Hell Week is my favorite tradition but my least favorite to explain. As a tour guide, it can be a tricky line to walk. It’s difficult to convey to non-Bryn Mawr folk that this crazy, insane, boisterous week of nonsense isn’t as frightening as the name might suggest — it’s both fun (!) and meaningful. Most students cite their first Hell Week as one of the greatest moments of their undergraduate career. It certainly has its charms, debauchery aside.
Hell Week commences on a Wednesday at sundown. Each dorm has their own specific means of doing things, but a Radnor tradition is the debutante ball. During the festivities, our frosh “come out” to Radnor high society, complete with being escorted down the grand staircase by a member of their sister class. They then receive their dorm schedules filled with tasks to complete.
Upon descending the staircase, the juniors give each frosh a bottle of sparkling apple juice. As their sister class, it’s only the polite thing to do before chaos breaks out.
As the week progresses, the campus erupts into a frenzy. People sing songs and dance in the dining halls, strange costumes are abound, and there’s a general air of excitement. As an upperclassmen, I get to sit back and watch it all unfold – while also planning dormwide events!
But dressing up isn’t just for frosh. Dormwide events in the evenings are often themed and plenty of fun. For one event the juniors had to represent “vintage Bryn Mawr.” So lucky I had my 1959 class blazer on hand!
But even alums like to share the in the spirit. Some of my close friends who graduated last year sent flowers to the dorm’s frosh and we displayed them in the common room. They even were mindful to incorporate the passing down of their class color (light blue) and Bryn Mawr’s colors (yellow and white).
All in all, it was a pretty great week in hell. Welcome home, freshmen!