Jane Kitchen, despite her humble background, got into elite Seven Sisters Bryn Mawr (Kathryn Hepburn’s alma mater) with a scholarship.
It was less fun than she thought it would be, being the poor girl at a rich girl’s school, and then came COVID and a closed down campus, leaving her trapped at home. She transferred to anti-establishment, right-wing Hillsdale and evidently found happiness.
I worked hard in school. I have a single mom and we don’t have a lot of money, so I knew that I would have to score a near-full scholarship.
When I graduated high school at 16, my mom didn’t want to send me so far away so young. I enrolled in my local school, Arizona State University, and we both agreed that I could transfer out after my freshman year.
I arrived on Bryn Mawr’s campus, a Seven Sisters school in Pennsylvania, in the Fall of 2019. I was overjoyed. The campus was gorgeous, and, to this day, it is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in real life. There were gothic towers and acres of manicured lawns. I was eager to join the other nerdy girls and to find friends I’d have for life.
I’d gone to underfunded, overcrowded public schools my whole life and this was my first experience with small classes and teachers who seemed to love teaching. I took a poetry class where the professor would sing folk songs to us in the hallway as we made our way into class. I learned to write short stories from an Italian instructor who compared writing to preparing homemade pasta. I had been nervous about not being able to keep up academically, but the calculus class I took that first year was easier than the one at ASU.
Socially, it wasn’t entirely what I expected. The people at Bryn Mawr were the wealthiest and most liberal I had ever encountered. During my first week on campus, a girl I met suggested over dinner that 9/11 was justified because the United States had meddled in Middle East politics. She went on to say that the 9/11 memorial should be changed so as to show more respect to Muslims. One of the girls in my hall casually mentioned that Michelle Obama had been in a spin class she had taken in the Hamptons that summer. At first, I thought she was kidding.
I joined a sketch comedy group, which often started meetings by asking members to answer a question. One day, the question was “How is your semester going?” A few people answered directly, and then one girl said “I’m having a great semester, but I totally acknowledge that some students, especially BIPOC students, face a lot of challenges on campus.” Then, every person after her prefaced their answer by saying that students who aren’t white were probably having a worse semester than them.
I didn’t sit around with my friends all night arguing about big questions like I thought I would. It was assumed that we all agreed on the answers. But I made friends, and I loved my classes. I went to parties at nearby colleges, and I was making plans to study abroad in Ireland, which, as someone who had only left my home state twice, was a huge deal for me.
That was supposed to be in the Fall of 2020, but of course it never happened. I remember talking about the coronavirus on the way home from a party with my friend, a self-professed germaphobe, in January of 2020. She asked if I thought we should be worried. I told her that as a campus we should be more worried about binge drinking, and we both laughed. I thought that would be the end of it. Weeks later, Bryn Mawr announced that my spring semester would be held online.
The next few months were the worst of my life. Read the rest of this entry »