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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

First Two Weeks At Swarthmore!

Swarthmore College's Scott Amphitheater in the summer
The memorable Scott Amphitheater

I thought the Standford Summer Session camp was fun -- and don't get me wrong, it was -- but that was nothing compared to the experience I had at Swarthmore in the past two weeks.

My mom, dad, and I decided that we'd go to the US a few days early so I would have time to adjust before international orientation started. I was pretty excited this time around because I hadn't been on a plane for more than an hour in the past two years.

The Incheon International Airport was HUGE! I've been there quite a lot of times, but it struck me differently -- and I got giddy just by stepping into the building. When I actually got on the plane, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep because of the excitement, but that never happened. I slept as well as I could possibly sleep while 40,000 ft in the air.

After 14 hours, we arrived at JFK airport, which was another 2 hours and a half ride away from Philadelphia. We move into the Inn at Swarthmore, a conveniently placed hotel for anyone who was staying a few nights before going onto campus.

Our family didn't get to do a lot of touring of Philadelphia -- the time was instead spent doing some last-minute school supplies/dorm necessities shopping. I thought I had a pretty thorough list from Korea but soon realized that there were many things I didn't think of. Especially for electronics, I had to either buy new ones because of the voltage difference or try to get a connector for the new socket shapes.


When move-in day finally came, it all felt so real. My parents helped me move everything into the dorm (by the way, David Kemp, the dorm I'm in, seems to be the best because it has AC, unlike other dorms, and it's really clean). My roommate had not arrived yet, so I could choose the 'better side' of the room. I was in awe of how beautiful the campus looked. The photos were pretty, but it was so nice to see their beauty through my eyes. I also got a photo of the super-big lawnchair (not sure why that exists) because it's one of the tourist attractions here.

While my mom and dad came by as much as they could, I was fully immersed in the International Orientation experience. I was in Group Phoenix (we had a 'supernatural creatures' theme going on) with around 10 other people. There were only 75 international students, which meant that all the activities were interactive and engaging. There were literally so many activities prepared for us by international students in their sophomore/junior years that I can't possibly list them all here, but one night I won't forget would be the penultimate night, where there was a karaoke party. I was jumping, dancing, and singing to my heart's content for hours. I didn't know I had much energy in me!

The dean of international students was such a nice lady, helping us adjust and being open to talking about any worries we had coming to a totally new country to go to college. There were also some informative sessions where people told us how we could get Social Security Numbers or get jobs on campus.

I made a lot of new friends -- it was hard not to since I saw them every day for different activities. There were students from most countries around the world: China, India, Japan, France, Germany, Mongolia, and Singapore, to name a few. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was another Korean girl in my year! One thing they all had in common was that they were such nice people! And I was really happy to see that so many of my friends really liked my home country. Sometimes, I was a little overwhelmed by how much some of them knew about K-Pop and K-Dramas. Some of them, I hadn't even heard of! So I was on the 'learning' side of things for that.

A group of students in the Scott Amphitheater at Swarthmore College
A group photo of all the International Students and our Orientation Leaders


As I was feeling like I could take on the world after a week of International Orientation, I realized that it was soon time for the all-student orientation! This meant I was going to be meeting everyone in the Class of 2026.

When the time came, the campus was bustling with life. I was most excited to see Tehya again (yes, again, since we already met in person for a day in Philly, arranged through a 2-hour video call), but also excited to see the people I would be interacting with in classes, at the dining hall, etc. At first, I have to say, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people gathered together, but I was more than open to making new friends, so I just went with the flow. When I met Tehya, it was as if I was meeting an old friend of mine, which made sense because we had been talking every day for over 6 months at that point.

Some parts of the all-student orientation felt a bit redundant (especially the information sessions), but there were some really memorable ones. For example, the First Collection! It's a tradition that shines a light on the Quaker heritage at Swarthmore to symbolize a connection between all the first-year students. At the First Collection, we talked about how the school's values coincided with ours, celebrated our integration into the College, sang Swarthmore's Alma Mater, and lit each other's candles. It was a heartwarming experience. There was also the class tree planting ceremony, where I took an active role by shoveling the dirt.

Some events were smaller but equally unforgettable, such as the Open Mic Night, where I sang 'Don't Look Back In Anger' by Oasis. I had done so many busking events that I was already quite ready for it when it was my turn. My friends were very supportive of me before and after my performance. There was also an Activities Fair that showcased all the student groups pursuing their passion. I signed up for way more than I could do, but the ones that stuck with me were Salsa Club, Cooking Club, and Archery Club. I also had a lot of fun during the Philly Food Night, not because of the actual food there but because Tehya, myself, and a new friend, Sho, had a delightful conversation for about two hours on Parrish Beach (no, it's not an actual beach). There was also a dance party that not a lot of people attended, but I had fun nonetheless, dancing for about two and a half hours non-stop.

*I honestly thought I'd have more photos, but I didn't have time to take them as I was having too much fun being in the moment

Now that orientation weeks are over, I'm excited about what else the school has in store for me: classes and more activities!! Maybe I'll even get to go out to Philly at one point- to have fun, not for school supply shopping, though. But for now, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have a good four years here!

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