Bryn Mawr College, a letter for my next four years

On Chinese New Year I woke up a little before noon, earlier than I usually wake up when on break, because my dad was nudging me with a large envelope. “It’s from Bryn Mawr!” he said. I didn’t know whether I wanted to open it or throw it as far as I could. For weeks I’ve been telling myself, “I don’t really want to go to Bryn Mawr anyway,” because if I got rejected, I didn’t want to feel devastated about what felt like my world crumbling into a million little pieces; getting deferred would only prolong my misery. Junior year had been the toughest year of my life, and senior year was only slightly better due to my “I’m too tired to even care” attitude. I couldn’t remember the last time I truly looked forward to the future; what were the chances that I would get accepted to my top choice, Early Decision school?

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Getting accepted to Bryn Mawr College is the best thing that happened to me in the last two years, maybe even the last eighteen years of my existence. Before high school, I had never once doubted myself. Heck, I was going to be the first female president of the United States of America! Oh to be a child again. To be fair, I felt like I was on top of the world; homework took no longer than thirty minutes, I had time to bike to the park every day, and everyone obsessed over how adorable Little Audrey was. Maybe life just got too easy, and I forgot what it felt like to be challenged. Freshman year of high school wasn’t too bad, and looking back, sophomore year wasn’t all that terrible either, but junior year just sucked the life right out of me.

All throughout elementary school and middle school, I remember seeing high school students walking down the halls and how I would think about how cool they were because they had lockers instead of cubbies and tumblers instead of water bottles, but here I was, and it felt ever so anticlimactic. This is it? I mean, I’m sure my teachers weren’t the only ones saying, “You’re going to have to start doing things on your own and taking full responsibility for your academics. Everything you’re doing now is preparing you for high school.” Now that I’m here, what purpose do I have left? To work hard during high school so that I’m prepared for college? To work hard during college so that I’m prepared for my future career? To work hard during my future career so that I can support my future family? To support my future family so that when I die they can support themselves?

As you could imagine, it was difficult to find motivation, and all I could hope for was a fresh start; graduate from high school and move away for college — that was the plan.

Bryn Mawr College is a Quaker liberal arts women’s college located in Pennsylvania, USA. You probably don’t know what college this is, but it’s part of a tri-college consortium with Haverford and Swarthmore. You still might not know what those colleges are, but basically, I can take classes at any of these schools, and I can also take classes at UPenn; how lucky am I?

Colleges: I’m the kind of person who thrives in smaller environments. I would much rather go to a small college than some huge university, because everything in a smaller community is more intimate. Yes, it’s great to meet different people and immerse yourself in diversity, but it’s also great to feel a familial relationship even amongst people you’ve never met. I don’t want to graduate and not be able to recognize half of my graduating class. Another perk of attending a small college is that it won’t have to feel like the Hunger Games trying to schedule some one-on-one time with a professor.

Consortiums: Even though my immediate community is small, I can still have access all the resources I need! If Bryn Mawr doesn’t have something, I can always exploit Haverford, Swarthmore, or UPenn >:)

Religious schools: I’m Christian (not like a hardcore Christian or anything; I haven’t gone to church in a few months… oops. I hope to change that though. Not that I want to be a hardcore Christian, or that I don't want to, but maybe I’ll join some youth groups.), but I believe that going to a religious school doesn’t mean you have to be religious, or, if you already are religious, that you have to convert to another religion (although, Quaker is a Christian denomination, so I guess that even if I “converted,” I wouldn’t really be converting). To me, choosing to go to a religious school is more about choosing a school that shares the same ideals than choosing a school that shares the same religion. Part of the tri-college consortium’s embodiment of Quaker ideals is The Honor Code (apparently you can schedule your own exams and even take them in your own dorm room or something..? I’ll have to check up on that).

Liberal arts schools: I’m lucky that my parents were so accepting of my interest in the liberal arts curriculum; I didn’t realize that until I talked to some of my friends and listened to them complain about how their parents would only let them apply to those big name colleges. The liberal arts curriculum prepares you for anything, because it encourages you to try a variety of subjects. Even if there’s one subject you absolutely detest, for example, math, you have the freedom to try something similar but different, for example, statistics. College gives you the chance to explore a whole range of things; why confine yourself on a one-way track to a certain career when you could try anything you’ve ever and never wanted? You might end up finding your passion in something you never thought you would.

All-women’s schools: I guess this one is more of a personal preference. There’s just something about all-women’s schools that I find kind of magical; tea time and gardens, what more do I need? Also, all-women’s schools are recognized for their gorgeous campuses. If it turns out that an all-women’s school isn’t really my thing, it’s also reassuring to know that I won’t be totally guy-deprived, because Bryn Mawr is part of a consortium that includes mixed schools.

Oh hey and look at this. Not bad.

The funny thing is that when I went college touring two summers ago (I visited twenty-four colleges to be exact, and yes, it was a busy summer, because I also went to two summer camps), I visited Haverford, Swarthmore, and UPenn, but not Bryn Mawr. Anyways, I’m super excited, and I already have friends I know at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and UPenn, so yay me!

On August 19, I will be flying out to make it in time for the Tri-College Identity, Equity, and Social Justice Institute, which starts August 20. On August 27, I'll have freshmen orientation, or as we Mawrters call it, Customs Week. To prepare for this, the class of 2018 has been given a summer to-do list, and the most recent addition to the list was The Resiliency Project. After reading What You Should Know About Your Brain and Do You Feel Like an Imposter?, we were asked to write letters to ourselves that we could refer to throughout the months ahead. I'd like to think that my letter to future self is motivational, and maybe you'll find that it is for you too!

HI AUDREY!! Remember when you were forced to write a letter to yourself in ninth grade for that horrible Effective Study Skills course? Well, now you’re being made to write another letter to yourself at the beginning of your freshman year of college, but this time, you’re going to do this the right way. Just pretend that you’re writing a post for your blog. It feels a lot more natural, and the ideas flow more easily.

What it means to be a woman today is to be stronger than ever before. To lead a household, an office, or just your own damn self through a life that doesn’t ask for permission. -A Thousand Threads

At the end of high school, you couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. And as much as you try to act all cool, like you couldn’t care less about your community there, you need to know that that is a sad, sad way to depart. You’ve basically wasted eight years of your life. AND YOU’VE ONLY LIVED FOR EIGHTEEN. Now you have an opportunity to start over, to start fresh, so take it. Whenever you start getting sick of college, whenever you fall back into that this-place-sucks attitude, remember why you were so excited to come in the first place. You have the opportunity to learn from empowered women, to become inspired by them, and maybe one day be the one who inspires others. This is a very special opportunity you have, and when you leave in four years, I don’t want you to be thinking, “Get me the hell out of here,” but instead wondering, “What? Already? Take me back!” because after these four years, you will never again be surrounded by only women, you will never again not have obnoxious boys bugging you haha. Cherish it.

Five minutes is nothing… but it can also be everything! -The College Prepster

Stop trying to find yourself, create yourself, or whatever. Just be yourself. I don’t know what you want the image of yourself to be right now (as in, the future), but the image of myself that I see right now (as in, the past) is a mature woman who does things that matter, who doesn’t worry about superficial things, but still knows how to present herself, perhaps with simple, minimal, crisp outfits that show she has more important things to think about than clothing, but at the same time lets you know that she’s the boss, AKA not a hobo. You spend too much time in your own head. Want something? Go out and get it. Stop making dream/inspiration boards (okay well, maybe not completely). Worried about all the work you have to do? Don’t. Just work. Stop psyching yourself out. Remember the five minute power exercise.

To hell with it—we’re writing our own rules.  -Wit and Delight

Okay, I getcha. Sometimes life just sucks and all you need is a break. Take it. Oh, but I have so much work to do! I couldn’t possibly! Guess what. You’ll live. The world will keep on spinning. Give yourself a day. Take a walk. Eat good food. Read a book. Lie in bed and do nothing. Whatever you need. Indulge for a day. Get your energy back. Then get the hell back to work. Remember how much you dreaded some days (some teachers) in high school? Why is that? Because your work wasn't up to par? Or that you didn’t even do it? Why didn’t you? Because it was boring? Because you couldn’t think of anything? Because you didn’t know how? When you start down this path, your problems will snowball down a hill—not away from you, but into you after rolling and rolling and accumulating more and more problems. Don’t do this to yourself. Know when you need to take breaks and take them, but only when you need to. Pro tip: Get to know your professors so that when you’re in a time of need, you aren’t scared to approach them.

You have to begin somewhere, why not here? -The Fresh Exchange

I hope I’ve provided enough advice for the different situations you’ll potentially go through. It’s kind of nice to have a naive, untroubled, optimistic freshman cheer you on. I hope you’re not feeling old and haggard, but if you are… Get a haircut!! (How cool are we, we have inside jokes with myself)

My parting words cannot be better put than with John Green’s: Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you.

Your personal cheerleader,

It is often one of life’s bitterest truths that bedtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting. -Lemony Snicket

PS: Your freshman self is not an idiot. I know that the correct way to phrase the last part of that sentence is “we have inside jokes with ourselves,” but I’m trying to emphasize the ridiculousness of me writing a letter to myself.

PPS: I just needed to clarify in case you have lost your sense of humor underneath all that stress I foresee you will be bearing… and also because I am thinking about posting this letter to our blog and I don’t want our readers to think that we’re an idiot ( I did it again). Okay bai.

PPPS: If you’ve stopped blogging, stop stopping blogging. You might think that you don’t have enough time, but blogging really influenced your life in a positive way. This letter has been rambly enough, so I will make a separate post about the positive influences of blogging or just think about it or something. Anyways, just do it. You don’t even have to commit to doing it daily. Remember, your blog is your catharsis. And it forces you to do something with your life, because watching seven seasons of a TV show in one week is not enough for a blog post.

To unpathed waters, undreamed shores. -William Shakespeare


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