College Corner: A very enthusiastic pair of class of ’10s!

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.

We have all been in their shoes at some point… anxiously awaiting the fall of our freshman year, not sure what to expect, nervous about the future and excited at the same time. We talked with Urooj Khan and Joel Swanson, two members of the recently decided class of 2010, about what it has been like to await the Swarthmore experience, as well as what they like to do while they are still at home. They are both very enthusiastic about coming to Swat in the fall and they definitely seem like they will fit in quite nicely.

Daily Gazette: How did you feel when you got your acceptance letter? What were you doing before you got it?

Urooj Khan: My acceptance letter came earlier then I expected — I thought it would arrive on Dec. 15th, but it came on the 14th instead. As luck would have it, I was stuck at work until about 9PM that night, and knowing that my letter was waiting for me at home was completely nerve-wracking. When I finally got to the letter, my fingers were literally shaking. So when I saw the deposit envelope fall out, I just about fainted from relief.

Joel Swanson: Actually, the day I got my acceptance letter I didn’t get to go home from school until around 8:00 or 8:30 at night, because I had to stay late to help put together the school newspaper, of which I’m editor-in-chief. I probably wasn’t much help in putting the paper together that night. I was so nervous I could hardly speak. When I finally got home and picked up the letter, I don’t even think I could open it right away because my hands were trembling so much out of anxiety. When I finally did open the letter, I think I was too shocked to even react. I had to blink a few times to make sure I wasn’t just dreaming. Even then, I don’t think it quite hit me yet that I had been accepted until at least a week later. Sometimes, even now I think I must be dreaming and I’ll wake up soon, haha. Actually, by the time I opened the letter I think I was really worn out from all the anxiety, so I couldn’t really react as strongly as I probably would have otherwise. I, did, however, immediately call my friends and relatives to give them the good news.

DG: What are you most looking forward to about coming to Swat in the fall?

JS: Well, the first thing that comes to mind that I’m looking forward to is an intellectually engaging environment which will stimulate me and challenge me to think harder. I feel like I’ve gotten most of what I can out of high school academically. I’m also looking forward to being on a campus where students really care about actively engaging the outside world. Social causes are very important to me. Of course, if I had to pick one thing that I’m most looking forward to about coming to Swat, it would definitely have to be the other students, hands down. Just via the Internet forum, I’ve met tons of amazing people who I’m sure will have a lot to offer as members of the Swat community. These people really are some of the most inspiring people I’ve met. So yeah, here’s a shout out to my fellow members of the Swarthmore Class of 2010!

UK: Meeting all of my fellow Swatties! I’ve met a lot of the Tenners online, and we’ve formed a pretty close knit group. Everyone is what Admissions always promised they would be– smart, passionate, excited about learning, diverse, friendly…I’m really excited about meeting everyone else as well and getting to know them.

DG: Do you have any ideas as to what you want to study here?

JS: If I had to guess now, I’d probably say it would be either Sociology/Anthropology, History, or Political Science. I might also consider a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies or Interpretation Theory, and I’m also very interested in Asian Studies, Islamic Cultural Studies, Latin American Studies, and Women’s Studies. But really, that could easily change if I take one class in a discipline to which I haven’t previously been exposed and discover that I really love it, so who knows? I could end up as a Film major by the end of freshman year.

UK: Everything? I know I want to be on the pre-med track, but beyond that, everything appeals to me. History, Literature, Political Science…perhaps some Arabic….Linguistics….I don’t know! I have no idea how I’m going to choose just four classes for my first semester.

DG: Have you visited Swat before? What did you like best about it?

UK: I’ve actually visited twice, and loved it more each time. What really struck me about Swarthmore is how everyone is genuinely excited to be there. The administrators, the students– they were all very personable and eager to help out and answer questions. I really did feel a strong sense of community. Beyond that, the intellectualism of the campus, the commitment to social justice/ethical intelligence– these things about Swarthmore, I think, stood out for me.

JS: Yes, I’ve been to Swat twice before. I became interested in it due to the positive press attention that the school received due to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s coverage of the Genocide Intervention Network. As soon as I set foot on campus, I knew it was my dream school. Putting aside the physical beauty of the campus, the student body just had a social and intellectual vitality that I didn’t sense at many other schools. The students I talked to only reinforced my desire to be a Swattie. I came back to campus to have my Student Interview. I’ll be back on campus for the third time later this month for Ride the Tide, for which I am extremely excited!

DG: What’s your favorite activity to do outside of school?

UK: Hmm…just one? Mock Trial is my one of my loves, but I hear Debate is more popular at Swat. For non-academic things, I’ve recently started playing Badminton and I’m also teaching myself how to sew, which is a lot of fun.

JS: I would have to say political and social activism. It’s very important to me to be an actively involved member of the larger global community, and it gives me great satisfaction to feel that I’m doing something positive for other people, be it through work with Amnesty International or any other organization with which I’ve been involved. I play the bass guitar, and I would love to find people to play with at Swat! Music helps me express myself. I also write a lot of poetry for the same reason, and I’m really into independent film. I’ve tried to make some myself, but they didn’t exactly turn out so well!

DG: What’s something interesting about you that people don’t know yet but should know?

JS: Hmmm….I don’t know if you’re looking for some deep dark secret about my past here, but I suppose I’ll say that people have told me that when I choose to, I can have one of the most frightening faces they’ve ever seen, which strikes many people as surprising since I’m usually pretty docile. Also, I have a weird thing for second-hand clothing stores, and I was voted “Most Likely to Lead the Revolution” by my senior class.

UK: Hmm…well, I was born in Pakistan, and lived there till I was about 5 or 6. I still spend many of my summers over there. Also, I’m secretly engaged to Jon Stewart. (Okay, maybe people shouldn’t know about that…).

DG: If you could have any question answered about Swarthmore what would it be?

UK: What was the most difficult part of adjusting to Swarthmore/college life in general? If you could give your pre-frosh self one piece of advice, what would it be?

JS: Hmmm….Maybe, is the workload really as bad as everyone says? Or, maybe, is Swat really the best school out there? Oh, wait, I already know the answer to that one, haha.

DG: McDonald’s or Burger King? (I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume Sharples isn’t your favorite place to eat…)

UK: Well, seeing as I spent a good portion of my youth jumping into the (highly unhygienic, I suppose) ball pits at McDonald’s, I’ll go with that. And also, I’d just like to say, at Sharples, you get ICE CREAM with every single meal– how could it possibly be that bad?

JS: Haha, to be honest I’ve never been to either of them that I can remember! Fast food has never really been my thing. Actually, I really enjoy cooking meals myself.

At Swarthmore, Urooj and Joel both joined the Gazette staff. Urooj went on to become News Editor (2007-2008) and Joel was a leading compiler of world news.

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