A day in the life of Sophie Corbett ’24 means a full stack of academics, extracurriculars, and social interactions. Though some would find it difficult to keep up with her packed schedule, she keeps an optimistic outlook on life, which fills her with all the energy she needs to get through the day.
Though Sophie was born in New York City, she hails from Ashland City, Tennessee, which has a population of roughly 4,500. She chose to come to Swarthmore because she wanted to be part of a more diverse community while still having a close-knit group of people to call home.
“I was deciding whether to come here or go to NYU,” she said in an interview with The Phoenix. “It was a really hard decision for me, because while I really wanted to experience what it was like living in a big city and having so much culture and unique experiences at my fingertips, I was scared at the prospect of just being another stranger in a crowd. I decided that Swarthmore was a happy medium because while it’s a super small school, it’s only a stone’s throw away from bigger cities like Philly and D.C.”
She said that back home, many of her family and neighbors had never heard of Swarthmore in their lives.
“Most of my friends went to the University of Tennessee or Belmont, so everyone was basically asking me why in the world I would choose to leave everyone I knew to go to a tiny school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania,” she said, chuckling. “Nobody from my hometown had even gone here before, as far as I know. To be honest, I had never heard of Swarthmore until I checked my spam folder and saw all of the weird emails that they send to students. After I checked out the website, I knew it was a school I wanted to learn more about.”
Clearly, the weird school from the emails ended up being a place that Corbett could call home.
She is currently a cognitive science Honors major with a second major in biology and an honors minor in psychology. Her three fields of study keep her on her toes, and she can often be found on Cornell first furiously typing away on a lab report or in the basement, revising her color-coded notes. Her dream is to be a professor of biology because she wants to help make S.T.E.M. more accessible to students like her, who grew up in small towns with schools that lacked robust science education.
“Starting college was really difficult for me, especially with the all-online format that made it so much more mentally taxing to ask professors and TAs for help,” she said. “The school I came from didn’t offer any advanced science classes, so I was stuck barely knowing what the Krebs Cycle was while many of my classmates had already done fancy research at nearby universities. One often-overlooked facet of underrepresentation in S.T.E.M. is that it’s so difficult for students like me from rural areas to feel equally qualified to our urban peers. Even more so when you’re a woman.”
Even though Corbett’s academic schedule is stacked with classes, labs, and TA sessions, she still makes time to unwind through doing art. She found an interest in dance during her first semester at the college, when she took Modern Dance I to fulfill a P.E. credit. Since then, she’s continued to take dance courses to learn more about ways to create art with her movements. She stated that she would pursue a dance minor, but the college won’t allow it since she already has two majors and a minor.
She recalled, “I had never really learned anything about dance before coming here. I had watched videos of ballet and all that, but I never had any interest because all of the high-society-type dance I had seen just looked so stuffy and stiff. I fell in love with modern dance because it involves the fluid, interesting forms of motion that represent me best as a person.”
Corbett is currently on the editorial board of the Review, sews with the costume shop, and works as a research assistant with the biology department. She said that her friends have described her as “Miss Swarthmore” because of her involvement with such a diverse array of campus activities.
“I guess I do a lot,” she said, “but I don’t really see it as a big deal. I came to Swarthmore for more academic and extracurricular opportunities than I would have had if I stayed back home, so it only seems natural that I’m taking advantage of so many of them.”
Though Swatties often gripe and groan about the options available in on-campus dining, Corbett expressed gratitude for all of the options she has to choose from. She has been vegetarian for ethical reasons since she was eleven and appreciates everyone’s willingness to accommodate people with dietary restrictions.
“Back home, it really sucked being vegetarian. I’d go to close friends’ barbecues over the summer, like people who knew that I didn’t eat meat, and there would be absolutely nothing that I could eat other than maybe a few slices of watermelon or potato salad. Even then, I would get made fun of all the time for my diet. Here, no one really cares.”
Still, in her free time Corbett likes to try out new recipes, especially for challenging desserts. She has ample space for her culinary creations because she currently lives in an NPPR apartment with five of her close friends.
“I was personally thrilled when I saw that we got the NPPR block in the housing lottery over the summer,” she said. “I like to cook a lot, and though I loved the convenience of living in Wharton and Parrish for the past couple of years, the shared kitchen setup was just not conducive to cooking as often as I would have liked. I recently tried to make a kouign-amann, but I just filled the apartment with a ton of smoke because the butter started burning!”
Sophie is ecstatic that the 2021-2022 academic year has marked a return to almost-normal life and that she can finally start enjoying college the way that she intended when embarking from Ashland City to Swarthmore.
“It’s been absolutely incredible seeing everyone’s faces again and not just as a tiny box on a screen. I’ve made a million times more friends this semester than I did in the past two because we can actually interact again, and I’ve already made people promise me that they’re going to visit me in Tennessee over Spring Break.”