Watching more and more buds appear on the bare tree branches, until one day they aren’t so bare anymore. Walk-running down the steep Willets hill, gravity forcing your legs into a jerky gait. Laying down on Parrish Beach during a warm fall afternoon and whittling away a few hours there, surrounded by the grass and the sky and the drifting voices of students passing by.
The soaring glass windows in Singer Hall.
The little Latin name tags accompanying each plant on campus.
The quick sharp moments of understanding that strike when you’re in class, when you’re tucked away into a problem set, when you’re debating with friends.
The first bite into a perfectly crisp apple from Sharples.
The whimsical campus traditions, like Pterodactyl Hunt and Screw Your Roommate.
The solid firm heft of a textbook.
(The knowledge that you can pay for said textbook with college TAP funds instead of your own money!)
Before coming to Swarthmore, I wondered if life here consisted of anything other than neverending projects, readings, tests. Upon learning about the term “misery poker” (a phenomenon when Swatties brag about being stressed), I questioned if maybe I should’ve committed to a more relaxed school. I’d spent my high school years mired in overachieving hustle culture, and I certainly didn’t want my college experience to be marred by the same blind arrogance and performative intellectualism.
So Swarthmore surprised me. By no means is it a lax school where everything’s easy and pleasant. But Swarthmore’s a far, far cry from the oppressively hyper-academic school that I’d heard it was. There are simple moments of joy everywhere at Swarthmore, small reminders to slow down and savor the days one moment at a time.
Here on this campus of gray stone and arching tree branches, I’ve challenged myself to think and write more rigorously than ever before, yes. But I’ve also built friendships grounded in idiosyncratic quirks and mutual trust, sampled the quiet bookstore pleasures of Philadelphia, learned to sing and speak German and construct short stories, found myself dragged into new interests I never would’ve imagined myself enjoying. All this, in the span of only a few months
I’ve tasted creamy omelets in the Ville, napped on plush pillows at Underhill Library, and heard soaring echoes of sopranos rehearsing a duet. I’ve seen exhilarating rows of calculations scrawled on the walls of whiteboards in the engineering building. I’ve met friends who have the boldest, funkiest personalities I’ve ever encountered. I’ve ventured into Philadelphia and eaten sweet ripe mangos with whipped cream and crepes.
And best of all, I know that I have so many months left here at Swarthmore, so many more opportunities for tiny samplers of happiness.