Finding Your Why

From Andrea Lirio


As the end of fall semester nears, one of my first college courses is also ending. The THRIVE seminar, a course that all first-years take to aid in the transition to college, is just 10-weeks long but we’ve covered a lot. We’ve discussed time management, mental health, the power of confrontation, and any questions we’ve ever had through our transition into college. In our most recent class, they gave us a worksheet with “Kick-Ass Questions About Life” for us to consider as we prepare to start our second semester. Here are a few of the questions:

  1. If you had a chance to be known for something special or unique, what would it be? How do you feel you contribute (or could contribute) to society?
  2. What is your biggest fear? What’s the thing that scares you the most in life?
  3. How would you define success? And what would success look like for you?
  4. Who do you want to help? Who would you like to inspire? Whose lives would you like to change?
  5. What do you REALLY want for your life?

The list of questions goes on (you can see them at the bottom of this post), and I didn’t know my personal answers to most of them. What did I REALLY want for my life? What would I want to be known for? Who would I want to inspire? I couldn’t bring myself to answer them. While I’ve thought about my future, I had never thought about it in those terms. Looking around the room, I wasn’t the only person who wasn’t able to answer all of the questions. I sat in shock. I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly yet. I didn’t know what I wanted in life yet. These questions are hard for anyone to answer – a mother or father, a writer, a scholar, a doctor – let alone a first-year college student.

I still don’t have the answer to all of the questions, but that is ok! Normally, not having everything figured out causes stress; trust me, I know all about it. I try to plan my life to a T, but I’ve realized I can’t plan everything because, even if I do, life happens and my plan doesn’t go perfectly anyway. While it’s much easier said than done, I’ve tried to be better about managing the uncertain. The fact is life is uncertain and we have to roll with it. It would be nice if we could answer all of these questions confidently, but it’s natural to not have perfect answers that will reflect the future. The best part about asking these questions is that is gets your mind moving. Where would I like to be in 5 years? 10 years? What would I like to see myself doing? How does what I’m hoping to achieve relate to what I’m doing right now? I’m genuinely glad that my THRIVE has provided a space to ask these questions and begin answering them. We all came to the same conclusion that life is uncertain, but you should think of everything you do with some sort of purpose. How does what I’m doing now add to what I may do in the future?

I’m also glad and relieved that Bryn Mawr has provided a space where it’s ok to be uncertain. I wish someone had told me that more in high school. I wish someone told me that I couldn’t plan everything earlier on in life and then continued to remind me of that. For example, the college process is something I planned for forever. Where would I go to school? What college had the best courses for me? Where would the best environment be? I wish someone just sat me down and said, “Hey, finding the right place for you is a process, applying for different colleges is a process, picking a college is a process, living is a process, everything is a process.” This sounds extremely corny and cliché but here it goes: Everything is so uncertain, and it’s the uncertainties that make life so amazing.


Using this exercise to consider all the things that are important to me.

While I don’t have the exact answer to define what my why is, I have the right tools to get me there. Take a look at the questions! They are amazing guiding questions to get your brain working. Keep asking questions!

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Lantern Night 2018

Each fall, the Bryn Mawr community gathers in the Cloisters to welcome the first-years into our academic community during one of our most hallowed traditions, Lantern Night. Lit only by the light of student lanterns and surrounded by the crisp autumn air, this tradition has an ethereal quality that is hard to explain. Students don black robes and sing Greek hymns, swaying their lanterns back and forth. First-year students are entrusted with their own lanterns, symbols of wisdom and knowledge, from sophomores. The ceremony revolves around the idea of passing knowledge from generation to generation.

Even though there is a special emphasis on first-year students, everyone benefits from Lantern Night. We asked Andrea ’22 and Celine ’19 to share their thoughts about the tradition.

Q: What were your expectations for Lantern Night?

Andrea: I didn’t know what to expect other than that I knew I would come home with a lantern at the end of the night. Lantern Night, for me, meant I was officially part of the community. I’ve completed my first quarter of college and now I’m starting the second. This event marked a transition from being a brand new first-year to being a full-fledged college student. 

Andrea ’22 getting ready for Lantern Night!

Celine: I feel like it will feel really surreal that the next lantern night will be introducing the green class (my class color). Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but every year I see the exchange of what the other Bryn Mawr classes represent (light blue is 2016 and 2020, red is 2017 and 2021, dark blue is 2018 and 2022) but I’ll never see the next green class because I’ll have graduated!

Celine ’19 receiving her lantern as a first-year in 2015.

Q: What was your favorite part of Lantern Night?

Andrea: My favorite part was lining up and walking into the Cloisters itself because I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I would go home with a lantern, but I didn’t know what awaited me within the Cloisters. The most beautiful part was standing in the Cloisters under the starry sky. It was a picture-perfect event – runners bringing lanterns to each student in the dark, upperclassman singing a song in the background, and being surrounded by my class.

Dark blue lanterns await the Class of 2022.

Celine: My favorite part of lantern night is definitely seeing all the lanterns lit up in the dark. The first-years all line up and as each lantern gets individually delivered to each first-year, the group is slowly illuminated. Lantern Night also features all of Bryn Mawr’s class colors, but the first years’ color is really emphasized to celebrate them and welcome them to campus.

Q: How did you feel after Lantern Night?

Andrea: I felt at home. Lantern Night is amazing because it brings everyone together. Not only are you surrounded by your entire class through the process, but you’re also welcomed by upperclassman, which is extremely heart-warming. The entire experience is magical – receiving your lantern, taking pictures with your friends outside of Taylor, and waiting for your lantern’s light to finally go out. I genuinely can’t believe I’m here at my first year of college. I’m officially a Bryn Mawr College student.

Andrea holds her dark blue lantern. Anassa kata!

Celine: There’s a moment at the end of lantern night where seniors walk through a tunnel of underclassmen. It’s sort of a way for people to send off the senior class and celebrate their last year at Bryn Mawr – that was probably the point in the night where it really hit me that I’ll be leaving Bryn Mawr. It also hit me that I’ll really miss how Bryn Mawr traditions bring the community together and create a really special bond among those who have/are attending the college.

Q: What role do you think Lantern Night plays in the Bryn Mawr community?

Andrea: On Lantern Night, hundreds of us first-years gathered in the Cloisters to receive our lanterns, to be welcomed into the Bryn Mawr community. Lantern Night symbolizes the passing of the light of knowledge from one class to the next. This year, Class of 2022, my class, received dark blue lanterns with notes saying, “Welcome Home,” attached with dark blue strings. Lantern Night brings everyone together. Every year, the first-year class is welcomed, and it’s amazing to think about how many students have worn the black robes before you, how many classes Lantern Night has welcomed, and how next year, you’ll be welcoming a new class yourself. It’s an amazing continuous circle.

Celine: Lantern night represents the passing of the light of knowledge to each new class at Bryn Mawr. The lantern is also one of the many iconic symbols of Bryn Mawr (see the picture below of sophomore year me posing with a giant Bryn Mawr lantern during our Defy Expectations picnic). It’s also a really special tradition that simultaneously welcomes the first-years to the Bryn Mawr community and says goodbye to seniors as they begin many of their “lasts” at Bryn Mawr.

Celine and a giant lantern at the Defy Expectation picnic.

Click here to see more photos from Lantern Night 2018. Anassa kata, Class of 2022. Welcome home!

Freshman Year vs. Senior Year

From Celine Chen


Arriving at Bryn Mawr in August of 2015 as a freshman, I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and simultaneously terrified. This was such an exciting new chapter of my life that would allow me to grow so much as an individual, but I was also scared of the challenge it presented — transitioning from attending high school and living at home to being across the country living by myself. It’s definitely a process, but I’ve learned and grown so much over my past three years in college. I wanted to share some of the differences between freshman year me vs. senior year me.


The Blue Bus transports students between Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.

Freshman year
I was pretty nervous about the idea of taking a class at Haverford and Swarthmore when I was a freshman. I was just starting to figure out life as a college student, far away from home, at Bryn Mawr and trying to navigate another college seemed like too much. I did go to Haverford for a couple of events but every time I went I felt nervous and like I didn’t belong. So, my freshman year, I took only Bryn Mawr classes.

Senior year
As a senior, I don’t see much of a divide between the two colleges. I think part of it is attributed to the fact I’ve been here for so long that I feel really comfortable. I only started taking classes at Haverford my sophomore year. I took Chinese, which is actually a Bi-Co department so half of my classes were at Bryn Mawr and half were at Haverford. It was a nice introduction to what it was like taking a Haverford class because the class had a lot of Bryn Mawr support (I had 2 professors and one was BMC based while the other was HC). My junior year I took 2 classes at Haverford and it was no big deal: I would eat lunch in the dining hall between classes, go back for office hours or TA sessions, and it just became part of my routine.

I would say I’ve learned not to be intimidated by the fact that Bryn Mawr is one institution and Haverford is another. The colleges have their similarities and differences, but what’s important is making the most of your college career. Take classes that interest you and are helpful and take advantage of the variety of events that are held at either college!


Views from my Math 295 class (senior year).

Freshman year
I came into college thinking I was going to be a Biochemistry major, but over time my major interest has changed a few times. I remember logging onto Bryn Mawr’s course catalog and seeing so many classes that sounded incredibly interesting and thinking “wow I can’t wait to explore some of these different classes even though I’m a STEM major” (one of the beauties of a liberal arts curriculum). I had a fairly well-rounded freshman year first semester course load (I took Poverty, Affluence, and American Culture, Greek Sculpture, General Chemistry, and Calculus 2). I was a little intimidated by the idea of taking two lab courses at the same time which was why I chose to only take General Chemistry and not Chemistry and Intro to Biology. In retrospect I think this decision worked out well for me because I got to explore different academic disciplines at Bryn Mawr, and I also knocked a few General Education requirements out. That being said, I know a lot of people who took two courses with lab components at the same time and they lived to tell the tale.

Senior year
Now that I’m a senior, I’m taking more specialized classes for my major. However, I still have room in my schedule to complete my major and take one “fun” class outside of my major if I choose to. As a STEM major I like to break up my schedule a little bit with a non-STEM class to make things a little interesting. My “fun” class for this semester is an Anthropology class on agriculture and farming which has been pretty interesting so far!

Looking back at my freshman year, I think taking a variety of classes also helped me decide what I wanted to change my major to later on in my career. Since I had inadvertently taken courses that set me up for my current Math major, it seemed like a natural path to choose that was still in STEM but was about a subject matter that was more suited for me.

Feel free to explore all types of classes, especially during freshman year. I think taking a variety of courses your first year can help you really solidify on a major that you feel confident in when the time comes. Also take advantage of “shopping week” the first week of classes where you can check out as many classes as you’d like before finalizing your schedule.


Taking advantage of the Restaurant Week menu at Chez Ben in Philly.

Freshman Year
I think you can sense a pattern here, I was a bit of a scaredy cat my freshman year. There are certainly plenty of Mawrters who were more outgoing and adventurous as a freshman than I was. I went into Philly a handful of times my freshman year, but I wish I had gone more. I really enjoyed going to Campus Philly my first weekend (ever) of college to get a brief introduction to Philadelphia. I also went into Philly during Restaurant Week which happens two times a year in which select restaurants offer a fixed menu for discounted prices!

Senior Year
Since this is my last year in college, I really want to take advantage of the fact that Philly is such a big city and explore the culture and social scene there. My friends and I plan to do at least one fun thing off campus each weekend. Coming back from a semester abroad, I have a fresh perspective and new appreciation of Philadelphia. There’s so many places to eat, see, and visit! There are also a lot of resources (such as Visit Philly) to stay up to date on events going on in Center City.

Keep an eye out for interesting events in Center City. There’s a big chance you’ll be interested in a lot of events on campus but feel like you don’t have time to go to everything, which is okay. It’s all about striking the right balance between exploring Philly and managing your school work. But keep in mind that taking time to go out with friends or by yourself is an important form of self-care 🙂

Personal Growth

Freshman year vs. Senior year.

Freshman Year
I definitely came into college wanting to be open-minded to new experiences and possibilities. But, I think I was overwhelmed by the amount of decisions you make every day as a college student (should you just skip class and catch up on sleep? Should you go to that event today that might be useful for career development or finish up an assignment? Should you go out with friends or stay in and watch a movie?). The possibilities for talks, events, and things to do are endless and it was difficult for me to strike the right balance between self-care, social life, and career/academic life.

Senior Year
My semester abroad really changed my perspective of who I am as an individual and how I want to present myself and live my life (but more on that in another post). As a senior, I have become more reflective and, I think it took some time, but I am finally open to new experiences in a way that I was too cautious to truly be before. I have also taken on a few different leadership positions this year which has been a fun way to meet new people and see people outside of an academic setting. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to prioritize something that you want to do over school work, because otherwise you may end up burning yourself out early in the semester.

It’s okay to come into Bryn Mawr/college life nervous. It’s also okay to come in with a plan and have a sense for what you want to do and accomplish. I think my past three years have taught me to be really open to change. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs throughout my college career, but I think those experiences have really shaped me into who I am today. I have also really appreciated how warm and welcoming the Bryn Mawr community is. If you’re willing to put yourself out there, there is always someone at Bryn Mawr who will support you.

On Homesickness

From Andrea Lirio


If I’m being honest, I haven’t been particularly homesick yet. While many of my peers are homesick – calling their parents and siblings daily and crying over missing home-cooked food – I have yet to feel that way. Personally, I feel prepared and excited. When my parents and siblings left me at Bryn Mawr on move-in day, I was beyond excited — I felt ready. I was thrilled to get to meet new people, explore campus, and learn about a new area. My mom and dad message me every day and call me – usually during the worst times of the day – to check in. Through September, I reassured my parents that I’d see them again during Fall Break in October.

Believe it or not, Fall Break is here. The semester is flying by faster than I thought it would. I feel like I’ve been on campus for years when in reality I’ve only been here for six weeks. It’s crazy! Building up to Fall Break, I realized it’d be weird not waking up in my dorm room, getting ready in our communal bathroom, doing my laundry every Friday, and getting meals in the dining halls with friends. While I’m not homesick in the sense that I feel like crying, I do admit that I’m excited to go back home and see what’s changed.

Things I’m excited for when I go home for Fall Break:

  • DRIVING. I knew I wouldn’t have a car on campus, but I never realized how much I’d miss driving. At Bryn Mawr, I tend to walk or take public transportation to wherever I need to go. It’s been a great experience learning how to use the trains and buses and learning different walking routes to the essentials: CVS, Starbucks, Wawa, Hope’s Cookies, etc. While walking is great exercise, I’m excited to go back home and drive around town again!
  • MY DOGS. I am so extremely excited to see my dogs again. My mom, dad, and siblings have been sending me pictures and videos throughout the last month and a half, but I’m excited to see them in person. If I ever saw a dog on campus or while on a walk with friends, I’d always ask the owner if I could pet them. I can’t wait to go back home to my two fuzzballs and cuddle up with them on the couch.
  • MY HOUSE. Our house is under renovation, and my parents send me photos of the progress every week. When I left, we didn’t have a kitchen at all and resorted to college-style living – a fridge and microwave. They told me that the kitchen would be complete once I get home for Fall Break so I’m very excited to see the final product and break it in! I also can’t wait to see the other new changes like the exterior and new furniture arriving! It’s so strange that it’ll all be different than when I left it when I come back home.
  • THE KITCHEN. I can’t wait to be able to use a fully equipped kitchen again regularly. While I love the food at the dining hall and the convenience – not having to prepare anything and always having a variety – I’m excited to be able to bake again. Friends at school have even asked me to come back with some baked goods so we’ll see what I can do!
  • MY TOWN & CITY. I’m also excited to see my town and the city of Boston again. While I’ve loved exploring Bryn Mawr, other suburbs similar to my town, and the city of Philadelphia, I can’t wait to see the people and places I grew up with and how they’ve changed or how I’ve changed.

Although I wouldn’t classify myself as homesick, I have to admit there are things I can’t wait to see when I get back home to Newton, MA.

Why making friends shouldn’t be on your list of college concerns 

From Andrea Lirio


Before going to college, I worried about a lot of things – how to decorate my room, how to balance work and life, how to make new friends, etc. Believe it or not, you’re not alone in these worries. That’s the great thing about your first year of college: everyone is new; everyone is in the same boat as you.

Making Friends at Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr offers great ways to meet new people – from orientation activities, customs group events, formal counseling groups, and interest group meals. Even if you don’t partake in any of the activities above, there are always friendly faces in your dorm hall looking to grab a meal or take a seat and talk for a while in the common room.

I made my closest friends on campus thus far from orientation week. We just started talking with the super basic, “My name is Andrea. What’s your name?” introduction. We didn’t have to try hard and impress each other. We didn’t have to pretend to be someone else. We just started talking openly about our interests; and every day, we continued to share more about ourselves. When you’re open and honest, you can create the best friendships.

Being Alone

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about eating alone. It’s true. In college, you’ll find yourself in the dining hall without a friend to chat with while you eat. Don’t feel like you’re the only person going through it. I’ve eaten alone in the dining hall a fair number of times and have seen many others in the same boat. It’s true … eating alone sucks sometimes. “What if everyone in the dining hall thinks I have no friends? What if I really don’t have any friends? How do I eat without looking awkward? Would looking at my device make it less awkward?”

Answering the questions above, sometimes you don’t have time to find someone to eat with when you have back to back classes. Sometimes it’s hard to line up schedules with your friends. Sometimes your friends have already eaten and have other things to attend to. There are so many reasons why you may find yourself sitting alone in the dining hall. But honestly, there’s no shame in that. At Bryn Mawr, you can make the most of your experience sitting alone. You can introduce yourself to someone new or simply relax in having some you time. When I sit alone in the dining hall, I always bump into someone new or someone in my class. While we may not be the best of friends, it’s a great opportunity to get to know someone else and pop out of my bubble.


All in all, making friends in college can be daunting, but it’s not impossible. If you’re willing to be open and honest about yourself, you’ll find people interested in learning more about you. Being in a small, close-knit community has its perks too. The community at Bryn Mawr is unlike any college I’ve visited before; everyone is so interested in learning more about your life and helping you be your best self. So next time you make your list of worries and concerns, cross making friends off the list because you’ve got it in the bag by just being yourself.