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.
After being admitted into the class of 2019, the fear of not being able to become a Swattie quickly transformed into the fear of becoming one. It was partly about the challenging academics, partly about being away from home, but mainly because of the social aspect. Time to face the big, daunting question: how will I make friends?
Born with the talent of being socially awkward, I knew that I had to take every available opportunity to makes new friends at Swarthmore. So when the time came to fill out the housing questionnaire, I chose “First-year Intentional Community” as my preferred floor without hesitation. I thought that being surrounded by freshmen — who must similarly adjust to the new social environment — would be an excellent chance to secure a circle of friends (or at least acquaintances).
On the new students move-in day, however, my floor was surprisingly very quiet. As it turns out, my roommate and I are the only two freshmen who were assigned to our mixed-class floor.
Although mixed-class housing was not what I initially hoped for, I came to love it over the past three weeks. I came to realize during the transition period that:
1) Upperclassmen can become my friends, too. Before coming to Swarthmore, I imagined that there would inevitably be a divide between different class years. I underestimated the degree to which I was influenced by the culture embedded in my Japanese middle school and high school, which had a strict hierarchal relationship between upperclassmen and underclassmen. I realized that here, at Swarthmore, my concept of “friends” does not have to be confined to the first year students; it can extend past my own grade.
2) Upperclassmen have a reassuring aura of composure and stability (regardless of whether they themselves think they actually hold such qualities). Everyday, when I come across an upperclassman in the hallway, we have conversations about our classes, clubs, and anything else that is going on in our lives. Just from talking, I can sense their relatively stable outlook on life at Swarthmore. During this hectic transition, it is reassuring for me to be around those who seem to know what they are doing and can convince me that “it will all work out in the end.”
3) Getting to know other first year students is not so difficult, even in a two-freshmen-only-housing. Climbing down the stairs or going to the lounge is all it takes for me to talk to other first year students.
4) No matter how many freshmen live on the floor, one will receive equally heavy academic and residential support. The description in the housing questionnaire states that freshmen only housing “provide(s) programs that cater specifically to the needs of first years, such as academic and social resources.” However, this applies to mixed housing as well. I honestly cannot be any more grateful for the support I am receiving from my wonderful RA and SAM.
The mixed class housing is a precious experience — one which, I believe, is not offset by the benefits of first year intentional housing.