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Tradition

[personal profile] auronlu asked me to post something about Bryn Mawr College, which is our shared alma mater (and as it happens our time there overlapped by a couple of years, though we didn't know each other then).

For those of you who might not be familiar, Bryn Mawr is a small, private liberal arts college in the Philadelphia suburbs. As one of the Seven Sisters, it's traditionally a women's college, although the college will now admit anyone who doesn't identify as male. That's a recent change to policy, and I think it's a good one. (The purpose of women's colleges in a world that is increasingly recognizing the problems with a binary concept of gender is an interesting question, but it's outside the scope of this entry.) There's a lot I could say about Bryn Mawr, most of it positive -- I credit my four years there with making me the person who I am today, and it was the first place I ever found a really solid group of friends, many of whom are still with me today. I was super-active in the Alumnae Association for awhile, was on the board of the local club and then the national organization for a couple of years. Then I burned out, and took a break that lasted almost 10 years. Until this year, at my 20-year reunion, where my friend A and I volunteered to be class presidents. So now that I'm back on the horse, I went to the annual volunteers training weekend for the first time in over a decade. That was the first weekend of October; it was a cold and rainy visit, but it was also energizing, and gave us lots of ideas about how to connect our classmates to each other and to the college. And of course I always appreciate the opportunity to renew my own connection. I've been to every one of my class reunions, and also a decade reunion for graduates of the 1990s in 2014, but reunion is always in the summer after the students are gone. This is the first time in ages that I've been on campus while classes are in session, so it was a real blast from the past to see the college alive with students and faculty. Not to mention that it was fall, with the leaves turning color and the greens turning to mud, which was yet another excellent source of nostalgia. I wouldn't relive my college years if you paid me -- I enjoy being an adult with money and free time, thank you -- but going back to Bryn Mawr always feels like coming home.

I would feel remiss if I didn't talk about Lantern Night, which was yesterday (and I suspect is part of the reason that [personal profile] auronlu asked about this). One thing that makes Bryn Mawr a special place is its cycle of traditions, and the most sacred of those traditions to me is Lantern Night. Every student at BMC receives a lantern as a symbol of the light of knowledge and belonging to the community. The lanterns are made of black metal worked into the shape of a stylized owl (representative both of knowledge and of the goddess Athena, our patron goddess for perhaps obvious reasons), and the glass panes are forged in the class color. The class of 2019 is a green class, as was the class of 1995, so I am particularly nostalgic when I look at these pictures and think back 24 years, to when I was 18, clad in a black robe, standing in line with my classmates and waiting for the moment that we would be officially welcomed into the community of Mawrters. And I also remember being a sophomore, frantically running up and down the line of lanterns, making sure they all had tea invitations firmly attached and candles safely lit, praying that the Class of '96 would have just as meaningful experience as I did. And I remember being a junior, then a senior, standing in an arch of the Cloisters, using my lantern to keep time as I sang in Greek, realizing that I would never be a part of this moment again, relishing the bittersweet cycle of time.

If any members of the class of '19 happen to be reading this, welcome to the family! I hope you had a wonderful Lantern Night, and that being a part of the College is as good an experience for you as it was for me.

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/721868.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.

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owlmoose
Nov. 4th, 2015 05:12 am (UTC)
I could never have gone there without lots of financial aid, believe me. Full load of student loans, work study jobs, and a substantial need-based grant from the college -- like most small private schools, at least in those days, Bryn Mawr would meet your full financial need as determined by the federal government. I was fortunate to qualify for enough aid that cost didn't have to factor into my college choice -- my family couldn't even have paid for a state school without aid.
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