Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Alma Mater and College Decisions

This is where I went to college - Wellesley College.  It's right outside of Boston.  It has its own lake.  The dorms and classroom buildings are like castles.  I may be prejudiced but I think it's the loveliest campus.

Cambridge was my first home (my dad was attending Harvard Business School) and I was brought up on stories about the virtues of going to college in the Boston area.  It just seemed like THE place to go to school.  When it came time to apply to colleges, my dad took me to visit Harvard, Stanford and Wellesley.  Harvard seemed too run-down and urban and large and cold.  Stanford seemed perfect with the sunshine and beautiful campus- but they didn't choose me.  Wellesley seemed beautiful and safe - and they wanted me.

Wellesley was a really unique college experience - but like so many things in life, I didn't realize what a unique experience I was having at the time.  The classes were small.  There were no multiple choice tests - just lots of reading and discussing and writing papers.  The people were so interesting and diverse and extremely respectful of each other's backgrounds, opinions and beliefs.  There were no boys to think about which seemed to help us focus on our studies and develop deep friendships - plus we saved a lot of time not really getting gussied up for classes - sweats and ponytails and no make-up were the norm.

Like most students, I had a love/hate relationship with the place.  I loved the campus (but got sick of trudging across that loveliness on bitter New England winter days), loved my wonderful friends, loved so many of my classes and being able to make up my own major (Peace Studies - sociology and international relations rolled together), loved singing in a small a'cappella groups and traveling to sing at concerts on other campuses up and down the East Coast, loved being a Residence Advisor and participating in student government. But I often longed for the chance to hang out with the opposite sex more often and looked longingly at the more typical college experiences of dating and football games and co-ed events you didn't have to travel to Boston to attend (there were tons of parties to attend every weekend - but I was disappointed again and again with  the loud drunken parties that MIT and Harvard had to offer and was so grateful for the events our church offered - even if there did seem to be about 12 with-it girls for every fairly decent guy).  And there was a lot of Wellesley-bashing among Wellesley students - a very popular topic of conversation was talking about all the bad things about the place and moaning and groaning about how much reading and writing everyone had to do.  People loved comparing how many pages they had to read and write and sort of bragged about the all-nighters they pulled.  That was sort of annoying after a while.  Plus everyone seemed to take most everything a little too seriously.  And we were all supposed to call ourselves "women" rather than "girls."  I still would rather be called a "girl."

Anyway, all this is a long lead up to saying that I got a chance to spend the day on Monday at Wellesley.  Saydi (who also went to Wellesley), her kids, Eliza and I wandered the campus, showed the kids our favorite spots, enjoyed the amazing leaves and jumped in them for my dad's birthday tradition (it's his birthday today), peeked into some classrooms so the kids could see what that was like, visited the dorms we both lived in and treated the kids to lunch in my old dining hall, and just had a great day.

It was so great to be back there.  I wanted to grab some of those serious students scurrying to classes and say - "Hey, this is a great place - enjoy this!  Stop and look at these leaves!  Don't take things so seriously!  Have more fun!"  But then, I know I should say these same things to myself more often.

I saw all the same types of girls (lots of them would probably be appalled that I used "girl" to describe them) in the dining hall, sitting in the sames sorts of groups - the nerdy ones at one table, the loud, brash and sarcastic ones at another, the more well-groomed ones over here, the jocks over there...  I heard snippets of very familiar conversations about the bad food, the number of pages needing to be read, the events of the weekend, the professor who just doesn't get it and the professor who is awesome...  I wondered what they thought of me and Saydi and our kids, plunked down in their dining hall for lunch - not something you see every day at Wellesley.  I wondered if we looked old to them.  I wondered if they liked seeing our kids and if it made them think about whether they wanted kids - and if so, what they hoped their kids would be like.

Anyway, Eliza fell in love with the place and declared that she was definitely going to Wellesley.  What's not to like about living in a castle-like dorm by a gorgeous lake and enjoying all-you-can-eat meals in the dining hall?  But I told her she'll have plenty of time to look at plenty of possibilities.  As Saydi and I watched our daughters run down Severance Hill and skip along the path by the lake, we talked about how cool it would be to see them become Wellesley students one day - but how that would be such a hard choice in many ways as well (for us, financially - that place is EXPENSIVE - and for them socially and emotionally and in many ways).

So who knows what the future holds.  But Wellesley has a good place in my heart and I'm so grateful for the time I had there.  I'm not sure what parts of who I am I could trace back to Wellesley and I've often wondered whether there would be equally important things that I'd have gained if I'd chosen a different school.  Who knows if it was "right" for me.  But it was good - and it was beautiful - and it's a part of me.  


Sheila said...

I would love to go to Boston in the fall. It is definitely on my list! Thanks for the beautiful pictures and post!

Marianne said...

Saren, You will be glad to know that they call themselves "girls" these days. It was one of the things that struck me when I went back to campus. Thanks for your post!

shawni said...

Oh it is so gorgeous! It looks like you hit the very height of Fall and I'm so glad you had so much fun.

As for Wellesley, I'm glad I sort of went there too, but opted for reals to go to a college with boys ;) It was the best of both worlds to experience Wellesley with you but also have the urban experience I wanted. So thanks for letting me share that place with you...

Sure love you.

Patty Ann said...

What a beautiful place and what wonderful memories to share with your family.

Eyrealm said...

What a fantastic place! There's nothing like it on earth and your soul is just as beautiful as these "places" so I think it was a great place for you!

Sonya said...

I am the mother of a Wellesley first-year in the Class of 2015. (I still prefer the word "freshman" but, oh, well...)

I very much enjoyed reading your blog entry about your family's visit to the campus. I live on the West Coast, but have spent a total of two weeks on the Wellesley Campus with my daughter, and I heartily second everything you have said about its beauty and charm.

My daughter is finding dorm life a hard adjustment after being the pampered only child of a single mother, and she finds the work-load intense but, at the same time, she feels incredibly privileged to be attending a college where all of the professors, without exception, have platinum credentials, where there are deep and long-standing college traditions, and where the very mention of the name elicits admiring "wows" from people familiar with academia at its best.

While in her dorm building, Tower Court, my daughter never ceases to admire the elegant surroundings, antique furniture, stonework, wood-carvings and leaded glass windows. Wellesley is as much a feast for the eyes as for the mind.

I know it's an expensive school, but the financial aid office is extremely responsive to parents' unique situations, and they truly make the school affordable for every budget.

I'm so glad she's there. I wish I could go to college all over again but, this time, at the best women's college in the nation!

Best wishes now and in the future,

Sara's mother


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