Mawrter’s Guide to Stress

I’ve reached that point in the semester when I can’t go a few days without someone casually making note of how many weeks remain. That single digit sum is truly terrifying. Now, that huge research paper that once felt so very far away is suddenly looming, quite clearly, on the horizon. While I’m certainly not exempt from this sensation, with several finals periods behind me, I’ve been able to develop a modest survival guide.

1. Water, tea, coffee.

I didn’t start drinking caffeine until college, but I still like to reserve the heavy stuff for extreme circumstances only. I always carry a full bottle of water to try and stay hydrated (especially when I impulsively decide on that second slice of Haffner pizza). Green tea not only has ton of health benefits, but it also provides a more manageable dose of caffeine to help get the morning started. Coffee is strictly reserved for finals.

2. Wake up early.

This took me forever to get the hang of, but it really does help. My freshman year I made the foolish decision to have French every morning at 9 am. Suffice to say, it was not ideal. Since then, I’ve had the leisure of having later classes, but I still find it beneficial to schedule myself for work shifts in the morning. This helps me regulate my cycle so I don’t oversleep and gives me a few hours to get moving before class. Also, the egg station at Erdman is top notch if you’re up early enough for it!

3.  Don’t stay up all night. 

I get it. There are times when one must simply do everything. But I also know from experience that I just stop being productive after 2 am or so. My brain turns to mush and I’m forcing myself to stay awake despite zero productivity. Go to bed. Your body needs sleep and you can always try to wake up early in the morning (the adrenaline rush helps!). All-nighters really mess with my system for weeks, so I try to avoid them if I can help it.

4. Slow down before bed.

Although this isn’t always plausible, try to save 15-30 minutes of personal time before bed. Maybe read something purely for fun (aka not assigned for class!), watch a little Netflix, do stretches, etc. I recently received some kava tea in a care package that’s been doing wonders. It’s incredibly soothing and stress-relieving.

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5. Stock up on snacks!

Snacks are a womyn’s best friend. I always try to grab an extra piece of fruit or two from the dining halls, but I’m also a fan of nuts and trail mix. It’s not too messy, but helps tide me over late at night.

6. Bonus tip: Eat ice cream on Carpenter beach!

In the warmer months, get a cone of soft-serve to-go and walk it over to Carpenter beach. It’s a great way to relax and get a few minutes of vitamin d before plunging into the depths of the library.

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While everyone has their own system of survival, I wish I would’ve known at least one or two of these as an incoming freshman. Coming from a rural public high school, I honestly never had to try very hard to get my work done. Since arriving at Bryn Mawr, I really had to evaluate my work pattern and time management. Though I still like to sleep in here and there, these small changes have made a huge impact in my daily wellness and self-care.

Bryn Mawr is Forever

The past couple of weeks have been some of the most trying and rewarding I’ve experienced at Bryn Mawr. I had a thesis draft due last Friday, but I had the misfortune of discovering my file had become mysteriously corrupt. Luckily, I had a previous version saved, but I lost about two days worth of work. I’m grateful to have such a compassionate thesis advisor (who is also a BMC alum!), but it was definitely a taxing way to wrap up a stressful week of late night carrel sessions.

That said, I also received a more welcomed surprise: a fully stocked thesis care package! An alum from 2001 read my blog and sent me an amazing assortment of snacks, treats, and other self-care items. Alison and I have never met, but since starting my Bryn Mawr blog last year, we’ve corresponded a few times over social media about our college experiences. The package caught me totally off-guard and left me utterly verklempt. It’s moments like these that remind me how special this community is. Thesising can be the worst, but Bryn Mawr is the best.

“Bryn Mawr isn’t plastic, it isn’t nylon, it’s pure gold.” -Katharine Hepburn ’28

Surprise care package!

Surprise care package!

P.S. You can read all about Alison’s post-BMC adventures in her blog, Diary of a Dairy Queen.

Carrel Musings

As I plod away at writing my senior thesis, I’ve been having some late night carrel musings about my time here at Bryn Mawr. While it is bizarre to think these four years have slipped past me, I also can’t help but feel utterly and truly ready. While I’ll still be on campus a little next year to finish my MA in History of Art, I have fully accepted my impending departure from undergraduate life.

Carrel Still Life

Carrel Still Life

I know it will be strange not living in Radnor after four years of roaming her halls and avoiding stains on her couches, but I’m also excited to be living independently and never using another command hook. As a first-year, I remember thinking how perfect my life at Bryn Mawr was. Overall, that sentiment has rung true. Bryn Mawr is a special place, but every chapter must reach an end. At the time, I didn’t understand why the seniors in my dorm didn’t simply gush over every minute of every day. Well, now I get it. I’ve had those years of wonder and awe, and while I still feel bursts of that original sentiment, I also feel like it’s time for Bryn Mawr and I to move into the next phase of our relationship.

As a high school senior, a defining moment in my decision to come to Bryn Mawr was a student-led panel during accepted students weekend. Most of the students were active leaders or athletes, but the one student who grabbed my attention wasn’t any of these things. She was, in a word, a Daria: laid-back, not overly excited, but totally earnest in her comments. She talked about taking $5 busses to New York on weekends, going to concerts, and taking things as they come. I don’t remember her name, but I wish I did, because I’d want to thank her. I’d want to thank her for proving to me that it’s okay to be your own independent person and for, in her own subtle way, securing my decision to come to Bryn Mawr.

While I think the message of independent, original thinkers rings true for many students on campus, when concepts are actually challenged, people often lose sight of encouraging discourse and would rather focus on readily-accepted methods of expression. As I prepare to finish my thesis, and in turn my senior year, my one hope for this community would be for students to not give up on challenging themselves and leaders on campus. This place is only as great as you want it to be.

With that, I leave you with some wise words by Daria herself -

 

“Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”

A few weeks ago, I discovered a particularly intriguing blog post by Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections about a book co-written by Emily Kimbrough ’21 and Cornelia Otis Skinner ’22. Titled “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay,” it follows the authors through their post-grad European adventures. Though certainly a charming narrative with an interesting legacy, this text possess a more personal connection for me.

“Our Hearts Were Young and Gay” was one of my mother’s favorite books as a 13-year-old. Growing up in Wisconsin, my mother had no connection to Bryn Mawr, but somehow got a copy of this book and fell in love with it. Even as an adult my mother continues to collect books by Kimbrough and Skinner. I remember her frequently telling me about it during my adolescence (“It has kind of a funny name now, but don’t let that deter you!”) to try and pique my interest. Despite coming to Bryn Mawr by chance (I applied on a whim!), Kimbrough and Skinner’s stories seem to follow me. My mother is constantly reminded of subtle anecdotes in the book (like the swim test!) that she would’ve never picked up on otherwise. It’s strange to think of my mother discovering this book so many years ago to me living in the dorm featured on the book’s press photo (see below).

I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t read the book. One of the setbacks of thesising is having very little time for much else (save for a the occasional Netflix binge), but it’s my first order of business post-Commencement. I mean, besides securing a job…

Courtesy of Bryn Mawr Special Collections

Finals Recap

While it felt impossible at the time, I did finish my fall finals and live to blog about it! Luckily all of my essays were about topics I was genuinely invested in, but even so the tasks at hand felt daunting at times. As a first-year I couldn’t even fathom writing 40+ pages during a finals period, but I’m grateful to Athena for slowly but surely guiding me up to this point. No matter how many hours I spend in my carrel, there’s something rewarding about holding that huge stack of papers in your hands.

Everyone has their own studying style, but I think it took me until sophomore year to really fall into mine. I went to a rural public high school in Maine where strenuous studying wasn’t a regular part of my routine. Bryn Mawr has pushed me (in a good way!) to not rest on my laurels and really challenge myself in a way that feels productive and engaging. Perhaps one of the greatest things about a small liberal arts college is that no matter your academic background, there are resources in place to help you succeed and reach your potential. I’ve grown so much as a student and I attribute much of my success to Bryn Mawr.

But that’s not to say I didn’t manage to fit in some fun, too! No matter how hectic everyone’s schedules seem to get, my beloved Radnor always finds time to take our annual holiday photo.Though a relatively new tradition, I think it definitely has staying power and is a welcomed break to studying!

Wintry sunsets from my dorm window

Wintry sunsets from my dorm window

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Mawrter (S)hero

One of the greatest takeaways from my Bryn Mawr experience is undoubtedly the friendships and connections I’ve made with other students. Because dorms incorporate all students (there isn’t just a “senior” or “first-year” dorm) and traditions involve cross-campus inclusion, I’ve often found that some of my closest friends at Bryn Mawr aren’t even in my own class. This is especially true of members in my sister class. A sister class is created between every other year (for example, as a dark blue 2014, my sister classes have been light blue 2012 & 2016). Though it’s hard to watch friends graduate, I’m relieved to know our friendships haven’t deteriorated and that I always have someone to visit when traveling, especially in DC, New York, and Boston.

It’s also exciting to see what adventures people are up to post-graduation. One member of my “big” sister class (2012), Kady Ruth Ashcraft, was an active member of Lighted Fools, the Bi-Co improv comedy group. She even took classes at Chicago’s Second City for a semester in her junior year (a productive and unique spin on going abroad). Since graduation, Kady’s been active in New York’s comedy scene, complete with performing in an all-ladies improv group, writing for College Humor, and producing videos. She’s also a really great friend. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but these two recent videos are very good and, as one might expect of a women’s college alum, relevant.

 

I’m IN the band?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of my goals for senior year is to push myself to do things academically and socially I’ve been too shy or uncertain to previously attempt. One of Bryn Mawr’s most transformative aspects is its ability to give students the tools to become more empowered and active participants in their lives and communities. In addition to writing a thesis, my academic capstone of pushing myself in new ways, I’ve  made similar efforts socially, like establishing the Radnor Film Institute.

However, one of my biggest accomplishments happened last weekend: I played my very first concert with my very first band at a sold out show! I’ve always wanted to play bass in a band, but never felt confident enough in my own skills. Over the summer I read that DIYPHL (an independent group in Philly that works to foster the DIY community) was hosting an event called First Time’s the Charm. The goal of the event was to have a showcase of all new bands featuring members who had either never played an instrument before, played in a band before, or identified as female, queer, or a person of color. I was able to group together a few friends, including a fellow Mawrtyr, and thus, Calamity Jane was born. We performed two original songs and a cover. It was completely nerve-wracking, exciting, liberating, and, well, amazing! We even got reviewed by Pitchfork’s Jenn Pelly. She writes, “And so, there was female-fronted hardcore and angelic pop-punk, tear-stained acoustic ballads and camp. My favorite sounds were the squeaky proto-punk of Calamity Jane and skinny-chord post-punk of Marge.”

I love Bryn Mawr’s commitment to forging an inclusive and safe space for all students – one that encourages and empowers its community. However, spaces like this are extremely rare outside of campus. As a senior contemplating life after college, it’s important to me to try and find similar spaces I feel comfortable in and want to engage with. DIYPHL’s event was an excellent example of this and I’m so excited to see what the future has to offer.

Calamity Jane and a sea of Mawrtyrs in the front row!

Calamity Jane and a sea of Mawrtyrs in the front row! Photo by Sharp Hall

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Belated Halloween

Halloween and Lantern Night always seem to piggyback each other at the Mawr. My freshman year Lantern Night even fell on Halloween proper for an especially memorable evening. This year it was a double-weekend affair with plenty of on campus and TriCo gatherings. One of the more low-key festivities I partook in was a pumpkin carving party at a friend’s apartment. The vast majority of students opt to live in the dorms (I mean, who doesn’t want to live in a castle?!), but there are also opportunities for students to rent apartments independently or through the college. This specific apartment is quite literally across the street from my dorm, providing a nice on-campus/off-campus balance. Plenty of delicious snacks were served and we watched Hocus Pocus, a seasonal favorite of mine. One of the things about Bryn Mawr I cherish is finding balance between social and academic life – whether that means a concert in Philly, a night in with Netflix, or a party in a dorm. I love taking each week as it comes.

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Spooky ghost garland from Radnor Halloween

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It’s All Greek to Me

Last night marked my final Lantern Night ceremony as an undergraduate. The second of our four annual traditions, Lantern Night is perhaps our most iconic. During the event, first-years file into the pitch-black Cloisters, sing a couple songs in Greek, and receive their lanterns, their light of knowledge, if you will. My Lantern Night was on Halloween (!), but the following year I participated in the event as a “runner” – sophomores who literally sprint through aisles of first-years to distribute lanterns. This was my first time observing the procession from the roof of the Cloisters. Watching Lantern Night is not unlike a college football marching band – it’s highly synchronized and quite elaborate. While it is our oldest tradition, it’s also one of the harder ones to explain. As I always say on my Admissions tours, no matter how many times I explain it, I can never quite capture the beauty and, for lack of a better term, magic of it all. For me, Lantern Night symbolizes Bryn Mawr’s self-sustaining environment that is governed solely by women, eternally guiding each other towards a common goal of equality and inclusion.

Lantern Night 2011 - I had to run and deliver lanterns in the snow! Not ideal conditions, but still beautiful. The long exposure time of this photo is deceptive - it really is total darkness!

Lantern Night 2011 – I had to run and deliver lanterns in the snow! Not ideal conditions, but still beautiful. The long exposure time of this photo is deceptive – it really is total darkness!

Lantern Night 2010 & 2013

Lantern Night 2010 & 2013

Remembering Professor McKim-Smith

It’s with a heavy heart I write this post in memoriam of Professor Gridley McKim-Smith, an amazing woman, scholar and mentor. News of her passing was just relayed to the Bryn Mawr community, the weight of which I’m still processing.

Professor McKim-Smith has been an invaluable presence at Bryn Mawr since her arrival in 1982. Her passion for the arts and cultures of Latin America and Baroque Spain was inherent and never lost on her students. I had the pleasure of taking her course Material Identities in Latin America 1820-2010 in the fall of my sophomore year. Professor McKim-Smith guided us on lively field trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, MoMA, and El Museo del Barrio. Her lectures were dynamic, engaging, and above all, inspiring.

I am also lucky to have known her as a mentor. Professor McKim-Smith was always an invaluable resource in contemplating research topics and sources. I cherish the moments I spent in her office, sharing ideas and exchanging stories. She had encouraged me to apply for the combined AB/MA program and went out of her way to connect me with colleagues in fields I hope to pursue post-graduation. I had looked forward to taking more courses with her this spring and into next year as a graduate student.

I last saw Professor McKim-Smith on a late July afternoon in New York. I was making my way through the masses towards MoMA when I spotted her leaving the museum. She possessed an understated elegance that I had always admired. We spoke briefly about our summer adventures before comparing notes on the current New York exhibitions. She smiled and wished me luck before parting ways.

Professor McKim-Smith’s absence will be felt for many years to come. She was an immeasurable asset to the History of Art department and Bryn Mawr community at large.

In Memoriam