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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.