A Hawaii Girl’s Guide to Long Plane Rides, Culture Shock, and Freezing Weather

As I looked through the social media pages showing Swarthmore’s latest earnings, I noticed some future Swatties coming to Swat from the same place I did: somewhere in a tropical climate thousands of miles off campus. I watched as they commented on how they would freeze when they came to Swarthmore, and I sat there, agreeing, and I also thought: oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. But when I look back, I realize that I also had the same naive thoughts as when I was admitted to Swarthmore. This article, dear reader, is a survival guide for them and many others who also come from a warm tropical climate thousands of miles away from Swarthmore College.

Part one: The Plane Ride

Take-off day. Everything is full. Watch from the car window as your parents drive you to the airport, waiting for the big flight ahead. You pass safely and go to the gate of your flight. You are ready for it, you think.

At least until you realize that you will probably be stuck on a plane for at least five hours. Now, how do you survive that?

Here, dear reader, is where I present you with five survival strategies for a plane ride.

  1. The Sleeper: If you are one of those people who is admirably able to sleep on airplanes, I envy you. If you want to try it, bring some melatonin and take it just before takeoff. Or, if you’re like me and can’t sleep on planes, give up and try another survival strategy.
  2. The TV / Movie Binger: Assuming your plane is in-flight entertainment and you have tried to sleep on the plane, you decide to make a series of movies / TV shows in an attempt to either A: sleep or B: take some fun out of it Hellscape. So you scroll through every in-flight entertainment option and even manage to skip a few movies, only to realize that you have exhausted every option. Or, you may be lucky enough to watch several movies to spend your entire flight, for which, once again, I envy you.
  3. The Workaholic: You may realize that you have some pre-class work that you have postponed. So you buy Wi-Fi in flight and go to work. Take out your laptop and click on your Moodle page in your classroom to learn how to make the most of your time. Or, maybe your teacher was good enough to send you an email detailing what you need to do before class. Anyway, you find out, just to realize that the pre-class did some reading from your book, which is currently sitting on the Campus and Community Store waiting for you to pick it up. Welp, in the next strategy.
  4. The Bookworm: You may have brought a book of thousands of pages to read, such as Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Obama’s Promised Land. Having exhausted all other options, you decide to read this book of thousands of pages. Finally, after hours of reading, you finally reach the end of your book, I hope you are satisfied with its conclusion. You have to land at all times, right? After all, this book must have taken hours. No. Somehow, there is at least an hour left in your trip. If somehow you managed to complete a book as the plane lands, congratulations. You have done what no other person has done in the past.
  5. Caffeine addict: You may have given up all hope at this point, so you decide to download a bunch of caffeinated beverages in the hope of staying until the plane lands. Call the flight attendant and ask for a cup of coffee, or maybe a can of soda. One turns into two. It then turns into three. However, none of this helps you stay informed. You soon realize that because you are a Swarthmore student, you have created a caffeine tolerance from all those late nights studying at Sci or pulling the nightclubs trying to do your homework in high school. Oh, how your choices came back to shoot you later. Eventually, you give up in a situation where you are too tired to stay awake, but too uncomfortable to sleep. So when the plane finally lands, head away with your luggage and head straight to the nearest Starbucks.

(A / N: in case you can not say it already, absolutely I hate long plane rides.)

Part 2: The shock of culture

Well, you finally landed at Philadelphia International Airport after at least five hours of flattering, sleepless discomfort. You decide to get an Uber to transport yourself and your luggage to Swarthmore College. On the way there, you realize a few things:

  • There are many trees. Very. And guess what? They change with the seasons! Like, they really lose leaves in the winter and grow in the spring, which is honestly very strange.
  • If you came from a place with mountains, you will quickly realize that Pennsylvania is simple. And full of trees. Well, unless you count the Appalachian Mountains as mountains. (But are they real mountains? They are basically super-glorious hills.)
  • There are highways. And they have exits. Fortunately, you are not the one driving, so at least you do not have to deal with it (yet).
  • The only interesting part of your trip to Swarthmore from Philadelphia is… well, nothing really. This is overwhelming. Hi, at least the Uber drivers here are cool!

Eventually, you get to the college itself. Move quickly to your dorm and settle in, hoping to explore your next full day. When you wake up, go outside, just to realize a few more things:

  • None of the buildings are clearly labeled. At least plants are, so you can probably impress your friends and family with your new knowledge about plants. Time to get Google Maps (unless you’re trying to find Singer Hall, in which case, good luck).
  • That said, there are some really old buildings and some really modern buildings. Of course almost everything with a label. By the way, where is the dining room? And on this note, where is the bookstore?
  • There is a lot of walking. Especially up to Parrish Hall (the really big building with the flag). Hopefully you brought some really comfortable walking shoes and maybe an inhaler.
  • You will quickly realize that Sharples food hits or loses. It’s time to make your own spice (or just get all your food from the Essie or Sci Center). You could also try learning how to cook for yourself or getting a friend who knows how to cook decent meals. Dormitories have kitchens for that.

Aman. You are for a long walk.

Part Three: Winter (AKA, anything below 60 degrees)

Soon you build a routine: you wake up, get a mediocre breakfast from any of the available food places, head to class, have lunch and dinner somewhere, start school work and hit a weird time of night. This is sustainable, you think you are moving forward one day, only to realize that it is really cold (read: below 60 degrees Fahrenheit).

This is an unfortunate reality for those who come from a place where the temperature never drops below 60 degrees. So, once you get to this stage of the semester, here are some survival tips:

  • For cold nights, sleep next to your water heater. And grab a thick quilt while you’re at it, in case the heater stops working for some reason. Also, get a Swarthmore sherpa blanket because it is icy and can also show some Swattie spirit, right?
  • Stratification: If you or your parents are terrified and have packed too many extra coats, then it’s time to use them. Sure, you’ll probably look like a marshmallow, but at least you’re warm. Well, at least you didn’t go down without explaining yourself first. Have fun taking off all these jackets… and put them on again later.
  • Climate: You may have to adapt to this kind of weather, as you will spend most of your next years here. So you decide to go out with just a hoodie and some jeans in an effort to adjust, only to quickly realize that it is not worth it and go back to get a coat.
  • Hikikomori: Maybe you think leaving your warm dorm for the cold is too much. So you buy a thick ton of food on a Target route and survive on it (or until you need to perform another Target run). Also, rarely, if ever, do you have to leave your nice, warm bed (especially now that most of the lessons are away). Hi, at least it saves energy.

The conclusion:

I guess this article will probably be released at the time of RD imports. That being said, to any reader who comes to Swat after living in the tropics of their life, do not hesitate to follow any of these survival strategies and use them to your advantage. Or, to anyone who already understands the challenges ahead, do not hesitate to leave comments mentioning your own survival strategies for something like this.

That said, have fun! You can also make the most of your time at Swarthmore, right?

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