Commentary: Learning to Swim Like a Scholar
Take It From Me (A Few Words of Advice from a Member of the Class of 2003)
By Allison Petrozziello
As a sea of bellowing women flowed
across campus to opening convocation last fall, some in just
bras and jeans, others clad in more elaborate Madonna-esque get-ups,
I clung to the electrical tape 'Z' (for Ziskind) on my T-shirt
for dear life. Houses were hollering chants, each louder than
the next. I yelled along with the best of them, quietly rejoicing
that my house traditions involved taping Z's on our shirts and
not removing our shirts.
Yet from opening convocation at Smith last September 1999, I felt about as conservative as they come-open-minded, for sure, but conservative. Liberalism, at times, must be learned. Though my heretofore liberalism felt shadowed in comparison to these wild women, a sense of comfort kept me moving with all those X chromosomes. I was home.
I wouldn't say it was a walk in the park from there. Smith-college in general, to be sure-calls for adjustment, a reexamining of values and of selves and hard work. At best, the most balanced among us navigate the transition smoothly, accept change as natural and grow. Yet even the most stable first-years, when stripped of the security of home, can flounder in the push and pull of college life.
Smith has endeavored to make this transition as smooth as possible with a web of support in the houses and the college at large, which many of us take advantage of. However, it's important to strike a balance between employing the resources at hand and forging ahead oneself. At times the environment of cushy houses and advisers galore can make things so comfortable that we forget to follow our own agenda, to get out of the house once in a while.
During finals last year, I took a much-needed
break and ventured downtown to the Fire and Water café
with a friend of mine. She told me she was thinking of transferring
(a musing never to be considered valid during finals), and she
felt a huge discrepancy between who she hoped she would be by
the end of her first year and who she actually was. Visions of
"the" strong Smithie had strung her along into thinking
she would become a
The stress level, we agreed, was absolutely endemic at Smith. The academics were stellar. The lack of men, well, it got to us now and then. Yet we couldn't figure out why there was such a discrepancy in selves. Months later we know that "the" Smithie version of herself was totally who she had become, despite her feeling stifled in a ready-made community. Who she is depends more on her than on her environment or anyone else, even if she is charging along in her bra with the others.
Smith can be hard. Yet it's conversations like the one I had with my friend that keep us going, ever-morphing into that elusive Smithie we all aspire to be. College can at once be disabling and empowering -- it's the balance we must strike that helps us endeavor onward, no matter where we come from, no matter what version of ourselves we decide to become.
is published by the Smith College Office of College Relations
for alumnae, staff, students and friends.
Copyright © 2000, Smith College. Portions of this publication may be reproduced with the permission of the Office
of College Relations, Garrison Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts 01063. Last update: 9/27/2000.
Made with Macintosh