This article appeared in the Fall 2016-Spring 2017 Bryn Mawr Math Alumnae Newsletter.
If you recently walked by the entrance to Collier Science Library on a Friday evening, you may have been confused by the combination of heartfelt groaning and boisterous laughter that spilled out from the room across the hall. Every week, the students of Math 502 (Graduate Real Analysis II) met with Professor Djordje Milićević for an "optional" problem session. By the end of the semester, this meeting became jokingly referred to as "the first problem session" by those students who congregated again on Saturday afternoons and Monday mornings to continue the discussion. Taking part in both the groaning and the laughter, I was one of those students.
The Bryn Mawr Math Department allows undergraduate students to enroll in graduate-level courses. There are several reasons why students choose to take advantage of this opportunity. Some participate in the A.B./M.A. program, and need such courses for their master's degree. Others want to prepare for graduate school elsewhere, and to show potential programs that they have what it takes to master advanced material. And then there are people like me: I chose to challenge myself with an advanced course out of a peculiar sense of fun.
Graduate Real Analysis II fulfilled my expectations of a challenge. Working alongside graduate students inspired me to push myself to gain a deeper understanding of the material. A benefit I didn't expect was the rapport that developed among members of the class, including the professor. I asked one of the graduate students, Isaac Craig, about his experience in the course.
"I love how close knit the department is," Isaac responded. "You quickly realize that your study friends are your real friends." The students in Math 502 became study friends out of necessity, but real friendship emerged from the ways we encouraged each other. Isaac continued: "As students, we all seem to belong to some network of support. You always know someone's struggling with you. It's a family."
The bonds we built were forged in broken chalk, cryptic textbook passages, torn out hair, and occasional moments of mathematical clarity. What strikes me as I prepare to leave Bryn Mawr is how this class was just a magnified example of what the math department and Bryn Mawr are more generally: a little pain, a lot of work, and a strong community.