Four years ago, on May 1, 2015, National Reply Date, at 11:26 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, I made the decision to come to Bryn Mawr College.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I was terrified.
Some students at Bryn Mawr say they’ve dreamed of being a Mawrter since middle school, or they knew that BMC was the perfect fit from the minute they stepped on campus. Others come in with their majors decided and their career goals set, ready for the College to support them through four years of pursuing their dreams.
But I was never one of those students. (In fact, when I visited Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore as an admitted student, the only thing I returned home with was walking pneumonia).
Even after I got to Bryn Mawr, I found myself struggling to make choices about the future. In my freshman year, I took eight classes in seven different departments. As a sophomore, I changed my intended major once, then twice, then three times. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my college career, let alone the rest of my life.
"But you don't have to know all of that," one upperclassman told me patiently. "You just have to know what happens next."
And so I dedicated my time to figuring out what was next.
As it turns out, the upperclassman was right. In the fall of my junior year, as a newly declared double major in English and Sociology, I started working for Bryn Mawr’s Communications department. That winter, I looked up journalism and communications classes at Penn that I could take through the Quaker Consortium. And over spring break, I shadowed two writers and an editor through the newsroom as part of a LILAC-sponsored externship at The New York Times. (It was the first time I'd ever been in a newsroom, and I loved every minute of it).
Slowly, things began to fall into place.
In the fall, I interned with the Digital News team at NBC10 Philadelphia. This spring, I worked on the news features desk at the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the oldest daily newspapers in the States. Over the past year, I’ve talked to sources in Buddhist temples, made zines with student poets at UPenn, helped save an elephant in New Jersey, drank coffee in a lighthouse on Philly’s historic Boathouse Row, and more. Being in Philadelphia and at Bryn Mawr has opened up a world I never could've imagined on my own.
Granted, it hasn't always been easy. For the past year, I've been juggling academic courses, organizing student efforts, balancing job and internship applications, and working four jobs (over 20 hours a week) on top of it all. But I've been lucky enough to have peers who care about me, editors who are patient with my mistakes, and a community that always has my back.
Last Monday, I turned in my senior thesis. On Tuesday, a story I wrote ended up on the front page of the Inquirer. In a few weeks, I’m heading home, interning for the summer at a local alt-weekly in Portland, Oregon.
After that? I’m not sure. But as this May 1, National Reply Date, rolls around again, I’m definitely not as terrified.
After all, I don't have to figure out the rest of my life. I just have to know what happens next.