Thursday, July 18, 2013

All's Wellesley That Ends Wellesley

Last night, I was ready to jump in my bed and fall right asleep, but I stayed awake in bed for an hour with my eyes closed before I could sleep. Sonya woke me up at around six by throwing a pillow on my back (it was a great throw, and it was definitely necessary because I'm a heavy sleeper) and I decided to shower. I normally take a very long time in the shower, and I haven't had much practice taking short ones, but I was soon ready to meet Ms. Neal in the lobby on time. 
I barely had time to snap this picture
as we drove by
We drove into Massachusetts, where, unfortunately, it was just as hot and just as humid. The traffic ended up being troublesome, so we skipped breakfast in order to make it to our tour on time. We found our way to Wellesley College and walked through the beautiful campus
You can see Lake Waban, a part of the Wellesley campus,
in the distance
There are a LOT of trees at Wellesley
The Tower at Green Hall
So much nature!
This is why I called it a "beautiful" campus,
but I'm starting to think that that was an understatement 
Paths going between buildings at Wellesley
Weaver House
We went to the Weaver House for our information session. We had a moment to get some water, then we were instructed to move upstairs into a lovely meeting room with chairs surrounding a table. There was a group of chairs on the left side of the room bearing labels that told us they were for our group, but we decided to sit at the table because the room wasn't very crowded. We were asked to introduce ourselves and mention our academic interests (for me, English and science) as well as our extracurricular activities (piano, theater, volleyball, and debate). I was surprised to find that a number of the students there shared my academic preferences. The group contained people from all over, including Texas and Beijing. Anna Young, who works in admissions there, talked to us about Wellesley, covering everything from the Center for Work and Service to financial aid on study abroad trips. Very soon after she started talking, I got out my notebook, because I knew that everything she said would be worth writing down. She explained that Wellesley is need-blind, which means that whether or not you need financial aid does not affect your chances of getting in. Because of this, Wellesley's average student debt is substantially less than that of other schools. 

Anna addressed the generalizations people make about women’s colleges, saying that most people view them as either convents or radical feminist schools. Someone brought up the point that they don’t get to hear the male perspective in class, but Anna sees it as a break from hearing the male voice, the one we’ve had to hear our entire lives. She explained that she grew up hearing things like “women have to work harder,” and believing them, which is why Wellesley is so important to her. It’s a place where you don’t have to hear that voice anymore.

Anna told us that a high percentage of incoming Wellesley students haven't decided where they want to focus their studies (like me). That made a lot of sense to me, because Wellesley seems really accommodating to those students, with a very wide selection of classes (over a thousand) and majors (53, and you can create your own major; Anna gave the example of "Medical Ethics"). Wellesley's average class size is also much smaller than my school's, which is something I'm looking for in a college. 

Our tour was guided by a theater major and an architecture major. They started showing us around in a dorm, and I was surprised to see a fireplace (who needs one when it's this hot?) and a piano. Our guides told us that both could be found in every dormitory. They also mentioned language dorms, like Spanish and French dorms that only speak—you guessed it—Spanish and French. There was a Wellesley graduate on the tour who enthusiastically asked about the old Wellesley traditions and whether they were still there. Her excitement about her college was encouraging, because it shows that Wellesley is more than just a place where you take classes. There were also a bunch of little fun facts on the tour that I thought were really interesting. For example, around final exams, Wellesley has a rather quirky tradition of "primal screaming" where they have designated times to go outside and vent frustration through yelling. 
The inside of the Science Center
Another fun fact: the steps to the Science Center are measured
to match the average woman's stride. 
Our tour guides took the heat into account and had set up a shorter tour for us, (there would have been a lot more walking in the sun if they hadn't) but they made up for the time we lost by following the tour with a slide show presentation. I was more excited that I should have been to learn that the bell tower plays the Harry Potter theme on Halloween. 

Lighting in the restaurant
I really like Wellesley. It seems like an outstanding school, and based on the tour, I might consider applying, but since this was my first college tour, I think I should see how I react to the different schools we tour so that I can figure out whether I think every school is this great or if this one is actually special for me. I’m learning so much already, even on my first full day on the East Coast. I can only hope that the trip stays this amazing. 

We had lunch at an Italian place called Alta Strada (I split a salad and a pizza with Sonya), then drove back to Rhode Island. Almost everyone else slept in the car, and I really wanted to join them, but I was afraid I’d have trouble sleeping again as a result, so I made myself outline this blog instead. 

The Italian restaurant where we had lunch
Me talking to Travis at Siena
We stayed in the hotel for a while to relax, then headed out again for dinner at Siena. We met three Brown students (past and present) named Hillary, Kenya, and Travis. Kenya was at the restaurant before we were, so we got to jump right into conversation. Travis and Hillary arrived shortly after, and Travis took a seat close to me. Kenya had said good things about Brown's open curriculum, and Travis later did the same. He also brought up Brown's option to take classes pass/fail, which I had read about before, but it was nice to hear the benefits  of choosing that from a real person. We had some great conversations, and I really learned a lot about Travis and, more importantly, (no offense, Travis) Brown,  through details he shared. Travis had applied early decision to Brown, and he double majored in music (he plays drums) and computer science. He mentioned that he played lacrosse in high school, but couldn't find the time to continue it in college. I asked him whether AP classes were anywhere close to college-level courses, and he explained that a lot of his classes gave deadlines for essays and projects farther in advance than they do in high school, but that the material is harder. Travis was in his fifth year of college (a "super-senior," he had said), because he was in a program that allowed him to get two majors with only one extra year. He explained that you can't get a minor at Brown, so a lot of people choose to double major. 

I had been very nervous going into this dinner, until I realized that the person sitting two seats over was just that: a person. Before I left home, I was anxious that I would struggle to throw myself into conversations with strangers, but I'm finding that easier and easier to do. 
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