Creating Our Own Bryn Mawr Tradition

There are so many Bryn Mawr traditions… You might be wondering: why do you need another one?

I came to Bryn Mawr College to find community and most importantly, to build community. What I saw as a unique feature of the school was the alumni network it would allow me to interact with. Thousands of alumni who love the school and their fellow Mawrters. Soon, I will be one of them too.

Bryn Mawr helped me build community through the amazing friendships I found on campus. One of my best friends, Antonia Caffrey ’21 graduated last spring and moved to Philadelphia to work at a neuroscience lab at UPenn. We both love food, so we decided to keep our connection and start our own tradition – a tour of Philly’s best food spots.

We meet every two weeks and decide on a spot to try great food and talk. Going back to in-person work and school has been challenging, we all get caught up in the routine and making time for each other is hard. That is why we created our own tradition, based around food and connecting with each other.

This week, we tried Suraya – hands down the best restaurant in Philadelphia (in my opinion, of course). It’s located in the Fishtown neighborhood and serves Lebanese food. With plenty of outdoor space in the backyard and a beautiful dinning room, Suraya’s ambiance is hard to beat. On Fridays and Saturdays, the ‘taste of Suraya’ menu is required. It is important to note that while this restaurant is on the pricer side, it’s meant to be food for the table and gives you unbeatable experience that can make any date so special. I typically go here for end-of-semester celebrations with my parents.

Any restaurant and any food would not be as special without great company. Making the time to keep friendships alive is so important, especially as we move from campus into the ‘real world’. Doing so with food, or walking, or a music concerts can be a fun tradition between you and your friends!

At dinner with my friend Antonia. You can see the food we ordered. Baba ganoush, Hummus, fresh baked Pita bread…

Road to Philly Half – Chapter 2, How I turned running into a mindful practice

Like many people, I used to hate running. It wasn’t something I looked forward to and many times, something I wasn’t even fit enough to do. I took a chance on running without the statistics – without paying attention to pace, mileage, getting faster…

This process took me a long time. At Bryn Mawr, we are passionate about being excellent – excellent students, excellent peers, excellent members of the world. I had to un-do my understanding of excellency and craft my own definition of what running meant to me. Simply, I had to understand I was going to be bad, in order to be good; and that ‘good’ was a definition unique to my circumstances. I had to stop comparing myself to others.

Once I started running knowing I had no numbers to hit, I felt free. This feeling grew and grew, and suddenly, running was a habit I looked forward to. Sophie, Liva and I created BMC Laid Back Runners so others could feel the same way – running is not something we have to do, it’s something we get to do.

What did I do to create and sustain this mindful-running habit?

  1. I started following guided runs, using the Nike Run Club free app on my iPhone. NRC runs are guided and have different training plans, with no level of expertise or pace necessary. They do not mention pace numbers, just levels of effort; taking the pressure off trying to be excellent all the time.
  2. I switched between running with and without music. For shorter runs – days I couldn’t run for more than 10/15 minutes, I chose to do the run with just my thoughts. It is a good way to unplug and connect with how I felt, listen to my thoughts and do so as a ‘running meditation’
  3. When I didn’t feel like running, I didn’t run.
  4. When I could only run for 5 minutes, I ran for 5 minutes (if I wanted to run).
  5. I gave myself permission to stop and restart as many times as needed.
  6. I used HeadSpace guided runs (meditation app on iTunes)
  7. I became my biggest fan. There is no one that can believe more in you than yourself. Once you get rid of competitive and unreasonable standards, you can start to root for your progress in a way that is less about the numbers and more about how far you’ve come.
  8. I picked routes that sparked joy, i.e., the nature trail at Haverford during sunset, always beautiful.
  9. I ran with friends and laughed, talked, had fun.
  10. I signed up for achievable goals I knew were going to motivate me without putting pressure on myself.

Most importantly, I gave myself the time to grow and the space to heal from all previous ideas I had about running. I allowed myself to enjoy it, and to only continue do it for the joy of running – not the pain or the suffering. It is important to note that there will be rough patches in becoming fitter running-wise, it will be painful some times – but that is different from the pain and pressure we put on ourselves from societal or self-expectations. Discomfort, healthy discomfort allows for growth.

Remember, running is – at the end – just putting one foot in front of the other.

Road to Philly Half – Chapter 1

I have recently shared with you about starting a run club on campus, Bryn Mawr Laid Back Runners… There is more to this story…

I have always been in love with running, something most people hate. For years, 20 years to be exact, I played field hockey – a sport with a big team and constant interaction with others. Running was my only time with just myself and my thoughts. It’s my meditation.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate running, too. Some days are great, some days are awful and painful and brutally long. It’s a journey.

Creating the running club was a journey in itself, but earlier in the summer – when Sophie and I were thinking about how to start a club and how to pitch this idea to others – we decided to sign up to run the Philly Half-Marathon together, on November 20, 2021.

A half-marathon is 13.1 miles. I am definitely scared and at the same time, extremely excited. In my 20 years playing field hockey, I would have never imagined I would be at a physical, emotional or mental state where I could say “let’s go run a half-marathon!”. Even crazier, is the fact that about only one percent or so of the world has ran a marathon (full or half).

Running the Philadelphia Half-Marathon means a lot of things to me. It will be the last run around the streets I have for many years, walked, laughed and shared with friends, went out for dinner, went out for a field trip, read about. It will be my last goodbye to a city that has hosted great memories and experiences. And, most importantly, it will be a journey I am doing for an important and heartfelt cause.

I decided to run this race for my uncle, who,  passed away from cancer a couple of years ago. Like many people, cancer has affected my family deeply. My uncle and I shared a passion for sports, running and living a healthy lifestyle. I decided to fundraise for Sunrise Day Camps, the first ever free-of-cost camp for children affected by cancer and their siblings, which would have been a safe-heaven for my family.

The Philly Half marathon in November is about three things: family, goodbyes and mental health. This journey, the explanation of the why’s behind the three pillars of my decision to become part of that crazy one percent can not fit in one blog – they deserve a series of chapters.

In this new blog series, I plan to guide you through what it takes to become fit enough to run a marathon, how I balance school and training, how running changed my relationship with exercise and school, what it’s like to organize a fundraiser at BMC and the history behind one of Philadelphia’s most iconic events – Marathon Weekend!

Join me, let’s start this journey together…

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

Starting a Running Club on Campus

I have always had a passion for new ideas and helping the community. This is why I chose Bryn Mawr, a place where we are constantly encouraged to seek solutions for problems in our community.

I have always also had a passion for running. Creating community and running don’t seem to go too well hand in hand. In fact, most people know running as an individual sport. I want to challenge that idea.

I have been playing field hockey for the past 20 years of my life, I am now 22 and entering my final year of undergrad. In these exciting times, I have been trying to create a lasting legacy of community-building work,  whether that be academically or through social efforts, like the founding of the Laid Back Runners Club alongside my dear friend Sophie Khanna ’22.

Sophie and I met one afternoon in History class. We didn’t know each other, and the first thing I noticed about her was that she was wearing the running shoes that were currently on my running attire wishlist. COVID happened and our class turned remote. We became remote friends, through Instagram DMs. You know how it is these days…

Between messaging we discovered we both loved running. A year and a half later, we decided to create the Bryn Mawr LBRC and we are now going through the process of recruiting members and receiving the stamp of approval.

In order to create the club, we filled out a form sent out by BMC Student Activities a month or so before the start of the fall semester. We had to have five interested members and a club mission/constitution. After that, we requested a table from BMC Student Activities, so we could set up at Fall Frolic, which is an annual event where all student clubs present themselves to the student body and people can learn more about the club and sign up! 

After Fall Frolic and when your club has interested members, you can begin arranging meetings, events, etc. We are now in the process of organizing our running schedules for the club and meetings. Once that is done, we want to switch our focus to building a more formal constitution and budget proposal for the club to be considered for funding by the SGA. 

How Sophie and I connected with our passion for running shows us that running is not an individual sport, it fosters community. Sophie and I wanted to share our love and reach those members of the BMC community who love running, those who think they love it, those who love it but are afraid to run with a big group, those who think they are too slow, and most importantly, those who hate it (in order to hopefully, change their mind).

There are no time goals, no prizes, no mile times needed to be a part of our club. This story is not even an advertisement for the club itself, it is to show you how passionate Bryn Mawr students are about creating small but meaningful changes in their communities. For me, creating a lasting and positive legacy is about many things, and one of those is by running and bringing people with me for every mile of this journey. To make people healthier, happier – and definitely sweatier!

Running the back roads of Bryn Mawr’s campus – BMC is an ideal running route: lots of greenery, hills and beautiful houses!

 

 

Last First Day

August 30th, 2021

My last first day of undergraduate.

This is how my day went:

12hrs till first day of class: I met my best-friend Marina (’22) and helped her unpack. I have been living off campus the whole summer working as a finance intern, so I was happy not having to move in my own boxes. Marina is living on campus, having connections on and off campus is an awesome way to take full advantage of Bryn Mawr’s student life.

Sunday: Dinner at El Limón, the iconic Mexican restaurant in town.

Monday morning: I woke up early, packed my lunch and drove to campus. Had a job task early in the morning filming some video content for the BMC Instagram.

Blue bus to Haverford!

10 AM: History Class at Haverford – Indigenous Women: Gender, Ethnicity and Feminism in Latin America.

Blue bus back to Bryn Mawr!

Lunch time: unpacked my lunch and had a cute solo picnic in front of Taylor Hall to catch some sunlight 🙂

1 PM: International Studies Senior Seminar – where we are wrapping up what it means to be an International Studies major and starting to think about out Senior Thesis!

3 PM: Picked up robe for Convocation with friends, strolled down Senior row and listened to some great Convocation speeches. Picture with Marina at the Senior steps!

Marina ’22 and me at the Senior Steps during the first day of classes.

5:30 PM: PICNIC! The first day of classes we usually have a picnic in Wyndham Green. The hotdogs and pasta salad were amazing, and it was great to reconnect with friends and hang out outside.

7 PM: Drove back home. I did a quick workout and some readings. Went to bed early for a Tuesday morning run with friends!

Hope you enjoyed what a day in my life looks like! More of these to come!

Day in the Life

Alina Peon
Boca Raton, FL
International Studies – Economic Development Concentration

A Regular Wednesday

9:30 am – Work meeting, I work for the Pensby Center at Bryn Mawr as a Student Social Media Coordinator. I have weekly check ins with Kathryn, my supervisor, where we plan future podcast guests, Instagram content for the upcoming weeks and marketing strategy. 

10:30 am – Breakfast and yoga time, this is a new habit I picked out during quarantine and for the first time ever I can now touch my toes 🙂

12 pm – Team lift, I play Field Hockey and we lift twice a week. Today it was outside, at the turf field and we did a Tabata workout! 

3pm – Work meeting, for Bryn Mawr Communications job! We check in weekly and brainstorm content for the Instagram and website

4pm to 5:30 pm – Homework and a quick power nap!

6pm to 7:30 pm – Field Hockey Practice – being a student athlete means that I have to plan my day around practice times, but getting to see my teammates daily and play a sport I love is so much fun. During the off season, we practice 4/5 times a week, and during season we practice everyday and play one or two games a week! 

8 pm – SAAC Meeting, I am the SAAC Diversity and Inclusion Co-Head for this year and it has been a lot of work but super rewarding!

9pm – Finishing up some readings and homework, and reading the last few pages of a new book

10:30 pm – BEDTIME! 

What Bryn Mawr made me do…

For some of us, deciding our major comes naturally and we find our calling even before freshman year of college. For others, it takes time and trying out a couple classes during our freshman and sophomore year in order to realize what we want to do. For myself, it took more than the average in order to declare only one area of interest – if it were up to me, I would have majored in “nothing”. It is not that I don’t like school, it’s actually quite the opposite – I chose Bryn Mawr because there was a lot that I liked and becoming a Mawrter gave me the chance to roam the hallways of all departments before declaring my major and even after, exploring my own areas of interest in a creative way while completing my major requirements. 

My freshman year, I found economics so interesting (I know that is hard to believe) that I went ahead and took every single economics class I could. I fell in love with the theories and applications of one particular area: economic development; but when I took on a summer finance internship at a financial intelligence firm, I quickly realized that it was not for me. Don’t knock it till you try it, I guess? 

I felt lonely and frustrated because I couldn’t find a way to connect economic development into a career path, most of the economic majors I was talking to wanted to go into the finance world and I just knew that was not what was right for me. I wanted to maintain my economics focus but do something completely unrelated to the cubicle job I had that previous summer. 

I decided to switch my major to International Studies on a whim, I grabbed the phone and called my dad: “I am switching to International Studies, don’t worry I think I am onto something”. My dad, of course, panicked – he saw an economics major as a more “traditional” path for me and was worried of how the mix of philosophy, politics and economics (the three pillars of an International Studies major) was going to play into my career path. I began taking classes in all three areas and took on an economic development concentration, focusing on classes such as the politics of economic development, global ethical issues, indigenous and settler politics, human rights and crisis and policy economy. 

That next summer, my mindset was completely changed and I decided to take a big leap of faith and choose my own experience: I started my own business. Taking what I knew from each class I had and the backbone of my economics major, plus the work experience from my on campus and internship jobs, I took on the chance to build a company that focuses on selling sustainable, women-made and artisan art from around the world. It is a growing endeavor and one that has taught me more about the own choices I made in life, for example, how crucial it was to choose a women’s liberal arts college which allowed me to expand my areas of knowledge beyond a traditional major and also pushed my power as a woman to create small, but crucial impacts in the business world. 

After my first two years at Bryn Mawr, I am in a completely different place than where I started although I now believe, technically, I am majoring in “everything” – because all of my experience has had a crucial impact on the student and entrepreneur that I am today and will be in the future. 

  • Uncommon Grounds – one of our coffee shops on campus, where I called my dad to tell him I was changing my major but also, where I usually spend my weekday evenings!

  • The first draft of my business logo, I knew nothing about design or building a website yet and I am still learning…

Working for Social Justice at Bryn Mawr

Almost everyone who first visits Bryn Mawr College will tell you they love how much it feels like home, or how strong the Bryn Mawr community is. I can tell you the same, since that is the main reason why I chose to apply to Bryn Mawr College back during my senior year of high school!

At Bryn Mawr, there are many resources, groups and projects fighting for social justice. One of them is the Pensby Center for Community Development and Inclusion.

“Pensby” as students call it, has an amazing staff working on interfaith services, diversity/equity/inclusion, international and undocumented students, first-generation students and supporting student groups. As described in their website, the Pensby center “implements programs and activities that address issues of diversity, power and privilege, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, country of origin, class, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation and disability, with a goal of improving the campus climate and enhancing community life at Bryn Mawr College”.

This summer, as part of my role in SAAC – Bryn Mawr’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee – as Co-Head of Diversity and Inclusion, with my friend Jackie Fernandez ’21 (Crew Team), we worked alongside Pensby to create a workshop series for athletes, coaches and staff.

This workshop series launched in August, after months in the making, and presented our first topic: white supremacy in sports. It was a powerful, personal and educational conversation alongside fellow athletes and our coaches, with the caring help and expertise of Ann-Therese, Vanessa and Kathryn from the Pensby Center staff.

Future sessions will explore privilege, recruiting, and how to build a better athletics community. SAAC’s Diversity and Inclusion upcoming projects – an inclusive athletic recruit tour alongside Black at Bryn Mawr, *Mujeres, ASA, etc; an athletic bias report system; a lacrosse clinic for Philly schools and much more – combined with the Pensby Center’s expertise, aim at promoting a more equitable athletics community at BMC. With the help, feedback and power of the Bryn Mawr community we are setting an example for fellow athletes and schools.

Right at the end of our workshop, not only was I amazed by the extremely high turnout, but also felt nostalgic… I remembered why I first chose Bryn Mawr, my first time visiting campus and talking with Professors or seating in some interesting classes. That feeling of belonging, of home, of community came back to surprise me once again and to assure me that I am were I was meant to be.

A photo of the Pensby Center, located above Applebee Field and next to Cambrian Row.

A view of the Pensby Center, located above Applebee Field and next to Cambrian Row.

5 Steps to Manage Mental Health When Returning To Campus

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a different and stressful year, with the time we spent quarantining to protect everyone’s health, student’s are ready to go back to campus. As a rising junior, returning to Bryn Mawr’s beautiful campus is exciting and a dream come true after a hard summer. We are all aware of the dedication Bryn Mawr staff has taken on to achieve a safe and healthy return to campus and of the measures we need to follow in order to maintain everyone’s safety.

Part of those measures, the 14 day quarantine before the start of classes and the social-distance measures to follow during the school year, can make students feel lonely and bored – trust me, I already picture myself talking to the wall.

During these times, where we are thinking about our health in a physical way we need to remember the importance of mental health, specifically for students as they return back to campus for a non-traditional semester. Here are simple and effective steps one can take to manage mental health during COVID-19 and the return to academics:

  • Take a break from the news: make sure the information you are listening to or viewing is from reputable and non-sensational sources. After long periods of quarantine I have found myself spending so much time looking at the TV, with news not changing much but creating a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Listening to and viewing pictures of the crisis can be emotionally upsetting, and the time spent looking at the TV or reading the news instead be spent talking through FaceTime, getting ahead on the interesting readings our Professors are starting to post or catching up on some Netflix! Here is a book recommendation if you find yourself craving a good read: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
  • Let’s take care of our body: for me this screams: catch up on sleep and stretch! Adjusting to the non-traditional semester will take some time, so focusing on healthy habits during this period of quarantine can help us be more effective as soon as we hit the books! Do what feels right, what gets your mind off the boredom and whatever your body is craving!
  • Learn a new skill: before quarantine, my artistic talent was non-existent but now, I can skilfully paint by numbers! I painted a bunny with a bunch of colors that I now have framed and hang in my dorm room. If anyone is interested in becoming the new Bob Ross you could tune in to your artistic self or search for something that rocks your boat, like YouTube dance classes or bracelet making. Extreme TikTok dancing can be a time consuming but fun task!
  • Give to others: from a sweet text to a donation or maybe just calling your friend on FaceTime, connecting and spending time with someone else or taking part in a wholesome and generous act for a good cause can be a productive and heartwarming way to spend your time.
  • Reach out to Counseling Services: Bryn Mawr’s great Counseling Services is offering drop-in student support groups for all students via the Zoom Healthcare platform, facilitated by BMC Counseling Services.

A beautiful rainbow outside my friend Maeve’s window reminding us that better times are coming! 🙂

Resources:

CDC
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/
https://medicine.umich.edu/dept/psychiatry/news/archive/202004/5-ways-manage-your-mental-health-during-covid-19