Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
While some Swatties were still sleeping in until twelve and playing Internet pong far into the night, the freshman class was diligently preparing for the impending college experience. Orientation, a week-long tradition taking place before the first week of classes, provides new students with a taste of campus life and a welcome chance to meet fellow first-years.
While such pedestrian activities as placement exams and departmental meet-and-greets made up the bulk of most days, many freshmen say that their favorite activities were such events as the ice cream social on Tuesday night or the following day’s “Speed Meeting,” a platonic version of the now popular speed-dating phenomenon.
Other memorable events included a tea with College President Alfred Bloom, a faculty panel, and even a waterslide. First Collection featured talks by history professor Pieter Judson, Swarthmore borough mayor Eck Gerner, and President Bloom. Patrice Berry, Class of 2006, also imparted invaluable advice gleaned from her three years of Swarthmore. Many other administrators spoke before the freshman class; College Dean Bob Gross gave the group his memorable mantra, “Whatever you say or do to me, I am still a worthwhile person.”
Between the many lectures, workshops, club meetings, and the challenging freshman registration process, future Swatties spent much time with their Campus Advisors (CAs). These older students trekked to the College a week early to lead activities and tours, as well as to candidly answer any questions about student life. They led the “frosh” through campus tours, computer orientations, and even the all-important swim tests.
Writes CA Lesley McNiesh ’08, “I really looked forward to going to CA events and spending time with our group. It’s a shame orientation week isn’t longer…It was certainly better planned and organized than the orientation for ’08ers-you could tell the Orientation Committee] members put a lot of work into it.”
One of the most memorable experiences for all CA groups was the traditional Trust Walk, which took place on Friday evening. The hour-long walk, during which CAs led very blindfolded freshmen around campus and to a campfire, ended with a new tradition, the communal burning of students’ past faults and foibles (written on shreds of paper), symbolizing the new start first-years hope to make at college.
At night, movies, music, and plays abounded. Thursday’s “Orientation Play,” a satire on MTV’s “Real World” featured original songs, witty dialogue, dance numbers, and even some advice on college. An open-mic at Paces on Saturday night entertained a packed house. Talented freshmen sang, read poetry, recited stories, played guitar, and lead sing-a-longs (who knew that many 18-year olds knew the verses to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”?). And of course, there were the many dance parties, loud and pulsing with energy, angst, and the occasional cheesy 80s song.
Many remember the week fondly, “They did keep us very busy” says Matthew Tilghman ’09. Freshman Marina Isakowitz ’09 adds, “Next year, definitely get name tags, it makes people less hesitant.” Associate Dean for Student Life Myrt Westphal applauded this year’s efforts, “I think the balance between fun and ‘getting to know each other’ was really there. As always, the freshmen astonish me.”