Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Each year, the Gazette likes to profile an incoming student for a much needed dose of nostalgia from those first few days. This year, we caught up with Jessi Holler, an Ohio native and junior transfer from the University of Michigan.
Daily Gazette: What prompted the transfer (if you’re comfortable with that)? And was the process more harrowing the second time around?
Jessi Holler: Michigan is a fabulous university, and its structure and immensity are a part of that experience–as is the challenge of making a community for oneself, and realizing that that community will never be total. Maybe that’s a fancy way of saying that the university was too big for me, or too real. At any rate, I did end up learning from the very real diversity on campus, and am well-acquainted with a variety of disciplines…But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would feel more at peace with my life and education if a smaller group of people were able to intentionally limit the bounds of their physical world for a while, and stay in one place to develop ideas and community, even if I admitted that such an ideal space might be a temporary, artificial ideal provision that I would not find later on in the world. Swarthmore seems this way thus far, in a good way. Although I’ve also concluded that I can only process people in two-hundred-person blocks, so meals at Sharples or mass gatherings on Parrish Beach look a whole lot like Michigan to me.
DG: And you considered Swarthmore because…
JH: I considered Swarthmore because I realized that a quality of on-going conversation was missing from my formal academic life–although I was, at times, a fairly well-adjusted fragmented modern individual, the close quarters, intensity and Honors program at Swarthmore seemed to point to a form of intellectual community that would be much more productive and engaging for me. Also, the buildings are much prettier here.
DG: So, how was your orientation experience?
JH: Orientation was a lovely, if misleading time–the first few days were very relaxing, but the last were more hectic than I would have liked. All of the incoming transfer and exchange students were brought together in a CA group led by two other transfer students, so the experience was relevant. And, judging by lunch table arrangements, the scheduled hokey activities did seem to do something in providing we strange old-new students with some sort of social backbone. I think that we were all, in our jaded, been-there-done-that-yet-still-hopeful transfer student sort of way, were moved and impression by the speeches made at First Collection—we had realized our own experiences at other places as central to our understanding of Swarthmore, and to hear that reflected back from the outside was an empowering thing.
DG: The final dreaded question: what are your hopes and plans here at Swat, in terms of major and extracurriculars?
JH: I couldn’t possibly begin to answer this question! I plan, for now, to pursue an Honors major in English, with an honors minor in Interpretation Theory–lots of the gooey cultural theory and criticism stuff that I picked up from the dumpsters of the big university, plus some formal grounding in a discipline. The extracurricular scene here, I must admit, is sort of overwhelming for me–I don’t necessarily feel that all activities, even the ones that excite me, are viable options for a junior entering seminars. But, I am certainly looking to work with the Lang Center to continue the dialogue and practice of community instruction and tutoring that I so loved at Michigan. I am also very, very excited about the Good Foods Project, and hope to garden and compost people’s wastes and bring a few local onions to Sharples. And maybe I’ll make my way to a few contra dances.