winter clothing, OneCard, and a plain 2021-2022 planner. As I head through the TSA line and to my gate for the first flight in my Philadelphia journey, I reflect on the differences between the small town I grew up in and the college I go to now
It’s no surprise that Hawaii and Pennsylvania are two vastly different states with vastly different social cultures and climates. For one thing, I knew that Pennsylvania would be colder than Hawaii by a lot. But I also knew that Pennsylvania was somewhere new, somewhere I have never been before. In my family, I was always the one asking to visit places on Maui that my family has never seen before, so Pennsylvania was simply another frontier for me to explore. And it definitely was a new experience, from trips to the bustling city of Philadelphia to the quiet suburbs that surround Swarthmore.
Similarly, Swarthmore was another frontier for me to navigate, in both the academic and social sense. I grew up in a small town where people had multiple generations living under one roof, and I’ve only ever gone to public school. As one of the “Little Ivies,” Swarthmore was on the opposite end of the spectrum in prestige and socioeconomic class from the small town I grew up in. Despite this, I’ve found a place here because of the multiple different backgrounds showcased by the student body, a testament to the diversity on Swarthmore’s campus. This same diversity also exposed me to new ideas and issues from the local level all the way to the global level, sharpening my worldview as well as helping to shape my own values.
So, here I am now. I have a somewhat solid idea on what I want to major in and what I want to research at some point. I’ve also had a ton of new experiences since coming to Swarthmore, such as joining choir for the first time, or going into Philly’s Chinatown for some bubble tea or poke (something I’ve sorely missed from Hawaii, though Philly poke will never beat Hawaii poke). I suppose I could say that I’ve gotten the most from my Swarthmore experience so far, but there’s a lot more I can unlock. Perhaps I’ll do that after the pandemic.