Dorm Dive: The community spirit of Mary Lyon

Andrew Karas & Ben Goloff

Roommates Ben Goloff (left) and Andrew Karas (right) appreciate the dorm life in Mary Lyon. (Sera Jeong/The Phoenix)

Situated off campus and arguably closer to Wallingford than the town of Swarthmore, Mary Lyon is generally not the most popular of dormitories. However, for first-year students Ben Goloff and Andrew Karas, Mary Lyon is a perfectly suitable place to live during their first year of college.

Colorful welcome cards from Orientation Week remain pinned on the roommates’ door. (Sera Jeong/The Phoenix)

Before they moved in, both students were aware of the close-knit community of people living in Mary Lyon. According to Goloff, he was skeptical about the accuracy of the dormitory’s reputation until he began engaging in its intimate hall life. Goloff and Karas have observed that people who have never experienced Mary Lyon residential life express pity to them about where they live. This pity appears unwarranted, however, as both Golof and Karas have established friendships with other first-years in their dorm and even today they regularly eat dinner together as group at Sharples. Karas disputes the stereotype that Mary Lyon residents are comprised only of die-hard sci-fi fans. “There’s definitely a sci-fi/ fantasy contingent but we’re not really part of that,” Karas said.

As a violinist, Goloff’s biggest concern was the distance between the dorm and the practice rooms in the Lang Music Building. Now, the students arrange their schedules intending to be on campus for most of the day. “It makes for long days,” Goloff said. The distance doesn’t deter either of the students from their involvement with activities and clubs: they would be as involved regardless of dorm location.

Despite the impractical and time-consuming aspect of the walk from the dorm to campus, the students appreciate the distance. Goloff, who is originally from New York City, is accustomed to walking and enjoys living beyond a five-minute radius from campus. Karas, from the suburbs of Chicago, recalled commuting to high school by car and that the only walking required of him was walking from his house to the car door, and from the car door to the school entrance. Karas describes walking, rather than riding in a car, to classes as relaxing, despite not having anticipated the uphill incline of the walk.

Goloff, a musician, keeps on his sliding desk tray a miniature keyboard that he used to complete his music theory homework. (Sera Jeong/The Phoenix)

Living in Mary Lyon has exclusive perks, most notably the weekend meals served in the ML Breakfast Room. Before his arrival, Karas was under the assumption that breakfast would be served daily at his dormitory, so he was invariably disappointed by the reality. Nonetheless, he enjoys ordering blueberry pancakes and is satisfied that it is no worse than the food served at Sharples. Goloff too would prefer breakfast to be extended to weekdays but waits in anticipation for certain specialty items, which rotate every few weeks, such as lemon blueberry upside-down cake and popovers.

Because freshmen roommate pairings are designated by the administration, first-year roommates are not always compatible. Fortunately, Goloff and Karas describe each other as a great roommate pairing as well as friends. “We’re similar in a lot of odd ways but we’re pretty different,” Goloff said. Goloff admits Karas, being the neater of the duo, keeps him in check with maintaining orderliness on his side of the room. As for sleeping, Goloff recalled humorous incidents when Karas, a heavy sleeper, has slept through a half hour of alarms going off.

The decorative features of the room highlight each of the students’ distinct interests. Ornithology appeals to Goloff, a budding environmental studies and biology major. On his side of the room hang several posters of exotic birds, such as the Yellow-breasted Chat. His sliding desk keyboard tray stores a miniature keyboard that he uses to complete his music theory homework.

Karas is interested in cities and their contingent aspects such as government, transportation and urban planning. As part of an independent study he conducted last year on urban transportation, he looked into transit challenges where people attempt to navigate all stations in subway systems such as the New York City Subway in the shortest time possible. “People get obsessed with it. It takes like 24 hours,” he said. Karas, along with two friends, was one of the first enthusiasts to undertake the challenge in Chicago, completing it in nine hours and 57 minutes. Only one person preceded their efforts, narrowly beating them with a time of nine hours and 35 minutes. Karas was acknowledged for his work by the Chicago Transit Authority, which gifted him a personalized transit sign that prominently sits on his bookshelf. His story was covered by local papers and even NBC, which featured him on a 30 second news clip, according to Karas.

Evidence of Orientation Week remains in Goloff’s and Karas’ room, distinguishing their room as that belonging to first-years. Colorful welcome cards, handmade by their CA leader, remain pinned on their front door. On the windowsill sit potted plants distributed to first-years by the Scott Arboretum earlier last semester. “Our plants are [still] living which is surprising,” Goloff said, as the students left the plants untended over winter break.

Karas holds quibbles about the facilities in Mary Lyon such as the shower in the students’ shared bathroom, which runs cold in the mornings, and would prefer to live elsewhere in upcoming years. But for him, being placed into the dormitory as a first year has resulted in great friendships.

“It’s good for me to have lived here at least once during my four years,” he said.

1 Comment

  1. Nota bene! At Swarthmore’s Mary Lyon, we DEFINE ourselves as “not the most popular dorm!” Ben Goloff may be pleased to know that once icy morn I ran into an ML pal hiking to music class on campus. “What you headed to listen to?” “Cage’s 4′33.″” I told him to go back to bed. ML students look out for each other.

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