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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Finishing Sophomore Year + Hopes for Next Year

College students in a classroom

The spring semester is finally coming to a close. It's quite impressive how fast time has gone by; the end of this semester would mean the end of my sophomore year. Though I'm not completely done with my exams and essays, I have some reflections and thoughts about how this semester went, as well as some hopes and plans for next year.


Academics-wise, I feel like I had a really busy semester. But I also think I was quite successful in managing my time to do my best in all the courses. I finally finished First-Year Japanese, which was a year-long commitment, unlike other courses at Swarthmore. I did think the second semester was harder now that we were way past the basics, but still, I managed to keep up my good work with a solid foundation that I built in the fall semester. At this point, I'm pretty sure that I will continue to take Second-year Japanese (which is for another year, every day of the week), so I'll have to make sure that I keep practicing.

My other classes, like Introduction to Education, Seminar in Cognitive Development, and Introduction to Computer Science, were all very fascinating. I loved my Education class and how interactive and student-driven the course was. The three-hour developmental psychology seminar was on a Friday, which most people dread, but I honestly had so many great discussions that it always felt so short. I tried something a little out of my comfort zone by taking computer science. It was a bit of my source of stress at times, especially doing the class quizzes where we had to write code by hand, but I learned a lot about computational thinking and logically solving/producing algorithms for a particular program.

The sophomore spring semester was quite an important semester for everyone because we were to decide our majors/minors for the upcoming two years. After exploring different options, I finalized my decision and committed to doing an Honors Special Major in Psychology and Education. It's quite a long title, I know, but the Honors part means that I'll be taking more in-depth seminars and an external exam in my Senior year, and the Special Major part means that I'll be exploring the two subjects in a more interdisciplinary way.

I have also been working at the Developmental Psychology lab (we call it the 'Kid Lab') with my fellow friends interested in developmental psychology. We were assigned to a project of our interest and started working on a study design so that we could go forth and do experiments. I was assigned to the 'Talking Tech Project,' which is all about learning what current beliefs and practices exist about rules on children's screen time use and how parents communicate with their children when they run into disagreements about the rules. We're trying to look and see if there are certain types of explanations that parents use or specific sources that they base their own opinions on. My team created a survey for the parents for data collection, so when we get back in the fall, we'll be able to kickstart the project!


When it comes to non-academic activities, I was able to go to the Salsa club a little more regularly this semester. I'm making steady progress as a follower of both Salsa and Bachata. It's amazing that we're able to learn so much from a one-hour session. With regards to Grapevine, my beloved A Cappella group, I had to take this semester off because I was loaded with 5.5 credits for my courses. But I was able to go to all the concerts and still keep in contact with everyone. I'm excited to rejoin next year. Even so, I'm proud of myself for making sure that I can be more involved in SCF (Swarthmore Christian Fellowship) activities. I went to almost all the Bible studies (sometimes twice a week) and was thrilled to go to the Friday worship nights. I've been so blessed to have this group of friends who are so devoted to God and living God's ways. I have definitely been able to take more active steps in my faith.


There were also some fun one-time events! I was able to do a little more cooking with my friends, especially making Korean dishes. I didn't think I would be particularly good at cooking as I am at baking, but I found out that I was pretty good 😊. Oh, also, toward the start of the spring semester, there was snow on campus! Like, a lot of it! I made a snowman and did some snowball fights with friends. I also visited the Philly Art Museum for the first time and saw some amazing artwork. I'll need to go back there again since it's so big and the exhibitions change all the time.

On the last day of spring break, my friends threw me a surprise birthday party! We gathered in the lounge and had a great time talking and eating some snacks. One of my friends even brought a keyboard and played the happy birthday song for me (and before that, there was a whole orchestral conducting of the song). I've got some very talented friends.

Sort of related to my Japanese class, I had an opportunity to join the Japanese Tea Ceremony event (茶道). There was a group of people who had studied the arts of Japanese tea making who visited our school to host the ceremony. There were a lot of steps and particular ways to do things, and it was interesting to see that every move had some meaning behind it. In Japan, this is considered a very honorable event, and I felt like a special guest when we were also offered matcha tea. It was so very delicious.

Philadelphia actually hosts a very big Cherry Blossom Festival at the Horticultural Center. I visited there a friend from Japanese class - we were both dressed in full traditional Japanese clothes to make it more special and memorable. The place was bustling with life and we did some ikebana (Japanese traditional flower arrangement), watched a Taiko performance, and even did karaoke. This was such a memorable outing!


One particularly fond memory I have this semester is doing SwatTank (Swarthmore version of SharkTank, the business idea competition) with three of my friends. We sent in the initial application not expecting much from it, but we were selected to be in the top five finalist teams. There were four days of boot camp where we learned about how to develop an idea into a marketable and profitable business, the basics of coming up with a profit model, and figuring out what the consumers want. The actual competition was a three-minute pitch presentation with 7 minutes for questions. Our team developed an idea for a holistic health app for college students called NudgeBudge, where you can track your progress towards building healthy habits as well as 'nudge' friends to motivate them. We put so much time and effort into it, and we were ecstatic when the judges announced that Team NudgeBudge got first place AND the audience choice award! We were awarded $3500 as the prize. The video below is our pitch presentation.

In doing all of these, I made so many new friends and got to spend time with a wider variety of people. Since Japanese class was every day, I feel like I got much closer to my classmates than in any other class. It's really quite nice that I'm still making new friends left and right as if it's still first-year orientation.


Next semester, I'm looking forward to all my courses—they're now a little more aligned with my chosen major. I'll continue to take part in the developmental psychology lab, hopefully running experiments and analyzing meaningful data! I'm also quite excited about the notion that new Korean students might be joining the freshmen year. Maybe I'll get to know them. I'm supposed to have a pretty good schedule, having only one class on Mondays and Fridays, so hopefully, I will be able to rejoin Grapevine and show up to even more Salsa club meetings.

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