Ode to Willets Hall

Willets has been described in many ways. Swarthmore’s website suggests it is a “lively” on-campus living option. Former Resident Assistants claim the dorm is an embodiment of what the pass/fail first semester allows. For myself, Willets was the heart of my first-year experience. An experience formed by the people Willets pushed me to meet and the involvement Willets enabled me to have.

My dorm room on move-in day

As a primarily first-year dorm with an official occupancy of 213, living in Willets as a first-year meant I shared the residential space with a little less than half my class. It was with subsets of those people, I went to first-year orientation events, partook in my first Sharples sit (a 2-3 hour experience that simply involves sitting in Sharples conversing with friends), took the train into Philadelphia for the first time, and figured out the inner workings of the Willets laundry room. Being surrounded by other first-years as a first-year pushed me to meet people I may not have otherwise crossed paths with.

First of many walks along the Schuylkill River

Willets certainly provided the people who helped frame my first year, but it also provided the space. A common space on each floor, as well as the nearby Mephisto’s Lounge, served as meeting places for all the dorm’s residents and friends. The lounges were always filled with people having movie nights, working on art projects, practicing musical instruments, the occasional napper, and periodic study sessions. As an added bonus, these lounges are located in the center of every floor, so they were the nucleus for hall events that either occurred organically or were planned by one of our Residential Peer Leaders (Resident Assistants, Student Academic Mentors, Green Advisors, and Sexual Health Advocates).

Willets third floor lounge

That being said, every dorm has its quirks. I choose to focus on the positive aspects, but in the nature of transparency and ensuring a well-informed reader, I feel the need to warn you of the notable struggle associated with life in Willets: Willets Hill. If you mention Willets Hill to any former residents you will likely be met with a shudder and perhaps an eye roll or two. While not formally named Willets Hill, the steep forty-five degree incline (this may be a bit dramatic) immediately adjacent to the dorm building had me questioning everything on my 5 minute walk to the academic buildings. Though I concede the picturesque view of the Off-Campus Study Office and its koi pond improved the trek up the hill, marginally.

Willets Hill (I promise it is steeper than it looks)

At the end of the day, I would not trade my experience living in Willets 307 for anything (yes, that includes air-conditioning). After all, in some way, shape, or form, Willets is connected to all my favorite memories from that first year on campus.

My dorm the day I moved out