Fall Break: Odds & Ends

Warm returns from a much-needed fall break! Unlike the one in Spring, fall breaks make me feel less energized academically but enhance efforts to relax and celebrate my favorite month. For some fall means escaping to islands or other urban hearts or loved ones abroad. For me it means being okay with fall breaks being hard, and healing.

Though I remained pretty local, mine was full of oddities. I added a banana leaf and a pin with many eyes to my jean jacket collection; I read half a novel for my Black Horror class in a coffeehouse (the book was odd; I’ll talk more about it later!); sweet friends & I visited an oddities shop on 4th named “Strange and Unusual,” bought familiar cassette tapes at the nearby Repo Records and Federal Donuts for the train ride home. We returned to Mando’s place in South Jersey for a cozy, festive witching hour with her pup, her two black cats, & the laughter from the Taika Waititi film “What We Do in the Shadows.” Other friends visited me on campus or met me for dinner. I bowled an unimaginable strike, collected many hours of Netflix originals & made a trip to my West Philly home.

fall breaking bread

One of the neatest things about not leaving for short breaks? There’s a lived-in quiet on campus where people feel rested. I ended my break in the cozy company of friends. They shared a meal upon returning from an art festival, but it had the communal warmth of inhabiting campus in the absence of dining hall hours or academic routines. One of them brought me a printed poem for my room and they filled the space with music and creative energy. They offered me leftover bread from La Colombe and evening comfort.

Weird things: The sharp energy changes to adjust to week-long breaks, ideal fall weather in Philly, the not-getting-used-to-feeling-uprooted, driving through the creek at night on our way back with friends. The book I’m reading for Black Horror has unreliable narrators and witchcraft and family lineages and heartbreak, but somehow among the realities and unreality my fall breaks are historically odder. Just the idea of having it marked on a planner and still feeling it creep up on me, too brief but long enough to throw a groove makes fall break my most welcome & least loved. (Below: South Street haunting, my cute creature vampire pachimari, the novel for Black Horror, and the tape on which the first song is named “Supernatural.”)

But because it’s fall break, I make efforts to enjoy October and the unusually ideal Philly weather. I sleep (a lot) and I make plans and I make notes for when I return when needed. (Make therapy appointments, make plans for eating, make…) There are a lot of upcoming things to celebrate! From the AMO Night Market to ideas to dance performances, fall semester is full of richness.

My Spotify is pretty private to me, but I’ll share a mix I made for this month and the oddness it captures. Happy October, and I hope you enjoy its sweetness!

Multi*… Haircutting…and Junior Dreams

Junior year has fulfilled many of the things I’ve been hoping to do in my time here, even though we’re only a month into fall semester. Not only have I established my place on campus in a variety of ways (and after two years I finally feel like the earth isn’t always moving to collapse), but I’ve been lucky enough to cross some items off of the internal bucket-list I have worked on since arriving here. I’m not going abroad this year (too many jobs, too many major requirements), a choice that, for me, means I have energy to channel to the mark I make on this place and my remaining time here. I had imagined a bucket-list post that never came to fruition… but now, here we are!

One thing I’ve been wanting to do is create a club on campus, and what originated as a brain-child between pals became a reality late spring semester. Now I have an established one that I co-created with a friend! Named Multi*, our club is made and meant for students who may or may not yet identify as having multiracial, ethnic, or cultural experiences, encompassing those from transnational backgrounds, mixed families or upbringings that are otherwise complicated in some way. We are making an effort to emphasize the club’s openness; the description is ambiguous for a reason, because beyond ourselves we were hearing a lot of confusion and uncertainty from other students regarding AMO spaces, belonging, and needing a space to talk through and heal from liminal identities. The visual below is from our first meeting this semester, and the image at the top of the post is from our interest meeting last spring!

We’re hoping to meet every other week for the fall semester, and our meetings have been taking place on Tuesday evenings in the Campus Center pool room. For now we’re focusing on small, intimate conversations about things like perception and space, language, family, and diaspora, but if all goes to plan we will be collaborating more with other affinity groups in the near and far future. Either way, despite the road bumps existing without an e-board, learning how to budget, and growing our idea from the ground up, Em and I are extremely excited!!

On a less formal note, last weekend my friends hooked a left on their way to Senior Cocktails in Erdman to stop by my room and trim our hair together. Using a razor kit one of us found in a free box, and with two of us already having gone short over the summer, we sat in circles on my floor to the calming hum of razor noise.

I’ve had my fair share of tiny, heartwarming moments here. But there’s something about how easy it was to cut our hair on a Friday night, like some overdue Bryn Mawr chop without the newness, and still having it be messily sweet.

Here’s to experiencing new things Junior year. < 3

Hell Families

One of Bryn Mawr’s most unique elements is its emphasis on inheriting. On history. On generations of students whose experiences are merged by colorful traditions, by chosen families, by legacies continued and changed. Though Welcome The First-years Week came and went in mid-February I’m always thankful for the family I’ve chosen here.

There are expansive family trees; it’s weird sometimes to imagine that I am the fifth child among others who have chosen to love my only hell mum, that she chose to love my grand-hellers who chose to love people in the same way that my two, sweet kids have chosen to trust me. Because students can choose multiple parents I am connected to others through mutual love of them, to work closely and collaborate and create an experience. People are brought together from the unlikeliest of places. And so the traditions are inherited, and passed, and the connections continue.

rnm spring ’18 hell family photo; anika varty (back) is arianna bernas’ (right) hell mom, & arianna and i co-parented morgan this year!

Much like real families there are whole lineages I’m not familiar with, names I can’t recognize of relatives who have left before I arrived here and left their legacies with me. There are traditions I claim whose origins I can’t entirely trace. There are secrets and tensions and heart-warming memories even beyond my understanding and the four, short years I’m inhabiting this place. Hell families aren’t for everyone regardless of the fact that they may be chosen, and that’s okay. People grow apart, or are found after the one and a half semesters you have a chance to admire and trust someone. (There are people I’ve grown to love who aren’t related to me; I’ve learned that these family relationships may not be the most important ones I have here. And that’s okay.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love my hell siblings (they know who they are!) but I wanted to highlight the generations above and now below me that I’ve had the chance to love and get to know especially this year.

Thank you for grandpa comfort in Uncommon, that lizard meme you knew I’d love & every impromptu hangout… (Amala)

my grandheller: amala someshwar (’18)

For the mum-love & laughter talks and cozy, poetic inspiration… (Kamara)

my hell mum: kamara dyer-simms (’19)

For every honest reach-out, for dancing with me always & especially in the back during Goodhart performances… (Morgan)

my eldest hell child: morgan fernandez (’21)

& thank you for the hair-pats, the Filipino understanding and the always being ready for adventures. (Jess)

my youngest: jess saludades (’21)

I may not know my haunts well or become close with the first-years who eventually grow to trust and see something in my hell children. But there’s something sweet in seeing my own traditions changed and knowing that someone else admires the people who chose me as their parent.

sweet in a tree






I Double-Declared!

I’m celebrating the experience of having finally declared! One year of realizations, almost two semesters of near-certainty, and months of unnecessary delay later.

Having entered into college dreaming of majoring in Psychology, and having spent the entirety of my first year realizing that Psychology may not be for me, I was the only person surprised when I set my heart on Sociology and English. Especially English;

english house explorations | hannah chinn ’19

Sociology made sense (I loved the social elements of Psychology more, and if every Psych course was my Spring ’18 Psychology of Diversity class I probably would have never left), but I had been resisting my love of English for as long as I can remember. English has always been my best and most-loved subject. Most of my mom’s sweetest memories involve me reading or writing, and it was the thing I received most recognition for growing up. For some reason I could not have imagined majoring in English; in fact it was the last thing on earth I wanted to do, regardless of two English professors my first semester at Bryn Mawr practically begging me to major in the margins of my essays, or how many papers I wrote like English ones, or the fact that I couldn’t imagine college without English. I’m only just learning to admit that all of the signs were there, all along.

unexpected english majors run in the hell family | my hell mum, kamara dyer simms ’19

So, here I am. Laughing, now, that for reasons of ease I declared my English major first.

It was the professors in the English and Sociology departments as well as older Sociology-English double majors who eventually put an end to my stubbornness. I have so much love for English House, the professors of color I met in my time here, and those who have also chosen to make these majors their home (Hannah & Nolan, whom I mentioned in this post, are Sociology-English double majors too!) The process of declaring was pretty simple; a meeting with my dean, a tentative list of planned, intended courses, and reaching out to major advisors to finalize my choice.

I collaborated with fellow banter blogger Rachel (who is a junior and double major in English and Spanish!) to interview each other on our experiences as a double major. Here she offers more nuance to my experience of the English department, flavored with loving another language and learning abroad.

Maria: How did you choose? What did that process look like for you?

Rachel: I knew I wanted to study English since I was in high school, so it was very easy for me to declare an English major relatively early in my sophomore year. I figured that since I planned on taking at least one Spanish class per semester, in order to keep my language skills from getting too rusty, I might as well also minor in Spanish. My advisor suggested I double major, but I dismissed the idea until this year when I got back from studying abroad. At that point, I had so many Spanish credits it didn’t make sense not to major.

four english majors (anika varty ’19, hannah chinn ’19, em prozinski ’19 & little old me) | photo by dex coen gilbert ’21 at a haverford hangout!

M: How do your majors complement each other?

R: In my observation, the Bryn Mawr Spanish department focuses a lot on literature analysis. In some ways, the skills I use in my Spanish classes are similar to the skills I use for studying English literature, but having to express myself in a different language uses an entirely different part of the brain. If I didn’t study Spanish, I think it would be easy for me to get stuck in a rut, without having to stretch myself as much. In general, I see ideas from my Spanish classes pop up in English readings, and ideas from my English classes come in handy for my Spanish assignments as well. I’m sure this is the case with most humanities subjects—after a while, you start to make connections and see patterns everywhere.

M: How does your experience of both (the departments, the skills you use, etc.) contrast?

R: I wouldn’t say there’s a sharp contrast between the departments. Both have very kind and helpful professors and both tend to offer an interesting mix of classes every semester. The only real difference between them is that the English department has its own home in English House, which is definitely a big plus!

M: Nearing the end of your Bryn Mawr career, what were the most rewarding moments of your double major? What did you love most? Are there any things you would change?

R: Studying abroad allowed me to integrate my majors more fully than any other experience I’ve had. I would strongly recommend studying abroad to anyone who has the opportunity—I had a lot of trepidation, but I’m so glad I did it. Not only did my language skills improve, but I now have a personal reference point for many topics that we talk about in class that would otherwise just be theoretical.

I wish I had taken a wider variety of classes, especially my first year at Bryn Mawr. I remember I got really obsessed with studying poetry, and I was taking three poetry-themed classes one semester. It’s great to dive deeply into your passions, but there’s no harm in exploring new avenues as well.

One thing I want to point out about Spanish classes at Bryn Mawr is that the focus is generally on the academic material rather than on conversational skills. Many students feel comfortable reading a novel, or a piece of political theory, but still get flustered when someone addresses them in Spanish. I would say that Spanish classes here are a means of investigating Spanish-speaking cultures and literatures, as opposed to studying the mechanics of the Spanish language. The Spanish department at Bryn Mawr is really excellent—I’ve loved all my Spanish professors here—but the focus of the classes was surprising to me when I first arrived.

M: Any advice for undeclared students?

R: Explore as much as possible. Try not to take more than two classes per semester in one discipline (no matter how much you love it!) because you’ll get burnt out and overwhelmed from working just one part of your brain. Allow your intellect the space it needs to grow and move in new ways.

Check out my double-major insights, and be sure to give Rachel love over at her blog!

Returned & Reanimated

I’ve returned to Bryn Mawr after a sweet and re-energizing Spring Break! Another break spent at home in lovable, historical, complicated West Philly.

In an endearing way, this one was pretty reminiscent of my posts leading up to and following fall break this past October. My mama made me leche flan (an ode to my post celebrating Filipino food and heritage!) and warmed my heart. I inhabited so much space at coffeeshops; I realized that as a learner I work best at the self-curated pace that breaks allow (but also prayed that I wouldn’t lose fuel, another element of my bond with breaks that I learned the hard way).

I explored holes in the wall that I normally wouldn’t have the chance of visiting, much to my Philly native annoyance. But there’s something nice about loving and learning a city you bloomed in in new and unexpected ways, about a place not losing its magic. (Sometimes my heart feels weird that I hold all of my histories here; I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but admittedly there are times I regret having chosen to live near home for college, where all of my sour growing pains can melt together so easily just by inhabiting one bittersweet place. There’s a richness to Philly’s urban charm, though—I’ll probably never get used to learning that there’s so much I haven’t yet learned.)

On the Thursday near the end of break I paid a visit to ReAnimator Coffee for fuel in the form of coffee and a cozy place to work. Their West Philadelphia coffeeshop is one of many locations in the city (and their newest!) but was recommended to me by a new friend for its nearness to home. Afterwards, I really loved exploring the fairly unfamiliar area where the weather was warm and local pizza places aplenty, wearing my well-loved Star Wars themed shirt and listening to Kevin Abstract.

from a blog post about reanimator coffee; click the image to read it!

On Friday, I went bowling with old pals at Lucky Strike in the heart of the city. For some reason I had never known it existed despite having passed it all the time to browse the art store next door. Though pretty expensive, the place houses pool tables, a bar, and an array of other games to choose from for warm, hosted parties. We spent two games warming up and re-learning how to bowl before heading over to Hiro Ramen House, a cute hole in the wall that’s pretty easy to miss. I had been there once before, and employed that knowledge to lead us there for a moment out of the cold.

lucky strike, philadelphia (click for image credit!)

ReAnimator may have been on my imaginary list of holes in the wall to visit when I have the chance (and I’m really happy to have crossed it off!), but one of my recent dreams is to return to one of my favorite places from high school! Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse opened in my junior year; it was a dream to see a comic book & coffee shop opened in my city by a black woman. The owner, Ariell Johnson, meant for it to be a haven for people of color who love comics, and the colorful and welcoming space holds works made by artists from marginalized communities. The comic-coffee amalgamation, and Ariell herself, embodied (and still does) all of my dreams.

For the last few months of Spring semester, I’m hoping to remain focused and channel this newly-made energy into ending it full of color. My return to the Philippines in May requires that I tie up my finals and move out of my Erdman home earlier than expected, so I’m remaining hopeful & keeping organized for warm, sweet, summer plans!

Racial Healing: Open Space Conversations

For me thus far, 2018 has been about healing. Of individuals, of communities, from embedded historical pains or personal ones, emotional, physical, spiritual, everything imaginable. I’m channeling almost all of my energy towards the idea of how people can heal themselves and one another, especially in diversity and justice work where healing becomes necessary for engagement and change. I’m entering my second semester as Erdman’s Community Diversity Assistant with a more critical and healing-oriented vision for conversation. I originally pursued a major in Psychology in order to engage in helping people of color recognize and emphasize mental health. I’m in a Psychology of Diversity course this semester to enhance my understanding. I’m dreaming of Sociology now to make it a reality (but I’ll save that for a post on my majors! Keep an eye out.)

I laughed when, coincidentally, I heard that Dean Jennifer Walters would be hosting the topic of Racial Healing among her themed Open Space Conversations, where members of the community can make space for certain topics together. There have been conversations here at Bryn Mawr about how to institutionally reconcile histories of racism and antisemitism, but not nearly enough about healing for those who experience those inherited histories on an individual and communal level. The conversations themselves have given me the chance to engage with administrators and faculty members, lovable people who work in the Health Center, and often with me as one of only two students among them. We exercise openness in half-formed thoughts and productivity in ways that not all settings leave room for. Our three weeks have seen a variety of comers whether brief or consistent, and the group remains small enough that it feels pretty informal. We talk about our feelings and ideas over lunch.

{I’m thinking a lot about community racial healing this Black History Month, and Ntozake Shange’s “Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo,” an ode to generational black woman healing, is next on my to-read list.}

The conversation is ongoing; we haven’t come to a conclusive ending yet, and I’m pretty sure that much like healing, there won’t be a clear solution or endpoint and much less a change overnight. We talked about institutional accountability and what that may mean for the histories we claim. We talked about how healing is more than just the removal of harm, about student experience, and about efforts to celebrate diversity that don’t entirely capture the realities that permeate us and our campus architecture. We talked about memory and inherited narratives of trauma that become embodied, and perhaps that healing could be inherited too. These topics are extremely relevant to my experience of Bryn Mawr, and it felt really sweet to be able to energize myself through expressing my thoughts and ideas to people who can affect more change!

On that note, I wanted to open up the conversation to anyone who is interested in engaging with Bryn Mawr’s complicated history. How do we imagine and enact racial healing? What does that entail? Healing, and especially racial healing, are definitely topics I’m making an effort to return to in the near future and over the course of the year.

Check out the Daily Digest for information about Open Space Conversations.

Well-Loved Campus Locations

One of the reasons why I chose Bryn Mawr, in the end, was for its botanic landscapes and comfortable, old spaces. From our art rooms and studios to our unique and individual dormitories, our campus architecture is unlike any I’ve seen before. Especially when I’m looking for a place to work or relax or channel energy, I find that there’s no shortage of places where one can feel at home, enjoy the greenery, & take refuge. In honor of final exams and reflecting on the places I’ve explored and made soft spots for in my heart, here are some of my most-loved campus locations from my time here!

Pem Dance Studio: The dance studio in Pem Arch, adored for its rose-colored walls and lovely natural view, may be unarguably the most aesthetically sweet place on campus. Though it was one of the first places I visited, (and though I’ve loved it ever since), I never actually had the chance to dance there until this past month when I joined Rhythm n’ Motion, the tri-college dance group created to honor and celebrate the African diaspora. I’m aware that because I’m a dancer that fact is kind of unforgivable — but I can’t express how excited I am to make use of it. Loved for: the feeling of dancing, surrounded by softly-lit ambiance, when the sun sets through the windows.

Erdman: I’ve noticed that people either love Erdman or hate it. Of those people, I wholeheartedly adore Erdman and would defend it to my grave. My new nine-month home both central and isolated on the edge of campus, Erdman holds a charm that goes unrecognized — from the artful exterior to the natural light that pools through huge windows. For lovers of experimental design and the ease of alone time, Erd is wheel-chair accessible on the first floor and offers a cozy living experience unlike any other at Bryn Mawr. Loved for: charming architecture / the trees and surrounding green / the obvious convenience / the single bathrooms! / the fact that I can heely on the first floor.

The treehouse: The setting of my blog photo! I always talk about how our campus houses some of the weirdest individualistic trees, but the treehouse was where I spent a lot of time taking photos or just hanging out when the weather was dreamy. Whether I wanted to sit among the branches or look out over the fields onto Cambrian Row, that tree on the walk from Brecon became one of my most-loved nature spots. Even if its a little creepy in the dark. Loved for: the feeling of enchantment and history that you get entering it / the names that you can find carved on the tree.

English House: I’ve met with some of my favorite professors in English House mostly because the English professors (in my experience) have been the ones most passionate about establishing a connection with me. In addition to office spaces that felt very lived-in and classrooms that feel open and warm, I found that English House often feels so homey that I melt a little in comfort (I tend to overshare in my conversations with professors, but in a nice way that leaves us more familiar), and I would even say enough for me to consider double majoring in English. Loved for: the fact that it’s surrounded by forest / its many, characteristically rose-colored bathrooms.

Pensby: For someone who lived in Brecon last year, there was nothing better than studying cozied up with a warm blanket or taking an air-conditioned nap away from late August heat. On Cambrian Row, Pensby houses the center for diversity and inclusion, hosting occasional workshops and conversations to enhance campus community. The building is unknown to most because of its location, but its lounges became a haven for me during exam week and moments when I especially needed a cozy, isolated space. Loved for: the plant-filled room upstairs / its faraway view of campus / the baskets of blankets that students are encouraged to use.

Honorable mentions: Arnecliffe Studio’s creative energy (a neat place for intimate hangouts), Uncommon Grounds & The Lusty Cup (for comforting espresso smells and camaraderie), that lovable outside nook in Guild, the Sunken Garden (for the branches!), and Campus Center 105 (for ideas and relaxation beyond the pool table.)

Behind-the-Scenes of: RnM’s Winter Performance!!

Every semester the posters appear. Every semester the Bi-Co blue bus emerges for a night as the unofficial Tri-Co van, & transports students to Swarthmore the hour before the performance. Every semester in the fall and spring, Mawrters pour into the center for performing arts and pour themselves into the colorful energy that characterizes one of Bryn Mawr’s unofficial traditions. I’ve never been to one of Rhythm n’ Motion’s celebrated performances—both semesters the effort I made to be there was interrupted by other responsibilities that now, for some reason, I can’t remember—until this semester when I auditioned for and became a part of the movement. My first RnM performance experience would be one that I had a hand in curating from backstage.

I arrived at Swat pretty early and worked on an essay while waiting for dinner to roll around. The whole team ate together talking and laughing. Therese, one of the Swat RnMers on this semester’s newbie team with me, baked us pumpkin pies to enjoy after the show and initiated a cup drop where we announced the performance’s time and place. At 6 p.m. we hurried back to the dressing rooms to prepare, do some last-minute run-throughs in dance studios, and get ready to perform. Below: Maliha Ashraf, Bryn Mawr ’19, fellow newbie going abroad next semester!

I cozied up in the dressing room corner surrounded by Bryn Mawr loves. I covered my eyes and face in golden shimmer. At 7 p.m., in our all-black outfits for opener, RnM warmed up together for the first time this fall since my audition. We had spent the last four months learning choreographed dances, the last two days getting the spacing and the colors and the music just right, & the night had finally come to bring our all. I had performed countless times before in ballet productions full of muted Marvin Gaye colors and debuts as the evil enchantress in Sleeping Beauty. But still, hanging in the shared dressing room dancing artlessly to old hits and helping my friends with eyeliner and highlight, (and later huddled after warm-ups receiving encouragement, and even later waiting to start off the show in complete blackout), my blood hummed with nerves. The lights went down. The cue for the newbies to walk on in darkness sounded. In one sharp beat the music played, the lights illuminated, and the ten newbies turned from our positions facing away from the audience to the vibrant roar of the crowd.

There was so much laughter shared soundlessly onstage and backstage in the dressing room while we watched our friends perform on the elevated screen. We marveled at clean choreo and danced the moves we knew for pieces we weren’t in, the energy easily matching that of the crowd even though the music and dances were committed to our memory. I grooved in mesh velvet to bubblegum pink and heartfelt blue in a piece named Honey, emerged in smoke and orange side-lights to dance in red silhouette and haunting golden-green. Backstage and hidden in the wings we energized one another.

I’ve never felt more heartened than when I learned that the dance I was consistently most nervous about perfecting turned out cleaner than I could’ve imagined. In all honesty, the piece I was now most nervous about was the one we newbies curated together, to Rihanna’s “Pose” and the classic “Get Ur Freak On.” But when it came time for us to close the show, hearing my name yelled in the crowd and the energy that surged when my friends Lia and Morgan danced beside me in our portion of choreo envisioned in 11 p.m. dance studio meetings, the nerves melted away and were replaced by my love for dance and performance, restored.

i have the sweetest hell babe!

Our finale featuring performers from Swarthmore’s Terpsichore & Bryn Mawr’s Ajoyo made me feel extremely warm and loved. That feeling only bloomed when upon returning to the dressing room, my sweet friend and fellow newbie Morgan Fernandez presented me with a rose and a handmade sign asking me to be her hell parent!! (For Hell / Welcome The First Years Week, a loved Bryn Mawr tradition welcoming frosh with creative tasks and chosen families.) I can’t express how thankful I was; I had been hoping she would ask me and hadn’t yet gotten a hell babe. If my night hadn’t already been made, the sweetness of it made my newbie semester experience of the passionate Rhythm n’ Motion Dance Company all the more memorable.

For those who can’t make the shows, check out Rhythm N’ Motion Dance Company’s channel on YouTube, and enjoy the filmed pieces from past semesters or make a game of it and try to find me in four pieces from this fall! <3 Until next spring!

Bodies in Social Life, Toni Morrison, & Anthropology of Youth and Childhood

Nearing the end of the semester means encompassing all that I’ve learned into condensed final projects, but, to an extent, finals season also offers a chance to reflect more personally on the emotional and academic elements of being a student. How have I created meaning? How have I bloomed into understanding of myself from the experiences I’ve had as an intellectual and individual? How have I performed? How can I reshape? In what aspects do I wish I had done more?

I’m awaiting the moment in my academic life when I’m not fortunate enough to have loved and felt passionate about the courses that I’m taking—my first year was full of lovely experiences exploring photography and education and women of color and poetics. This year is no different. The past semester has allowed me to re-imagine my favorite author (Toni Morrison, whom I read and loved in high school), examine a subject that envisions my future endeavors (working with children and youth in whatever capacity imaginable), and explore a topic that captures a lot of my interests (the sociology of bodies, and whatever that may mean). But much like past semesters, my studies have come with their own unique challenges that re-established my emotional boundaries; my energy waned with each blow to my mental health & I re-learned the realistic parameters to my performance. My passion & motivation often felt at odds.

My English course entitled “Toni Morrison and the Art of Narrative Conjure” nourished my need for an exploration of blackness & my love for poetic analysis all at once. I had the chance to re-read two of my favorite books, Beloved and Song of Solomon and fulfill my dream of reading the rest of Morrison’s works in a way that allowed for conversation. Professor Linda-Susan Beard is a performance artist in her own right. Her enchanting way of speaking and inclusion of black histories and creative concepts brought in so many elements at the core of Morrison’s heart. The room itself was full of artists and masters of language. Being there emphasized, and eventually solidified, my need to surrender my own stubborn nature & double major in English.

I could spend hours talking about each of Morrison’s pieces and her exploration. Of motherhood. Of blackness. Of heritage and local histories, inherited through trauma. Of magic and witches and spirituality. Of death and water. Of home. Of youthful sisterhood and women trying to love one another. Of color. Of intimate, emotional violence. But also the toll of reading one novel after another, all of them intimate to my own history and body and having no time for recuperation was more than I had expected. The coalescence of healing and heartbreak that is characteristic in Morrison’s work manifested in how I was able (or unable) to approach the material.

I’m working on my final Pilate Project (named for one of my most-loved characters in literature), where my sweet friend Hannah Chinn (’19) paints on the faces of people of color while we ask them about their relationship to history, memory, race, and family through the colors they ascribe feeling to. The element of narrative conjure feels important. I’m taking film & digital photos of each person after their face is painted, and piecing Morrison’s God Help The Child into her body of work through an essay on how it encompasses elements of her signature. (On the left: Stevie Campos-Seligman, Haverford ’20,  a dear sweet friend and fellow member of the Toni Morrison class!)

The easiest part of coming to my once a week Bodies in Social Life course was definitely the laughter and spirits of the people with whom I shared the space. Made up of all upperclassmen (with me being the only sophomore), the class felt extremely collaborative and encouraging of confusion; our professor Piper Sledge constantly emphasized the importance of us being easy on ourselves and was always open to ideas that would better accommodate our learning from the moment they crafted the curriculum around our discussed interests. We explored the sociology of bodies from embodiment theory: how do we inhabit our bodies and how do social locations become embodied? What meanings are embedded in certain body practices from body modifications to various forms of surgery? How do we think about visuality, authenticity, wholeness and “the self” in conversation with the way we treat bodies in society?

Nolan Julien (’18) is in Bodies in Social Life too

I wrote my midterm paper on the culture of tattooing and how marginalized bodies that are already visually marked negotiate the creative and meaning-making elements of body projects. I’m most likely writing my final paper on ambiguous bodies, how they inhabit space, and the reconciliation of ambiguity that manifests through the readings we’ve examined this semester.

Professor Leigh Campoamor teaches the Anthropology of Youth and Childhood course, where we complicate how childhood is imagined by recognizing the multiplicities of experiences that different childhoods hold. We have conversations about exercising agency, performance of an expected childhood, children as laborers, organized aid interventions, and issues of race, class, geography, gender, sexuality, and the realm of politics within the histories of neoliberalism, capitalism, and colonialism.

One of my most notable moments in this class was the class discussion I co-led on themes of citizenship & belonging, emphasized through a chapter of Aimee Cox’s Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship and two chapters from Sunaina Maira’s book Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11. Both involved an element of self-reflexivity that I’ve always loved reading in my academic work, and so I was enthusiastic about creating a conversation with my peers. To capture all that I’ve learned for this course, I am writing my own self-reflexive ethnography on how certain memorable readings emphasize my own experience of negotiating childhood and youth. Professor Campoamor encourages all of us to be creative.

I’ve written a culmination of thoughtful, weekly journals for all three of these courses. Often, too, the ideas melted together with embodied meanings appearing in Morrison’s work and imaginations of childhood, or notions of space and belonging threading through the three. The more time I spend here, the more I realize that I’m happiest with a liberal arts education, where all of my passions & ideas can fulfill me and be fulfilled.

Love for Dining Services

Pretty much all of the dining services jobs lend themselves to a creativity that only happens behind the scenes. From experimenting with flavors to crafting ideas from napkin notes, new drink inventions, panini combinations, and pizza concepts come out of the kitchens as often as food is served. It feels easy to imagine that dining service work is easy or less valued because it’s the only job first-semester, first year students are able to be employed. But there are reasons — be it the perks, or the companionship, or the staff — why the experience of dining service makes people stay.

candid in uncommon | by Cordelia Perez ’16

For me, I’ve been working at Uncommon Grounds since I entered my first semester here. No barista experience & a whole lot of hope landed me a chance at the job, when in my first real week here, I left my name and expression of interest with the worker at the counter. I hold a place for it in my heart because not only was it my first on-campus job and first job in general, but also because I really love the ambiance of working to music and the mundane work of opening and closing. I met my lovable hell mum, Kamara, at Uncommon when she supervised my very first closing shift in radiant afternoon light.

lusty love (my co-workers Toni and Daphne, ’20, admiring our day’s work)

Taylor McClain ’20 met her hell mom as an enthusiastic first-year as well, and laughs as she tells me, “most of my hell family is from Uncommon actually.” After working there over the summer she has been promoted to supervisor this semester and is loving it so far. Her favorite things about working at Uncommon? Playing music, talking to our manager Lisa and cleaning the grill, which she names is something to be proud of. Missing the seniors she and I grew to love while working last year, Taylor says “working at Uncommon is amazing especially when it comes to May Day,” and exchanges a look that I understand but can’t for the sake of secrecy elaborate.

As of this semester, I have been splitting my hours between Uncommon & our very own local night hangout the Lusty Cup! Uncommon has the food and the camaraderie of working with people. Brewing coffee & having my own space at Lusty nourishes a different element of calmness.

To celebrate thankfulness and honor its spirit, this year (and every year) I’m thankful for dining service workers & staff and want to emphasize their invaluable place on campus! So, I made an effort to feature some student voices who contribute to the love and energy that is Bryn Mawr’s dining services.

i made a milkshake upon my return from break

New Dorm Dining Hall (lovingly known by its old name Haffner) is where Moreen McGrath (’20) found her home upon being employed as a student worker during her first semester. My experiences of New Dorm Dining Hall are embodied in cozy exposed brick and relaxed lunches in early afternoon, where Moreen recounts gratitude for lasting friendships and admiration for full-time staff members. When asked about them specifically (I am always hearing stories about and interacting with them in small slices—Arthur has made me laugh with his humor and Theresa worked at Uncommon for a brief time on my early morning shifts), Moreen expresses, “In truth, I wholeheartedly believe that the full-time staff members are the most genuine, caring people at Bryn Mawr; we are so beyond lucky to have them… each and every member of the full-time staff sincerely cares about every student who comes through the dining halls. Arthur is undoubtedly one of the kindest, most outgoing souls you could ever hope to meet. He is always singing and dancing in an effort to bring a bit more cheer to peoples’ days, and, if he sees that something is upsetting you, he is always the first to remind you how lovely you are and that he knows you’ll succeed in whatever you’re doing. For me, personally, Arthur was one of the first people to encourage me to apply for the supervisor position.” From Theresa’s love for baking and efforts to create recipes for all dietary needs, to Bryan and Sinclair’s stories and cool exteriors, to the passion of countless other members of the staff, Moreen vouches for their value and caring characters.

love notes for full-time staff! | from the lovely @brynmawrdining instagram

From my room on the third floor of Erdman I can hear the full-time staff laughing and playing music in the morning. One lovable Erdman hall-mate and new sweet friend of mine, Makayla Hope Selden (’20), is a supervisor at Erdman, a geology major & a member of the rugby team on campus. When I spoke to them about their experience working in dining services and at Erdman specifically, they expressed appreciation for fellow workers and friendships:

“So I love working in Erdman for the family environment we have and the kinship I have with fellow workers. Last year I looked up to my supes for info about BMC that they just don’t tell you in Customs Week™. Working in the dining hall lets me appreciate how many people have similar schedules to myself and shows me more students of BMC than I would’ve seen/met otherwise. I like making iced chais at Erd!! Indulge in the extensive tea selection we have!! Something people don’t really think about is the dining hall stench you get hugged by by the end of a shift. Also we can’t just call out of work so appreciate the work people in the dining hall do because you wouldn’t eat.”

a warm, Sunday Erdman brunch

a meal made by me but made possible by charming staff

Wyndham‘s charming energy houses visitors, caters events such as weddings and brunches, and doubles as both a restaurant and a bed and breakfast available to outside patrons. The Alumni House employs student workers like Nattalya Pacheco ’18, my fellow Community Diversity Assistant and Sociology major, who tells me amid the Campus Center’s late afternoon hum that she has been working at Wyndham since her first year. Among heartfelt memories reminiscing with graduated seniors in Wyndham after May Day last year, and ideas about post-grad dreams that are typical of seniors, Nattalya recounts a special love for catering weddings and working morning prep shifts to start her day. When asked about creativity, food, and staff relationships Nattalya tells me, “Sometime’s we’ll ask the chefs to make us fries during a shift or something… one of our new chefs makes really good grilled cheeses. The closest thing you get to cooking is a prep shift… but I enjoying working with all the full-time staff.” She laughs. “They each obviously have their own personalities.” 

Movements like Humanizing the Hat and events like Dining Worker Appreciation echo the idea that Makayla emphasizes in their reflection of working at Erdman, and illuminates the passion and effort that student and full-time workers alike embody.

Warmest thanks to the lovely fellow students who elected to share their experiences. <3