of Decision: The Becoming of a Smithie
Julie Colatrella ’12
I woke up too early
on a frigid Sunday last November enclosed in a dark, sad
dorm room at Huge New York State University. Another weekend
had snuck by and the charming bells of frat life still rang
in my ears: “AL-PHA SIG! AL-PHA SIG! CHUG!
I rubbed sleep from my eyes,
glanced over at my roommate, who was passed out with a flower
lei snarled in her hair, and opened our one window to several
feet of snow that had been part of the landscape since early
October. Dragging myself to the single shower stall I shared
with 20 other girls (and their hungover guests from the frats),
I washed the evening’s stench off my body and decided right
then it was time to remove myself permanently from this scene.
That was the day
I decided to apply to Smith.
I had never set foot on the
Smith campus, nor seen or investigated it for myself. All
I knew of Smith were media replications and stereotypes.
I liked what I heard. People tried to dissuade me—“You’re already
a lesbian, you must seriously hate men!” “You’ll be the real-world Rosie the
Riveter!” “YOU’LL ONLY WEAR PLAID!”—but it was too late. Smith had already whisked
my fantasies away on a snuggly, all-women’s cloud, far, far away from the cold-mountain
frat land of State School.
The picture was clear in my
head: a campus of brick and climbing ivy, spacious green
quads and women who sat in circles using words like “patriarchy” and “problematic” while sipping tea safely behind huge iron
gates. On the outside pouted forlorn frat boys hoisting kegs over their heads,
asking in puny, wilting voices: “chug?”
For months, I submerged myself
in a pool of Smith knowledge. I ate Thai dinners with local
Smith alumnae, stalked Smith Facebook and Twitter, and memorized
the school’s entries in books like The
Princeton Review. I read webcomics set in
Northampton and constantly forced my hallmates into the “Guess which of these
women went to Smith!?” game.
I was insufferable.
letter eventually came and I said my tearless adieus to huge
Since arriving here in August,
I have assimilated fairly smoothly into life at a women’s college.
And I’m surprised to say, as someone who comes from a male-dominated university,
I don’t really notice the change. Rather, I notice that I am surrounded by brilliant
women—strong leaders, passionate thinkers, diverse individuals, who happen to
spend a fair amount of time getting naked and cheering each other.
For me, coming
to a women’s college was never about weeding out the boys and creating a place
of single gender. There’s an air about Smith that doesn’t exist anywhere else:
a respect for learning that doesn’t survive in huge lecture classes that make
personal attention impossible; a sense that you are part of a history continuously
in the making, while simultaneously aware that you can be an individual.
difficult to achieve, this atmosphere, but Smith does it, and I don’t think it
has anything to do with gender. It’s more about the kind of people who come here
and call Smith home.
As for me, after having survived
one too many “Greek Games” (yes,
they really do that), it didn’t take long for me to call Smith College my own.