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This even sounds corny in my head, but the best thing about Bryn Mawr is that this is just a fantastic place to be. The Student Government Association is extremely strong, so campus life and administration are largely in student hands. It is not very often that students want to take up issues with administration, which is exceptional, because administration is largely students. The Honor Code, which prohibits cheating and stealing, is strong, so professors trust us to take self-scheduled, unproctored exams during finals period, and students never feel worried about leaving their dirty shoes in hallways and clothes on the drying rack in a laundry room. This may not seem like a big deal, but it feels great trusting your fellow students and having a college that trusts you; I have more than one friend who is at a college that treats students like the enemy.
After two years, Bryn Mawr has me entirely torn. On one hand, I feel that the academics are challenging and rewarding, and that I have had the opportunity to meet a number of bright, dynamic, interesting people in my peer group. However, I dislike the competitive nature of the school (Despite whatever the literature says about our honor code, etc eliminating competition, it seems like everyone is pushing for the best grade, and even to seem as if they are under the most pressure), and I have found that a great number of my peers, while highly intelligent and good-natured, are rather immature and closed-minded. The social opportunities are also lacking; I've often told friends at home that I feel that I am not having the normal college experience, and I mean that in a negative sense.
Bryn Mawr really is a great place, and I honestly love it with all my heart. I get all the time, "OMG Whyyyy are you at a women's college?!?!" but it really doesn't phase me. One of the greatest things about Bryn Mawr is its relationship with nearby Haverford. Granted, the schools were closer before Haverford started admitting females, but they still share a lot of academic programs, and most social offerings on the campuses are open to all students. I always try to explain how great it is living with women. Honestly, my guy friends who live at Haverford are FILTHY! I love them to death, but I would HATEEEE their mess. Bryn Mawr is just WAY cleaner. And have you checked out our dorms? There is NO way to go wrong...you will ALWAYS live in a castle...with its own cleaning people! My housekeeper last year actually found us bowls to mix Jello in (for Jello shots, although I'm not sure she knew that) The staff, faculty, and administration are GREAT, and go above and beyond for us. President Vickers (the now-retired President from last year) and I had a great relationship...she frequently commented on how much she loved my ballet flats. Its such a small school that you CAN have relationships like that, even with the College President!
Freshman year Bryn Mawr felt like the perfect size. By Sophomore year it felt too small. By Junior year I left to study abroad for both semesters. I spend most of my time on campus either in my room or in the library, generally studying. A lot. When I tell people I go to Bryn Mawr, I get a genuine mixture of reactions. I live in California, so more often than not people in my home town haven't heard of it. But in the wider world of academics, I get met with quite a few "oohs" and "ahs", followed often by questions about it being all women.
The best thing about Bryn Mawr is the student body. People are friendly and often hold doors open for one another even when it isn't expected. One student who swipes meal cards in the dining center even asks how diners are doing and tells them to enjoy their meal. I like the smallness of Bryn Mawr. I don't think that Bryn Mawr is well-known outside of the Philly area, but since I'm from this area, when I say that I go to Bryn Mawr people reply that I must be smart. The campus is absolutely gorgeous. The Customs Program for incoming students is a great way for first-year students living on the same hall to get to know each other and their two sophomore mentors. I just wish that the quantity of schoolwork was reduced so that I wouldn't have to see everyone look so stressed.
Bryn Mawr is sort of a funky place. It is tiny, and everyone knows everyone's business. Most people are shy and smart. There is a lot of school pride, but it's manifested in unusual ways: for instance, athletics at Bryn Mawr are pretty ignored, but if you attend an acapella concert or a meeting of the Student Government Association, school pride abounds. Bryn Mawr has several big traditions, Lantern Night, Parade Night, Hell Week and May Day, which are intended to boost school pride and camaraderie, and to hearken back to our founding sisters. It's a cool place; very liberal, lots of opportunities to create and find yourself. You never have to fit into just one niche here, because niches don't really exist here. Every time you go looking for a stereotype, you find another contradiction, another exception to the rule. You can be anyone here; you can be yourself.
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