An Interview On
Haverford College

Background

Interview Date:January 2019

Gender Identity: Non-Binary
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: From outside of Boston and was homeschooled. I spent a lot of time with 20 or 30 other homeschooled students in the area.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Linguistics (A Tri-College Department)
Minor: Growth and the Structure of Cities. It’s a department at Bryn Mawr College that I can cross-register in through the Tri-College Consortium.
Extracurricular Activities: Freshman and Sophomore years I was in Chamber Singers, which is a small, more advanced choir. I am in an acapella group. I’m very involved in musical theater, playing in the pit orchestra and helping direct a musical. I’ve done some political activism work, especially freshman and sophomore years, with a group called the Bi-Co Anti-Capitalists. With them, we got involved in changing the pay-period for student workers on campus from monthly to bi-weekly.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Last spring was the first time I’d done theater stuff since middle school. One of my friends asked me to play in the pit orchestra and that was my first intro to theater in a long time. Seeing that process come together, even as somebody who wasn’t in the main part of the show, was amazing to see. Another one of my friends told me about directing workshops in the fall and applied for it and found that I really love putting together scenes, staging, and all the aspects of putting on a show. I have become a lot more interested in musical theater and have met several of my best friends through it.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It depends on the semester. Last semester I took two Linguistics courses: Semantics and Sociolinguistics, which I took at Swarthmore. I have to take some of my classes at Swarthmore to graduate. Semantics had a weekly problem set. Sociolinguistics had readings and the occasional papers or write-ups one every three or four weeks. I’ve taken about two Linguistics courses each semester since I didn’t take any Linguistics classes until Sophomore year. The more technical classes have problem sets and the more humanities-based classes have readings and papers.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I think they do a really good job of integrating us with classes at Swarthmore. Most Haverford students take one class at Bryn Mawr College, but not Swarthmore. It’s been cool to be on that campus. Their Linguistics program is really strong and the collaboration between both schools is great. Because the Tri-Co Consortium is made up of small schools, the Linguistics Department has the weakness of not having a large number of faculty members and resources. Linguistics is also such a wide-reaching subject that it’s hard to nail down what it is because there are so many cross-registered classes. Specifically with Haverford, I’ve felt very supported in my classes and my advisor is amazing and cares a lot about how each of her students is doing. I personally know almost all of the Haverford Linguistics faculty.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s incredibly non-competitive, which is a big reason why I chose to go to Haverford. People don’t talk about grades very much. People will talk about academic work but there is a strong culture of your work being your thing and yours alone, and that you shouldn’t be competing with others because you should be doing the best you can for yourself. There is a lot of emphasis on not cheating or plagiarizing at Haverford and I think people often don’t collaborate as much as they could because they’re afraid they’ll inadvertently cheat or plagiarize. [Read a Haverford Clerk article about the academic culture.]

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose Linguistics because I’ve always thought that languages are fascinating. I learned French in middle school and high school and was fascinated by the specifics of the grammar and how the language actually worked. I originally planned on minoring in Linguistics and majoring in Growth and Structure of Cities and switched partially because Linguistics is light on requirements and allows me to explore other fields. I also found Growth and Structure of Cities to be more theoretical and historically focused while I wanted something that taught the applications of theory and how to plan cities and solve planning problems.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Tritton Hall in a single.

Sophomore: Haverford College Apartments in a themed community house that I got pulled into because they needed an extra person. I had a single room.

Junior: QHouse, which is a house for Queer students. I lived with 9 people in my section of the house and had a single room.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s very, very safe. I never felt unsafe walking around campus even at night because it’s a very sheltered suburban area. Campus safety is really good about making us feel comfortable about getting help if a friend is super drunk.

Pros and cons of being located in Haverford, PA:
Pros: 1) It’s really close to Philadelphia. It’s about a 25-minute train ride and the train station is right off campus.

2) There’s a 24-hour CVS and Wawa that are close to campus so you can get food or medicine at all hours of the night if needed.

Cons: 1) It’s not a college town at all. There are businesses around, but it’s plopped in the middle of the suburbs. There is no center of town that is nice in the typical college town way.
2) Because of the location, walking and biking are not super possible. Especially biking, I feel unsafe on the roads because there is nowhere to bike.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Freshman year I went to sports teams’ basement parties but grew out of that after I made more friends. Now, if one of my friends is having a party I’ll go to that. Otherwise, I’ll hang out with friends or play games with them. I’ll go to concerts in Philly once or twice a semester. The parties and events I like to go to happen in James House, which is a student art space, in somebody’s apartment, or in a dorm common room. Every once in a while, there will be larger things organized by clubs held in Lunt Café.

What nights of the week are there regularly parties or events?
Friday and Saturday.

How did identifying as LGBT influence your nightlife experience? Is there a strong Queer nightlife scene?
It made me feel very uncomfortable at other party spaces. There is a strong split between athletes and non-athletes and the athlete parties can be more male-dominated spaces. The Queer nightlife scene is if you get your other friends who are Queer, which almost all of my friends are, and do something together. Since sophomore year when my friend group was established, I haven’t felt a problem. But it has not felt right in the past and doesn’t feel right when I do go into those spaces, which is not very frequently [laughs].

How happy have you been with the weekend options at Haverford? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m usually pretty happy. I wish there was some kind of space where you could go to a party that wasn’t a campus-wide party and was more accessible to other people who didn’t have a super strong friend group and was less intimidating socially.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
My very best friend I met the first day I moved in because they lived on the same floor as me. Freshman year another one of my best friends I met through Chamber Singers. Another one of my best friends I didn’t become friends with until sophomore year but ended up living next door to my apartment and we also did theater stuff together.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s a mixed bag. People are pretty friendly and if you’re nice to people they’ll be nice to you. It’s very easy to meet people. I’d say I recognize or know the names of about 300 people here. AS far as actually becoming friends with someone, I find it very difficult. I think that’s because first-year orientation is set up so you spend all your time with the people you live with your first week, so it’s built in a way to make friends. I did make several good friends through that, but it makes it harder to branch out from there if you want to explore your social circle. I have a lot of friends, but not many close friends or people who I feel I can reach out to. I see a lot of people on a regular basis, but a lot of the times I interact with people because I run into them. You see people constantly because it’s such a small campus.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
As far as different races, people mix pretty frequently. There are friend groups made up of all people of color or all White students because of the general tendency for people to seek out people similar to them. For me personally, I have a mixed friend group. In terms of sexual orientations, people stick together. Most of my friends are trans or queer in some way. I interact with straight cisgender people every day, but very few of my close friends are straight cisgender. I don’t think that’s an intentional thing on my part, I think it just happened. Similar to people of specific ethnic and racial groups, we have that thing in common and it’s an instant connection.

How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community on campus?
It’s scattered and cliquey. If you happen to become friends with a Queer person who knows a lot of Queer people then you’re fine, and that’s what happened with me. I had one queer friend who was a year older and more established who introduced me to 7 or 8 other people. There’s a freshman hall that is the Gender-Sensitive Hall and full of gay and trans people, which is great that they have a community, but people who are not on that hall can feel isolated or excluded. I’m now working to figure out ways to make that more accessible with the Queer Discussion Group. Most of my Queer friends have a lot of Queer friends, but it’s not like there is a community – it’s just a lot of friend groups. It’s hard because people stick to people they already know.

Careers

Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I have gotten pretty good at Excel because I’ve had to use it for a lot of assignments. I took an intro to computer science class that taught basic Python, but I was so terrible at it and can barely remember anything about it.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful was the office?
I’m on a lot of financial aid. The financial aid office is bad about telling people when deadlines are. I guess that’s on the students to figure out, but they also could give some reminders. Haverford gives out really good financial aid. [Haverford meets 100% of demonstrated need of admitted students.]

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Haverford before entering as a transfer?
The social aspect of the Honor Code doesn’t work as well as the school claims it does. The part about not stealing works, I leave things in places for a long time and they’re always there. The academic part of the Honor Code works really well. But, I don’t think people respect each other as much as admissions claims. [Starting in the spring semester of 2019, the social code portion of the Honor Code underwent changes after receiving many cases regarding social code violations.]

What is something a prospective LGBT+ student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
People are really good at using correct pronouns for trans and nonbinary people. That is something people put a lot of effort into, even if they aren’t familiar with it. It was a pleasant surprise when I got there.

Also, the Queer people who are older than you may seem really intimidating and like they don’t want to be your friends, but usually they are just awkward people who don’t know how to become friends with people [laughs]. I guarantee the vast majority of Queer students would love to talk to you and be your friend. Just because somebody isn’t talking to you doesn’t mean they don’t’ like you, and don’t assume somebody doesn’t want to be your friend because they probably do. Becoming friends with older Queer students is the best way to make friends.

Reasons to attend Haverford:
1) The number one reason is the lack of competition in academics. People support each other and care about how they’re doing. People are focused on how they are doing academically, just not in comparison to others.
2) It’s really, really nice at certain points to walk out of class and see people you know all around. Now that I’m abroad, that’s the thing I miss the most about Haverford. By the end of your second year there you’ll know so many people whether you tried to or not. It’s an amazing feeling being in a place where you belong in some way.
3) The campus is gorgeous, especially in the fall and spring. It’s great going out and seeing people sitting on the green Sometimes I walk outside and think I am in a promotional video [laughs].
4) Bryn Mawr College is really close, so you can study things there that Haverford doesn’t have, like the Growth and the Structure of Cities department. There are a lot of extracurriculars that have students from both schools. You can also take classes at Swarthmore and UPenn if you want, although that is less common [among Haverford students.]

Reasons to not attend Haverford:
1) The small size is nice, but it can get repetitive after a while. If you’re not super sure you want to be in an environment where you know a lot of people or see someone you recognize all the time, think about whether you want that because it can feel overwhelming and stifling at times, especially if you’re not the type of person who thrives in that environment.
2) The workload is very hard, especially during finals. It can be brutal.
3) There is a stress culture where people are trying to one-up each other on how stressed they are and how much work they have. People will [talk about mental health issues] jokingly because we’re all suffering together because of our work, but it’s hard to genuinely seek help if you need it.
4) There is not very good support for mental health issues on campus. We have free counseling services, but you don’t know what you’re getting until you’ve scheduled something with someone. You haven’t met the counselor and don’t know which counselor is best for your needs. [See Haverford Clerk articles, “Long Waiting List at CAPS Frustrates Student Body,” “We Need to Talk About CAPS: A Critical Look at Vital Campus Resource,” and “Result of CAPS Survey Generally Positive, but Raise Some Concerns.”]

Notice: Haverford College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Haverford College.

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