One of the first things that incoming students learn about Swarthmore is that we LOVE our acronyms and abbreviations. We refer to Student Academic Mentors as SAMs; the Tri-College Consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford as the Tri-Co; the PPR Apartments as NPPR (in which “PPR” refers to the existing residence halls Pittenger, Palmer, and Roberts which sit across the courtyard from the newer apartment buildings, and “N” simply means “new”); and any Swat student or alumni as a Swattie.
In the spring of 2023, the Worth Health Center introduced a new acronym into the mix: SWELL, short for Student Wellness Educators. Health staff at the college noticed a disconnect between the student body and resources that they offer, so our group was formed to raise awareness about wellness topics amongst our peers. In our work, we seek to run workshops and engage in outreach on topics including sleep, stress, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, healthy sexuality, and so much more.
After our team training retreat in January, we started the spring semester strong by getting our social media pages up and running (feel free to follow us on Instagram @swatswell!) as well as promoting our weekly drop-in hours. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, a SWELL Team Member sets up the Wellness Lounge on the third floor of the Matchbox Fitness Center with bean bag chairs, a diffuser, and a relaxing playlist. The space is intended to be a place where students can come and take a break from anything academic-related. Students are welcome to meditate, do a puzzle, pick up some wellness-related goodies, or ask us any questions about health topics. It’s really nice to have that designated non-academics time in my day, and I’ve actually started scheduling in my own “mini brain breaks” after experiencing how restorative they can be.
Some of our more popular initiatives this past semester were our wellness workshops. We partnered with other student groups on campus (including RAs, Sexual Health Advocates, Green Advisors, and SwatDoulas) to organize educational events on specific wellness topics. A lot of these took place during Swarthmore’s first annual Body Liberation Week, which was created by multiple health-oriented student groups to explore how our bodies move through society and encourage opportunities to celebrate our bodies. We ran a sustainable menstruation workshop, a sleep and stress event where students got to tie-dye their own pillowcases, a sexual education pajama party, and even a panel on cultural perspectives of the body featuring multiple Swarthmore faculty members. Though I wasn’t working each of these events, I attended a lot of them and learned a lot about my own experiences and how those are impacted by the world we live in.
While I really love organizing and attending larger-scale workshops, my favorite part about working with the SWELL Team has been the more low-key, personal-level interactions I get to have with my peers. We initiated a light therapy lamp lending program, in which students who come to drop-in hours have the opportunity to check out a light therapy lamp to use throughout the week (this was especially popular in January and February, when the sun sets super early). I also got to table in the Dining Center to promote some easy wellness habits and hand out goodies after talking to students. All the SWELL Team Members get to pitch in to build our Spotify playlists, and a bunch of my friends have told me how much they enjoy listening to these playlists in the spots on campus that they were inspired by.
All in all, I had a wonderful experience educating my peers about health topics as well as learning about them myself. I was able to develop a better wellness routine for myself because of what I learned through this job, and I watched as my friends adopted similar practices and figured out what worked best for them. Even though Swarthmore can be a stressful place at times, it’s been truly transformative to center my own wellbeing and realize that my sense of self-love should never be sacrificed for academic success. Of all the acronyms that exist at Swat, the SWELL Team is the one I’m most proud to be a part of.