Customs groups are going to be your little foster family on campus. Your Customs Group consists of two Sophomores who are sort of like your mentors for the year. They’ll kick ass and be wonderful. Your HA is technically part of this group too and she’ll probably be cool too. Your fellow customs babies are the other freshman living on your hall— depending on the size of your dorm, this could literally be the people on your hallway… or your entire floor.
Customs groups are a great way to get through the transition from high school to college but it’s also really important to make friends outside of your customs group. Your customs group might be super great, but it’s really important to meet other people. Join a few clubs at fall frolic! You don’t have to commit to anything right away— just go to a few meetings and see who you like. Join a club, make a new friend group— you’ll have some free time and it’s a lot more fun to spend it with friends and clubs are a *great* way to do that.
My Customs people were super amazing and my fellow Customs members were great, but my real family at Bryn Mawr is, and always will be, my club (Shakespeare Performance Troupe). They’re amazing and I love them and really we’re all crazy but they’re my family. That is, my family other than my Hell Family (more later). Here’s a glorious picture of my latest show’s cast:
Here’s a clue! I’m one of the few women in this picture! Well. The few women dressed up in period costume as a woman.
Merion is the one with the porch. Denbigh is the one directly behind Taylor and to the left of Guild. Radnor is to the left of the campus center. Rockefeller is the one that looks like a palace with the fancy owls instead of gargoyles— not to be confused with Pembroke. Pembroke is the one that runs down the main road of campus. You’ll probably walk under this arch to go to Erdman, which is the big ugly one made of slate. Haffner is the one under construction so that’s easy. Rhodes is next to Goodhart (yay!). Um. What else— Brecon is… well… it’s… over there somewhere. Behind Cambrian row. Just. Walk the Valley of Death. They have a pool. Or pool? Or unicorns. Or something.
IDK just look at the website pictures and ask your customs people.
FINDING YOUR WAY AROUND CAMPUS
English & Russian Houses
English house is behind Merion and Denbigh. You walk down the car-road that runs between the two dorms and go past the half-wall that separates the parking lot and the REAL road with the real fast cars.
There should be a chartreuse ‘Yield to Pedestrians’ sign and a crosswalk. Cross this and walk up the short set of stairs across the road. English house is the one directly in front of you, Russian house is off to the left.
Cambrian Row is the line of houses that stands on the ridge across from the playing fields. If you’re walking to the gym (go towards Park. Just. Walk that general direction. You’ll get there) you’ll see the playing fields on the way, and Cambrian Row is the line of houses across the valley. The tennis courts and Rhodes are to the left.
Carpenter— Classics and Archeology and all that jazz. It’s the one connected to Thomas Great hall and overlooks Goodhart and is right next to Rockefeller. There’s like four entrances. Just don’t think about it too hard. Just go into the basement and BOOKS! The Carpenter classrooms are in the lowest floor of the library. Just keep going downstairs and cry until a senior sees you from their Carrel and helps.
Canaday— The main library with the writing center, the media labs, the language learning center and help desk. If you’re facing Thomas Great Hall (TGH), it’s on the right. It looks really weirdly modular with a long set of stairs going up to it. Lusty Cup is in the basement. People just call this Lusty. No, it’s not a sex club. I don’t think we have one of those. Anymore.
Collier— The math and science library. I can’t help you here. It’s somewhere at the back of Park Science building. Just. Go inside of the building and go all the way to the right, turn around three times, sacrifice a virgin inside of a circle of sacred salt and summon Athena. If you’re in her good graces, she’ll send a guide to save you. Probably an owl. Bring mice.
I’m only going to talk about the ones that people might mention from the second you decide to go to Bryn Mawr onwards. Gotta leave some mystique.
Senior Steps: There are two sets of steps on the facade of Taylor Hall. The steps to the right YOU CANNOT GO ON. DO NOT USE THESE STEPS. Those are the senior steps. Use the steps to the left. If you use the senior steps, legend has it you won’t graduate from Bryn Mawr (but you can make an offering to Athena and it’ll be ok).
Athena: Athena is our school’s patron goddess of wisdom, war and general kickassery. There’s a statue of her in Thomas Great hall— when you walk in from the front entrance and go up those epic stairs, she’s to the right hand end of the hall. People will leave her offerings to ask for good luck, for forgiveness, or for general greatness in their lives. People leave pretty much anything— maxi pads, flowers, wine bottles, etcetera. It’s just a fun part of campus tradition. Go with it.
That’s going to be your motto for a while: JUST GO WITH IT. It’s fun! Don’t worry about it! You’ll love it!
Friendship Poles: The friendship poles are the set of poles mounted on a pair of concrete blocks just inside of Pembroke Arch. There’s the poles set in the ground… and then the pair above the ground. People will say “DON’T SPLIT THE POLES" because if one person walks inside of them and the other outside of them, you’ll never be friends and if you are friends you’ll hate each other together. Whatever.
They’re on elevated concrete blocks because the school removed them during some renovations. Our kickass traditions mistresses got them back. High five Kayla and Sarah!
Traditions Mistresses: Traditions mistresses coordinate the traditions all throughout the year. They’re the single most awesome most glorious women on campus who live, eat, sleep, breathe and cry about making traditions perfect for you all. Love them as they deserve. Parade Night: Parade night is a ceremonial welcoming of the freshman to college. It used to be an actual parade. Now, all the freshman run from Erdman to Senior Row. The Sophomores will squirt you with water and throw water balloons since they’re upset about not being the babies anymore. Juniors will throw candy and flower petals. Stop and pick up the candy it’s worth it trust me. The Seniors… will probably be drunk already.
Step Sings: Steps Sings are when we all get together as a college and sing ridiculous songs— class songs, school songs, traditional songs, silly songs— and enjoy ourselves. It might seem a little silly but Step Sings are incredibly emotional and really important— it’s always worth it to stay for all of a step sing. Just. ALWAYS STAY UNTILL THE END OF ANY EVENT. There’s usually food! Possibly candy! Sometimes fireworks!
Okay I’m lying about the fireworks! But you’ll never regret enjoying the whole experience. That’s another piece of advice I have— get out and do things. Get out and have fun, do something new, act in a play, sing in an acapella group, commune with nature, go skinny dipping! It’s fun! It’s college!
On that note, don’t do anything you don’t want to. There’s no need to drink or light things on fire or invade Poland unless you want to! Except for the Poland thing. That’s not okay.
Lantern Night: I have a passionate love and devotion for Lantern Night in a way that most people feel for other traditions at Bryn Mawr. Standing there in the Cloisters, with the night falling like a feather duvet around your shoulders and the pleasant glow of being surrounded by your peers while the faintest thrumming of the occult swing in the jewel paned lanterns in the archways and the singing of faux Greek and knowing you are one of only a few thousand in the world who will ever have this experience is… well… magical.
I won’t give a picture of the ceremony here, since I don’t have me that are mine to share and also it’s something you have to experience. Also, here’s a picture of me preparing for 2016s Lantern Night:
Hell Week: People will probably mention Hell Week in the context of “Hellers". Hell Week is basically a… well, it’s impossible to explain. It’s a lot of fun, it happens in February and it’s a really loved tradition at Bryn Mawr. Freshman get ‘helled’ by a sophomore who’s like a big sister or mentor to them. I love both my hellees to death and they’re the most wonderful, beautiful, glorious, fantastic women I know.
People might go ‘ask someone to hell you!’ or ‘I want to hell you so bad!’. Don’t listen to these people. Hell Week is a lot more fun when you really think about who you want to Hell you— don’t ask someone after being at school for a month or less. Most people ask after Fall Break— some before, some wayyyy after— it doesn’t really matter. This is another example of ‘do whatever the hell makes you happy’.
I helled two wonderful women and was helled by two wonderful women; some of them are pictured here:
May Day: May day is the most fun ever and it’s the best. It’s like a wedding meets a bat mitzvah meets a carnival meets a garden party. Here’s a picture of my club, Shakespeare Performance Troupe, doing our “Revival” on May Day:
All in all, you’re in for a really fun experience. It’s going to kick ass and you should stop worrying about getting straight As or being perfect or impressing everyone and just sort of have fun, enjoy it and—well—find your niche. Find your insane little niche at this wonderful brilliant gem of a college.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, because, really, the flowers at Bryn Mawr are the most beautiful parts of our home.
Welcome to the family, 2018. See you soon!