- Class: Freshman
- Major: Biology
- Gender: F
- High School: Springfield Township High School
- Transfer Student: N
When I told people that I was going to go to Swarthmore, they thought I was totally crazy. Everyone warned me about the "super liberals" and the "weirdos" and the fact that the student body is "teensy." But I came anyway. The student body is super small, but I kind of like it. Even though knowing everyone and their mom kind of kills the dating scene, it's worth it that I can go anywhere on campus and know someone. I spend most of my time on campus in my dorm. I live in a pretty small dorm, and have really bonded with a lot of people in it. I think that the campus is kind of geographically divided. Most of my friends are either in my dorm or in nearby dorms. I think people have trouble branching out. Unfortunately, branching out is kind of necessary in Swarthmore, PA. The town, which we call "the Ville" is cute, but kind of sucks. It's always overrun with "Ville rats," teenagers that have nothing better to do than sit around on the streets. There isn't much to do there and I personally only use the bank in the Ville and the Co-op, which is an overpriced grocery store. Philly is great, but I'm kind of biased because I grew up there. My friends and I have gone to a bunch of art galleries and restaurants that were really amazing. Train fare is expensive, though, and most people never get off campus and go into the city. I can't really complain about the administration because I've gotten to know a lot of them through working for the Phoenix and really like a lot of them personally. That being said, they're really into raising money, raising awareness of Swarthmore, raising our admissions yield, and especially raising our US News and World Report rankings. There is not very much school pride and I have occasionally been berated for wearing my Swarthmore hoodie. Pretty much only athletes care about athletics, but there are a lot of athletes and some of our teams are actually really good. I'd say that the most frequent student complaint is lack of time. Everyone is so overscheduled here that they just don't have time to do what they really want to do (relax, sleep, shower, eat).
So far, I haven't really experienced anything that's felt like a "world class education." I took two semesters of Intro Bio, which were huge. The class is split up into labs, where the professor knows your name. Bio 1 was awful because my lab professor was a terrible teacher and also kind of mean-spirited, but I like Bio 2 much, much better. I've also taken Calculus and Stat, which were both typical math classes with limited professor-student interaction (although both professors knew everyone's name). I've taken two semesters of Spanish, which I loved. The languages here are really time-consuming because they meet every day, but so worth it because they really improve your study of the language. Last semester, I took a first year seminar, which was really good and probably my favorite class so far. It was called "Women and Popular Culture" and we studied novels and movies and other media designed for women. The Professor was amazing and I still talk to her to this day. Coming from a high school where I did minimum work for maximum grades, Swarthmore has really taken me down a few notches. I spend a lot of time studying, between 30 and 40 hours a week, aside from class time. Other students also study a lot, but I haven't encountered very many competitive people. Most people compete with themselves to do the best that they can, but usually people aren't concerned about how other students are doing. The education at Swarthmore can be geared toward getting a job. A lot of people, especially Econ majors and Poli Sci majors, and pre-meds, will go on to have great, lucrative jobs and Swarthmore will do whatever is necessary to get them to that point. I get the sense that most people go into some sort of graduate school after graduation to continue learning, but I don't really know that much about it.
Students are super aware in some ways, but not so much in other ways. People will be throwing around the words "hegemonic" and "heteronormative" when talking about gender oppression, but will have no idea what you're talking about when you mention the Elliot Spitzer scandal. We have a week for everything -- Class awareness week, coming out week, earth week, peace week, the list goes on. Most people here are middle class students who love to talk about oppression and injustice and want to help every poor person in the entire world. Most students are from Pennsylvania and New York, with a big population from New York City and a sizable amount of kids from the Philadelphia area. Almost everyone is liberal and being an extreme leftist is pretty much the norm. The College Republicans may be the least popular group on campus, but they do exist (after fighting for like two years). Very few people talk about how much they'll earn one day, most people think earning money is evil. If there were four tables of students in the dining hall, there would be the hipsters (men clad in super-tight jeans, girls in flannel and tights, listening to atonal music and discussing obscure art exhibits in NYC and even more obscure books, printed on an independent printing press in the Meat-packing district), the athletes (in their sweaty clothes, fresh from practice talking about how many men/women they "banged," how drunk they're going to get, how much they hate their "****gie/dykie" roommate), the kids that were mocked mercilessly in high school (usually wearing tye-dye, or shirts with animals screen-printed, or long, flowey skirts with those strap-on sandals, talking about video games and Dungeons and Dragons), students of color (generally dressed well, in clothes that reflect the fashions of the time, talking about different things -- movies, books, classes, life). (Sidenote: these are probably the four most sizeable and extreme groups, there are a lot of normal, average people at Swarthmore, and very few people sit at the same table or with the same people in the dining hall).
The Best Things
Knowing people everywhere I go.
The Worst Things
Intolerance of ideas -- leftists dismiss everything conservatives say and vice versa