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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

I'm A College Student Now!

Swarthmore College logo, red building, red trees
I'm a Swattie now! 😍

So... I still can't believe that this happened -- there's a college that wants me as their student!

What's funny is that the day before and what was planned for that Saturday was something out of the ordinary. If it had been any other week, I would have gone to bed without a worry in my mind on Friday and woke up at around 9, wash my face and would have anxiously opened up the 'Update' on my student portal.

But of course, that evening, I had gotten a phone call from my school informing me that I had been in close contact with a teacher who tested positive for COVID (*cue alarms*). I quickly got tested and thankfully the result told me that I was negative, but there was another student in my class whom I had been in very close proximity because of the activity we were doing for a theatre workshop. Everything felt chaotic because this was the first time COVID had come this close.

The next day, I had another theatre workshop. We were supposed to go to school to do it in person but the shenanigans with COVID meant that the four-hour workshop was to take place online (bless my eyes..). It started at 9:00 AM sharp, which meant that my 'college results reveal' had to end as quickly as possible.

I had actually set everything up the day before -- personal student portal website opened, Photobooth on the other side of the page, screen-recording ready to start -- I wanted to take a 'reaction' video to keep no matter what the result was. (Unfortunately, the video itself is a bit too embarrassing so I don't think I'll be posting it anytime soon 😅)

As I waited for the clock to strike 9, I refreshed the portal page and scrolled down until I saw a new notification saying that 'there has been an update' to my status. I put my hand over my eyes and clicked on the link.

I read the first few words between the space of my fingers. It was only when I reached the word 'congratulations' I realised what this was about.

No way.

I got accepted.

The next thing I remember, I burst out of the room and dramatically swooped downstairs to where my mom and grandma were having breakfast. I didn't even know how to tell them that I have just gotten a letter saying that I was accepted to my dream school.

So I just said, "I'm a college student now" and let them figure out the rest.

My mom immediately hugged me and my grandma congratulated me but I was on the run again because it was a few minutes past 9 AM. Although the celebration was cut short at that moment, I think it gave everyone some time to let this sink in (and for my mom to do some 'power research' on plane tickets to Philadelphia and hotels nearby).

That whole day, I got messages congratulating me from so many people and I even managed to connect with some old friends who left NLCS a few years ago. The warm, fuzzy feeling of this was incomparable to any 'gifts' that you can buy.


Now that my acceptance story is over, I wanted to talk more about the school itself. Swarthmore College is a liberal arts college (that teaches engineering as well) located in Philadelphia, USA. It's in the outskirts of Philadelphia so people say it's much safer and the scenery is beautiful there. There are only 1689 students, which is similar to the number of students at NLCS (but on a much bigger campus).

My acceptance was only possible because I was deferred by my ED I school. To be honest, I oddly felt calm and thankful about this because I knew it meant that I was going to be able to explore my other nine options. When it came near my ED II decision date (which was for Swarthmore), I definitely felt a greater pull towards it than I had before, which made me wonder if this was going to be my final stop. The more I look into what the school has to offer, as well as things you can do near campus, I'm thinking that this is definitely the school for me.

Liberal Arts College

You might be wondering what this means. It actually has nothing to do with being liberal or specifically about the arts. To really know what this means, we need to delve into the past. In the era of classical antiquity, certain studies were considered 'worthy of a free person' (liberales). The goal of a liberal arts education remained the same throughout the years: to acquire knowledge on a wide range of subjects while developing skills that can be utlised in a variety of situations.

I take the notion of challenging beliefs, helping students become critical thinkers, and posing us to be global citizens of the liberal arts education most importantly. This is a way for me to step forward into this world that's moving at a very fast pace while standing my ground and have an insightful vision of what the future holds for me.

Although there are some students who have aspirations they'd like to follow as soon as they graduate high school, I wanted to have experience in the world of academia. To me, liberal arts education is like a Virtual Reality set where undergraduate students are encouraged to explore different aspects of their interests until they feel confident enough to make the choice.

Here's the psychological stance I take regarding LACs. People tend to make positive predictions on what one's emotional state will be in the future — this is a phenomenon known as 'affective forecasting'. It's the reason why people sometimes make choices that they regret greatly later on. I like to think that liberal arts education mitigates this cognitive fallacy. It's very practical in the sense that the program is designed to help students learn in a more comprehensive and extensive setting, rather than strictly arranged paths (which was a big reason why I steered clear of schools in the UK).

For a student to only pursue one goal during their time at college/university will give them less of an advantage compared to students taking liberal arts education which prepared them for a variety of skills.

What am I excited about?

Um, everything? It's been 10 years since I've been in a new place to study and while leaving NLCS makes me a little nervous because of that, I can't wait to step foot into a new environment. The dynamic between students (from what I've gathered through information sessions and videos) is relaxed and comfortable and the atmosphere of the school seems very bright. I can't wait to be a part of that.

Also, living in a beautiful place with nature everywhere you turn your eyes to is also an immense privilege. I've grown to be quite reluctant to go to Seoul during the holidays because the air quality and noise pollution is becoming unbearable now that I've lived in Jeju for such a long time. I'm positive that Swarthmore will be even more of a pleasure to live in.

What I found really cute was that students were given 'personal seats' to carry around when they wanted to stop in the middle of a grassy meadow or under the shades of a great big tree and study outdoors. That's how great the campus is.

And of course, I'm excited to meet new friends and professors! People will be from different states and countries, which will be a great opportunity to build lasting relationships around the world! For quite a long time, I've been in the same pool of people and while that has its own quirks, I want to expand my horizon :)

There are other things like my new dorm room (I'm eyeing Dana Hall and Mary Lyon) and the things I can do to decorate it! One thing that has been making me think was the dining hall -- there's only one for the whole campus and I thought it might become quite crowded. Alas, I have found out that around 2023, there will be a much bigger and better Dining and Community Commons building. It'll come with more options for food, places to socialise and an overall sunny atmosphere with great big windows. It's like they knew my concern! Swarthmore also has three libraries, each with a different style, which I'm more than excited to explore when I get there.

All things aside, can I please gift your eyes with breathtaking views of what my college looks like?

*All images from Swarthmore's official Instagram account, @swarthmorecollege


I'd like to finish off this post with Swarthmore's very own motto:

"Mind the light"

It's short and snappy and I love it, mostly because the meaning resonates with what I want to do with my life and my purpose.

This was a familiar saying amongst the Quakers (founders of Swarthmore), referring to the practice of seeing the divine light in others and ourselves. I always try to see the best in people, even when it's hard for them to clearly see it for themselves. This has shaped my personality and the way I approach problems/situations in my life and I am grateful to have the ability to do so. I really hope that this talent of mine will thrive at Swarthmore, too.

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