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   Date: 9/29/09 Bookmark and Share

Day of Decision: The Becoming of a Smithie

The writing intern in College Relations, who transferred to Smith this year from a large university in New York, recalls the day she set her sights on Smith.

By Julie Colatrella ’12

I woke up too early on a frigid Sunday last November enclosed in a dark, sad space—my 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! CHUG! 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.

My acceptance letter eventually came and I said my tearless adieus to huge university world.

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.

It’s 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.

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