This has not been a good winter on the Mawr. Almost every day presents a new hazard: several inches of snow, just a few millimeters of black ice, freezing temperatures, piercing winds. On Sundays I face a very serious question: do I even go outside at all? I’m a New Englander and I can’t bear the thought of braving the conditions outside. I can only imagine how the Californians feel. The number of emails I have received cautioning me about how serious cold weather is exceeds the number of fingers and toes that I have. All this, and yet we haven’t had a single snow day.

narnia

Sometime campus looks a little bit like Narnia

thomas insta

Most of the recent pictures on my phone look like I was just on the set of Game of Thrones, and even though campus is pretty in the snow, I prefer cherry blossoms.

tundra2

 

 

tea

The best cure for the cold: a trip to one of the many many coffee shops on the Main Line

 

tundra1

A few weeks ago I competed in my first pentathlon. A pent is just like a heptathlon, but it is contested during indoor track and has two fewer events. Over the course of one meet, I would compete in five track events, each one 20-30 minutes apart. That weekend, the rest of the team was at other meets, so I invited my friend who doesn’t know anything about track along with me. How I convinced her to spend 5 hours of her Friday at a track meet with me is beyond me, but she was happy to come.

The great thing about inviting someone who knows nothing about track to a meet is that they think everything you do is impressive, especially when you do everything. For example, she picked up my shot put (which weighs 8.8 pounds) and said, “This is so heavy. You throw this?!” It made me feel super hardcore.

The first event in the pentathlon is the hurdles. The race went off at 5:30, and my last race didn’t start until 8:30. The whole thing was 3 hours of warming up, competing, cooling down, and then warming up again. Even though it’s important to know how to prepare for each event without tiring yourself out, it is equally important to know how to eat. Even if I’m just sitting in class, I can’t go longer than 2 hours without eating, it just makes me hangry. During an athletic competition, that just gets magnified. Luckily, my mom had sent a loaf of pumpkin bread, so in between the high jump and shot put (the best time for eating), I had a slice. Or two.

photo credits to Jocelyn Martinez

photo credits to Jocelyn Martinez

The second to last event was the long jump, which is arguably one of my favorites. There’s nothing like getting sand all up in your uniform to spice up the night. But the feeling of jumping a really good jump is really cool. If you get everything right, you hit this point where you think “wait, I haven’t touched the ground yet. Where is the ground?” and right when you start to panic about finding the ground, the sand is right there and you have a really good mark. I didn’t find that really good mark in this particular meet, but that’s not really the point of the pentathlon. When you’ve already been competing for several hours it’s just about finishing.

There was one other thing about this meet that was special, other than it being my first pent. I knew before the meet that I had a shot at the school record. It was a pretty good mark; the athlete who held it was so famous for having one of the longest planking records that Coach had named a core lift after her. She is strong and fast, and it was going to be a tough record to break. By the end of the meet however, I had done it; I had my very own school record. A week later, I broke it again.

teammates

bonus photo taken after my second pentathlon with my high jump/sprints teammate

 

 

Nontombi Naomi Tutu was the keynote speaker for Black history month this year. Tutu grew up in South Africa while her father, Desmond Tutu, was enacting the changes in her country that made him famous. She now lives in the U.S. and has taught at several universities, runs a consulting business, and speaks at events like this.

I can’t say anything about her consulting or her teaching, but I can attest to the fact that she is a wonderful speaker. She has a way of using her words to bring out the candor in everything she spoke about, even if the subject was painful, and yet she spoke about these painful topics in a way that supported our discovery of them and allowed us to feel the full scope of what her truths meant.

There are several things that I got out of her speech. A point that she kept coming back to was the idea of stories and how they can be told in many different ways. She began with this idea, when she spent a while speaking on the idea of Black history month, and how important it is to look back at the history of Black people, but also how this history is inseparably intertwined with the history of the larger world. The study of Black history, listening to these stories and really hearing them, inevitably makes one realize that they are hearing the history of the world.

The reason for her focus on stories was not fully explained until the question and answer session, when an audience member asked about the ways in which the country of South Africa had gone about helping their citizens to heal from the psychological wounds of apartheid. Tutu explained that South Africa is working very hard to start and continue the process of storytelling. She emphasized the importance of telling a story with such enormous effects on the individual and the community not once, but several times. It is important for people’s stories to not only be told, but to be really and sincerely heard, many times, over long periods of time, for there to be healing. It was at this point that I realized the importance of all of the stories that she had told throughout the course of her speech.

One of the most powerful stories she told was about Eugene de Kock, a police officer who had committed so many atrocities under apartheid that he had been nicknamed “Prime Evil” by the press. His story, while terrible, is a story that must be told, and listened to, and understood, for the sake of confronting past atrocities and learning from them. It was at this point that Tutu spoke about what she had heard de Kock and other individuals who spoke before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission say. De Kock said that he had become like a split person during that time, that there were two of him; one who loved his family and was a member of his community, and one who killed and did terrible thing. As a psych major, I found this incredibly interesting. There have been many studies in the field, especially studies that came out of WWII and the world’s knowledge about the truths of the Holocaust, that try to find out how people do terrible things. It is an interesting question: how do humans do the inhumane? Right there in the word is why it is so hard for people to wrap their heads around the question: the inhumane is not human. Since we are human, it seems like it must be impossible to do something that defies the human-ness of others, or even ourselves. But it happens everywhere. By denying others their humanity, we deny our own humanity. Tutu’s words about de Kock, while they do not explain this, make it clear why this is such an imperative question to explore, for each and every one of us to confront. De Kock differentiated the person who loved from the person who killed, and only in this way was he able to continue to do what he did. Tutu said that she struggled with this, that this seemed like a bad explanation, that it was the easy way out. She then said that she realized that many of us, not to that degree, have parts of ourselves that we love, parts that love and care and are exceptional, but there are parts of us that we are not proud of. While de Kock may be an extreme example of this, it is important to remember how close those dark parts of us are to the rest of us. Tutu emphasized how easy it is to do something that creates that part. This is why de Kock’s story is necessary. Yes, the story of Nelson Mandela is necessary, but the story of de Kock is too. We all have capacity to be good and evil. We always have a choice to acknowledge the humanity in others, and thus cultivate the humanity in ourselves, or to disregard and destroy the humanity in others, and thus eradicate the humanity in ourselves. We have to deeply and thoughtfully listen to these stories to figure out how.

 

I would like to thank Sisterhood, the Bryn Mawr chapter of the NAACP and the Pensby Center, as well as everyone else who helped to organize this event.

I would just like to take a moment to thank the Blue Bus drivers. When I think about my experience in the bi-co, which has been extensive, I somehow never think of them. Now that I am doing a lot more driving around the mainline to and from Villanova, however, I would like to thank them. Consider this an open thank you note to all the Blue Bus drivers.

Thank you, Blue Bus drivers, for your tireless service to the communities in the bi-co. Thank you for dealing with the terrible driving decisions that everyone who drives on the mainline makes. I know that they can be very aggressive at times, especially when they are driving their kids to and from school, which baffles me. Thank you for always waiting for that one person who is sprinting out of class to make the bus. I’m sure you make their day. Special shoutout to that one driver who always plays really calming classical or jazz music. Shoutout to all of the other drivers who play popular music even though it must get old after a while and also people who are in the party mood on the bus sometimes sing along (badly). Props to you for keeping your head up through that. And finally, thank you, Blue Bus drivers, for navigating that really tight turn onto Haverford Station road several times a day. I have a hard time with that and I drive a Buick.

Love, Marissa

In all seriousness though, you all do an awesome job. And you all somehow seem to be best friends. I didn’t know that bus driving can bring people together, but I always see the drivers hanging out where there’s 2 busses at the stop at the same time. That warms my heart.

It’s that time of year: classes are starting, snow is falling, and summer internship applications are due. When I heard that news as a freshman, I was caught like a deer in the headlights. But it’s only winter! I thought. How can I think about summer when I’m in full hibernation mode? I was not prepared, and I therefore had a very rough January.
The story has a happy ending: I found a wonderful job in my hometown (free rent!) doing what I loved and getting paid. But not everyone is so lucky. And since this is the third time I’ve been through this, I thought I’d share a few tips:
1.) Go to the career development office. The people there are really helpful. I had a meeting and the counselor got as excited about my ideas as I was. She couldn’t wait for me to go out there and do what I loved.
2.) Don’t be afraid to take a volunteer position. There is funding that you can apply for, and sometimes you can do things that are more interesting if you volunteer.
3.) Finding the perfect summer internship takes time. LanternLink and internship sites are good starting points, but there are lots of summer internships and jobs in the world that aren’t on those sites. If you find something on those sites that is in your field but looks kind of boring, try inputting the search terms associated with it into a different search engine (Google it!) and take the time to sift through the results. There are lots of great opportunities out there that are not super boring, they just can be hard to find sometimes.
4.) Talk to people. If you’re having trouble finding something, let people know; your friends, your professors, your grocer. You never know who might have a good idea. My summer job for the past two years was at the suggestion of my neighbor. The internship that I’m most excited about applying to this year I heard about from my sister. The one that I’m second most excited to apply for I found on Google after an afternoon of different variations on “summer internship fun research”. If you look hard enough, even research can be fun.

Athletics have always been a part of Grace’s life, and she was thrilled at the opportunity to continue playing in college. At Bryn Mawr, she found a supportive community that included people from athletics, academics, and her dorm. This gave her the confidence to step outside of her comfort zone and pursue a minor in computer science. Grace combined her passions for computer science and people in her work at the organization Girls Who Code, which provides high school girls the opportunity to discover computer science.

Why Bryn Mawr: “The thing that really sold it to me was coming here and seeing the community, and seeing how it’s not just the community of students, but it’s the community of students and professors, and it’s the community of the staff. And everyone’s in it together to make this place the best place it can be.”

Fighting for a common goal: “One of the things I really love about the lacrosse team is our focus on goals. Our goals are something that we really come back to and focus on and use to power us forward and to keep us going. I think like most teams at Bryn Mawr we’re a very determined group and we want to continue to do better than we’ve done before, whether it is better than we did yesterday, or better than the game we played last week. I know that personally I always want to keep getting better, and seeing your teammates work hard and fight for the same things you’re fighting for is something that always inspires me to work harder.”

A different perspective: “Being a scholar athlete means bringing a different perspective to things. I think athletics enhances my academics because I’m able to bring a different perspective to my classrooms, to my professors, to different situations. Being on a team provides you with so many opportunities and gives you so many different situations that you have to work through and learn from.”

Why Computer Science: “I didn’t think I was going to like it, I didn’t think I would be good at it, but it filled a requirement and I thought it might be interesting. I knew that Bryn Mawr had the support system behind me. Taking that risk of taking a class I wasn’t really sure I was going to like was safe because there were people here to help me through it, and taking that risk paid off.”

Girls Who Code: “I didn’t take computer science until my sophomore year and it’s what I want to do in the future with my career, but I would have loved to discover it earlier. Exposure to computer science is something that is lacking for a lot of girls so being able to be a part of an organization that is helping to fix that problem was really great. Seeing the girls discover that computer science could be what they wanted it to be, and that they could use it to solve the problems that they’re passionate about was really wonderful. They all had different interests and different views on the world, but computer science can help so many of the things they were passionate about and can be used in so many ways. Seeing them learn to appreciate the importance and power of knowing how to code was something I was honored to be able to witness and help them discover. They were truly an incredible group of young women and I had so much fun working with them.”

When it rains at Bryn Mawr, the campus completely transforms. First of all, you realize how many geese are on campus. On my way past Thomas today, I counted 47 geese on the green in front of Thomas alone. It was a goose party. Two of them were even playing tag.  Second, everyone who forgot to close their windows goes into a state of panic. 90% of the windows on this campus leak in the rain, but a good 75% of those windows have wide windowsills that people like to put art, plants or digital clocks on. When it rains, all of these things get soaked, which means that 66% of these things will be ruined. Third, you realize how cute everyone else’s umbrellas are. While I’m trudging along with my plain blue umbrella, the campus is festooned with owl-printed, polka-dotted, and rainbow striped umbrellas.

Despite the fact that everyone has cute umbrellas, and everyone leaves them outside the dining hall, or the library, or the gym so that they don’t track water everywhere, umbrellas don’t really get stolen. I’ve lost an umbrella before, but I’ve never had one stolen. I think this shows how well Bryn Mawr’s honor code works. Even though a person might be stranded in the library without an umbrella when it’s downpouring, and even though it suck to have to go outside without an umbrella, and even though there’s a whole pile of umbrellas just inside the door, people don’t take them. It’s just not nice, and then the person whose umbrella it was will be stranded without an umbrella. It’s an example of how people here really care about each other, and how they don’t do the easiest thing if it’s the wrong thing. The honor code is alive and well at Bryn Mawr.

It was alumni weekend this past week. For athletes, that meant that we got to compete with our old teammates again. For all Mawrters, it meant that we got to reunite with some of our friends who had graduated. The life of a Mawrter after graduation, be it two years down the road or twenty years down the road, is inherently interesting to everyone on campus. It’s also a little scary. What will we do once the chapter in our life titled “Bryn Mawr” (as it is in Katherine Hepburn’s autobiography) is over? Will we decide to keep going down the scholastic path, to med school or law school or some other graduate program? Will we instead decide to try our luck in the job market, to put our internship experiences to immediate use? Will there ever be another time in our lives when we will be able to watch this much Netflix?

After catching up with my friends who are currently trying to figure out the answer to all of these questions, I’ve realized that it’s never quite clear. Sometimes you figure out the answer one day and it changes drastically the next. Even those who have a plan still check the horizon every once in a while and find it completely different. They are always looking toward the future, adjusting their course and dreaming about what they could do better, how they can push the limits to become all that they can be.

At Bryn Mawr, we have time each semester to chart our path for the next few months. As I’m pre-registering for classes I’m checking that horizon again, adjusting my route based on the new goals that I have for myself and my future. I have new expectaions for myself; ways that I can be better and get the most out of my final three semesters in this extraordinary place. My friends who have graduated are doing that all the time. At Bryn Mawr we learn to look up, because you never know what might be on the horizon.

Graduating from Bryn Mawr doesn’t mean that you’ve made it; it means that you’ve just begun. Once you graduate there’s a whole host of challenges, ones that most likely won’t involve Plenary resolutions or the 7am shift at Erdman. But what we learn at Plenary will help us in law school, or even in navigating business politics, and working as part of the Erdman team is a valuable step on the way to working as a part of a functional unit in the future. What I learned from the alums is that while the point of Bryn Mawr is to prepare us for the future, the point of Bryn Mawr is also to be at Bryn Mawr. It’s important to enjoy it while it lasts, because graduation is just around the corner. But after that there’s still Sunday brunches on alumni weekend.

Last weekend, the cross country team participated in the Centennial Conference championship. It was a cold, rainy, windy day for a cross country meet. By the time all 319 runners had completed their races, the course was a mudslide. By the end of the day, racers and spectators alike were all soaked, and my team had to huddle together to help warm up the racers, who had run for 30 minutes in just tank tops and shorts.

Despite the weather, Bryn Mawr cross country had one of its best Conference finishes in a while, and definitely the best Conference finish that this generation of the team has ever seen. Last year, we edged Gettysburg by just one point, a point that could have come down to a matter of seconds in a 24 minute race.  This year, we beat them by 11 points, a difference that is not attributable to seconds.

In other news, track season is right around the corner. For some, it is already upon us. This Monday, I threw shot put for the first time in months, and it was a rude awakening. Based on the way my fellow shotputters have been gingerly lifting even the lightest of objects, I would say that it is a universal truth that even doing 500 pushups a week (a summer regime that lasted a surprisingly long time) and benching in a somewhat regular manner is not the same as heaving a 4k (8.8lb) iron ball across a field. Or, in my case, a third of the way across a field.  The difference between training for the 5k and training for every track event under the sun is stark. Gone are the arm lifts that consisted of 50 pushups. Gone are the squat lifts where I could squat low weights as long as I could do it 30 times. Now, it’s a whole new world of squatting my body weight in sets of 3 of the most intense movements I have made. I’m actually benching again, and I won’t be allowed to get away with using assistance on my pull-ups.

Where in cross country I ran in the pouring rain, I now throw in the pitch black. Each throw is accompanied by at least 2 minutes of shuffling around in the leaves in the field where we throw, punctuated by shouts of “I found it! …Nope, just a rock” because an iron shotput is hard to see under leaves at night. Soon I’ll be starting hurdles and block starts and long jump and high jump. My knees will collect bruises from hitting the hurdles, my shoes will fill with sand from the long jump pit, and despite all this I just can’t wait for track.

For the past few days, there has been a strange noise in my hall. It sounds squeaky, but when I poke my head out of my room, the hallway is empty. Since it’s only been happening for a short while, I deduce that it must be due to Halloween. Perhaps, Rockefeller dorm is haunted. There are two options, it could be a haunting of Bryn Mawr, or it could be a Rockefeller-related ghost. Bryn Mawr legend (i.e. what a tour guide told me when I visited Bryn Mawr) has it that Rockefeller built this dorm for his niece so that she would go to Bryn Mawr. He even had all the doorknobs made a custom height, because she was very short, under 5 feet, and he wanted her to be comfortable here. Unfortunately, she did not end up attending Bryn Mawr, but fortunately, Bryn Mawr got a beautiful dorm out of the deal. The whole story has the feeling of possible bad blood, so there could be a ghost there. A cursory Google search doesn’t reveal any satisfactory ghost stories, so I am going to make up my own.

Once upon a time there was a young woman who attended Bryn Mawr College. In the spring of her sophomore year, she met a handsome man at a Princeton social. He was studying to be a lawyer, and she knew instantly that she had never met a more good-hearted man in her entire life. The love that blossomed between the two was as fierce as it was lasting. They sent love letters back and forth between their two campuses and visited each other as much as possible. They exchanged tokens of their love and spent much time together reading, walking along Rhoads pond, and even a few fabulous evenings at the symphony in the city. The young woman loved to look into the eyes of her beloved and hear her name on his lips. Whenever he visited, they always bid each other goodbye underneath Rockefeller arch, because legend had it that lovers who kissed under that arch would be together forever. When the two finally graduated, they quickly got engaged and set a date to be married. On the day of the wedding, the groom was travelling to the wedding by train, as he had been attending an interview at a prestigious law firm the day before. The time of the wedding came, and passed, but the groom did not show up. The bride was very worried, but she stayed strong because she had faith in her beloved; she knew that he would never desert her. They would be together forever.

Finally, a police officer showed up at the door of the chapel and asked for the parents of the groom. The train had been taken over by a gang of bandits who had robbed, beaten and shot many of the passengers on the train, including the groom. A bloodstained handkerchief, monogrammed with the initials of the bride, was the token that the officer had brought to the bereaved family. Hearing this, the bride fled from the room before anyone could stop her. Blinded by grief, she didn’t know where she was running, but she knew what the last words on her lips would be: “Together forever”.

To this day, the ghost of the brokenhearted young woman still haunts the place where she and her beloved made their promise, and her cries sound distinctly like the squeaky wheel of a hand truck.

Happy Halloween!

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