Huge Cactus Flower at the Wellesley College Greenhouse

Now girls are often raised to see love only as giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give AND to take. Please love by giving, and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.
—  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, commencement speech at Wellesley College

     So you see, if you listen to all the people who make these rules, you might just conclude that the safest course of action is just to take your diploma and crawl under your bed. But let me propose an alternative.

     Hold onto your dreams. Take up the challenge of forging an identity that transcends yourself. Transcend yourself and you will find yourself. Care about something you needn’t bother with at all. Throw yourself into the world and make your voice count.

     Whether you make your voice count for children or for another cause, enjoy your life’s journey. There is no dress rehearsal for life, and you will have to ad lib your way through each scene. The only way to prepare is to do what you have done: Get the best possible education; continue to learn from literature, scripture and history, to understand the human experience as best you can so that you have guideposts charting the terrain toward whatever decisions are right for you.

     I want you to remember this day and remember how much more you have in common with each other than with the people who are trying to divide you. And I want you to stand together then as you stand together now; beautiful, brave, invincible.

- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Wellesley College Class of 1992 Commencement Address

Truthfully, I did not apply to Barnard because it’s a women’s college – I applied in spite of it. Luckily, the school had enough positive aspects to outweigh this negative. Surrounded by only women, 24/7? Ew, no thank you. I agreed with the sentiment that, in this day and age, women’s colleges are somewhat irrelevant. If women no longer need to attend female institutions to achieve higher education, then why would they? There are hundreds of perfectly good co-ed colleges in the world! Yet in only one year at Barnard, I’ve learned my lesson: women’s colleges are not only relevant, but necessary in today’s society. I could tell you the facts – that while only 2% of women graduate from women’s colleges, these graduates comprise over 20% of our congress; that women’s college alum include the likes of Emily Dickinson, Hilary Clinton, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City, anyone?), Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters, Nancy Pelosi and hundreds of other household names – but instead I’ll explain my own experience at Barnard, and why attending a women’s college is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

One of the most overused, age-old arguments against schools like Barnard is one you’ve probably heard before (I certainly have): a community of only women is unrealistic – it’s nothing like the real world. (News flash: neither is regular college!) The logic is, “how can women successfully assimilate into the work force, where men are not just present, but dominant, if they’ve spent their days surrounded by other women?” Believe it or not, 81% of women’s college graduates reported that their college was extremely or very effective in helping prepare them for their first job, versus 65% of women who graduated from public universities. Yes, I’m surrounded by a lot of estrogen, a lot of the time. No, I don’t feel as though the lack of men is leaving me ill-prepared. Rather, I feel confident and ready to speak my mind, thanks to the simultaneously nurturing yet challenging environment. I never feel as though I’m in competition with my classmates, because I have the opportunity to speak in a free space, without feeling as though I’m being judged or criticized. Every class is an ongoing discussion between peers and professors alike. While this may be possible at co-ed universities, studies have shown that women are less likely to speak up when they are outnumbered by men. Women’s colleges teach leadership and confidence through active participation. (And believe it or not, “women’s studies” isn’t the main focus of every class – and when it is, we analyze gender roles from every side, including the male perspective!) After four years of this, you can imagine that graduates emerge empowered and ready to take their seat at the metaphorical table.

—  Sofia Lyons, HuffingtonPost
Wellesley Gothic

One moth lands on your window. Then another. Their tiny bodies begin to pile up against the glass as the night wears on. In the morning, your alarm clock says ‘8:00 AM’ but no light penetrates the windowpane.

You share a Sunday brunch at Stone Davis with your closest friends. On the way out, you check Wellesley Fresh to see what they’ll be serving for dinner. The Stone Davis page is blank save for the phrase ‘closed on weekends’.

‘So, what do you all do on the weekends?’ the Boston University student asks. You laugh as your bag spills open. Readings and psets pour out. They engulf you in a soft, protective cocoon.

The endless hum from the Science Center begins to seem otherworldly as the sun sets. There is no part of campus from which it is inaudible.

One of the cultural orgs is throwing a party. At 11:00 PM, the Peter rolls in to the Founders’ Hall stop from Boston, redolent with Axe and Old Spice. You can see the pastel shorts from the East Side. Harvard is here.

‘I would never survive at an all-women’s college!’ your friend from high school laughs. No, you think, you wouldn’t.

The first midterm you take is administered after two weeks of classes. The last midterm you take is three days before the final. ‘Exams’ and ‘tests’ cease to exist. They are midterms now. Everything is midterms.

They warned you about grade deflation. Your professor hands back your exam. The class average was a 91. The paper in your hands makes a noise like an old balloon and begins to shrink down to nothing.

Org emails pile up in your inbox. You can hardly keep up with them. Reminder: Econ Lecture in Sci 277! Reminder: New SPEC Spam Policy! Reminder: Death Is Inevitable! You already know.

You are not alone in the Science Center at four in the morning. Accidentally, you flip a switch that turns on the lights near the Leaky Beaker. Twenty pairs of startled eyes, glowing pale blue in front of computer screens, lock onto you.

‘I’m going to a party,’ your roommate tells you. ‘Which school?’ you ask. ‘BC? MIT? Harvard? Tufts? Brandeis? Northeastern? Babson? Olin? BU? Bentley?’ It takes you twenty minutes to finish the list. She is already gone.

One day, the Peter never arrives. You wait for hours anyway. You’re used to waiting.

‘Dinner from Lemon Thai will be provided.’ The words, a siren song, usher you to more lectures and events than you can count. ‘Dinner will be provided.’ They have you under their thrall. You are at their mercy.

You receive a grade on your final paper. B+/A-. Which one is it? You go to office hours to ask your professor, but find their desk empty and their office silent as a tomb.