College Spotlight: Scripps College
Freshman Year Update
By Arianna Skye Thompson
I recently finished my first year at Scripps College in LA and am happy to share my experience. I love going to a women’s college! Being a part of the 5Cs (Claremont McKenna Colleges), it’s not entirely separated from men, but it is nice to have an empowering space where you don’t feel like a minority. Even though most Scripps classes have a couple of men from other schools, it feels like anywhere on Scripps, women are the majority and we are all looking out for each other to succeed.
Being a science major, I took three classes through the Keck science department which Scripps shares with Claremont McKenna and Pitzer. It is nice to have more science majors from the other schools to interact and take classes with. I also took a Spanish class at CMC, mostly because it fits with my schedule. I liked the teacher and it was interesting to get a look into the students of CMC. Of the 18 or so students in my class, I believe at least 12 were varsity athletes, which reflects the stronger emphasis on sports and school spirit at CMC than at Scripps.
It was a crazy transition from Minnesota to California weather. Studying for finals in December wearing shorts, studying beneath palm trees made it hard to believe a semester had already passed. I missed the seasons, but I came home enough for breaks that I got a taste of the Minnesota seasons and I enjoyed being able to study outside all year round.
Scripps and the other colleges have plenty of places to get coffee or snacks, so I didn’t find much need to go off campus. However, there are several places in the village (only a 15 or 20 minute walk) that are favorites of students. Sometimes it is nice to go spend a Saturday at a coffee shop away from campus, or walk down for the local farmer’s market on Sunday. The food in the dining halls is so good, that eating off campus isn’t necessary or even very desirable. There are so many options, with seven dining halls to choose from, you can always find something you want to eat!
I don’t take that many pictures but I’ve included a few from my year! Honestly almost all of my pictures this year are of me skating with friends. There is a picture of me and my parents when we were saying goodbye in the fall. Another is my group for my orientation trip to Huntington Gardens. There is one of some of my teammates and I skating around campus for fun and another one is of my team at our game against Arizona State University. I have many more of my derby team but outside of class most of my free time was spent skating for fun or at practice with my team.
Just briefly, a few other things I did for fun included a camping trip to the beach through the outdoor club, I went to a concert in LA and another concert in San Diego, and going to brunch at the dining halls (which is open from about 10:30 to 1:30) was also a fun thing to do every weekend with my friends.
Surprisingly, the best thing about my first year at Scripps was the 5C Roller Derby team! There is a big club fair at the beginning of the year for all students from all five colleges on a field at CMC. I was walking by the roller derby booth and one of the girls told me “Hey! You should join roller derby!” I was skeptical, as I knew very little about the sport other than that it was rough and potentially dangerous, but I ended up putting my email down on the sign up sheet and going to the information meeting. They showed a video explaining the basics of roller derby, and I was completely sold. Along with another freshman, I asked that same girl who had told me I should join if we could try skating that very night. She and another girl from the team took us to the gym at Harvey Mudd where practice was held, and let us try on the loaner skates and pads and took us outside to try skating. I never imagined myself playing roller derby, but practice became the highlight of my week. Even when I wasn’t at practice, I would skate around campus for fun with a few teammates or skate to and from my apartment off campus. Not to mention that the girls on the team became some of my best friends. I am living with three of the girls on the team next year, and am close with several others. After our treasurer went abroad in the spring, I was elected to be treasurer and board member for the spring semester and will continue in that position in the fall. Derby acted as the community I felt like I was missing out on or lacked from a normal college dorm situation.
It was hard adjusting to being away from home, but the biggest challenge for me was not having a place of my own. I rarely took the extra time and effort to leave campus to go back to my room unless it was at the end of the day when I was heading back to go to sleep. By the time roller derby practice or orchestra or late night science lab classes were over, my roommate was almost always already home. That meant I spent all day on campus surrounded by people, and then I came home to a room that wasn’t really mine. When things are hard and you just need to be alone and cry or call a friend or your mom, it is hard to have no space to do that.
Academically, the change wasn’t too hard. In general, high school and higher level classes prepared me sufficiently in most academic areas. I would say the one big area where I felt like I struggled was in my writing. By no means was I doing poorly, but being used to teachers having no critical feedback, to having the Chair of the writing department tear apart every piece of a paper, including the central argument, was an adjustment. I am not a humanities person, I like science and concrete answers, and so my multivariable calculus class felt like a breeze in comparison to the Core class all Scripps first years take, simply because the writing level was so much harder. Thankfully, my teacher pushed me and really did make me a better writer, even if the feedback was hard to hear.
When I was looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to go somewhere small, and I think choosing a small college like Scripps was the right decision. My calculus professor brought donuts to class and then let me and my friends watch his little girl for an afternoon. I sat outside my Core professors office in a beautiful, sunny courtyard, going in several times to get feedback and help on a paper. I went to my chemistry professor’s office hours and ended up chatting about Minneapolis, where she got her PhD. That same chemistry professor thought I would be good at research, and told me I should get in contact with a professor doing biochemistry research. She put in a good word, and with barely more than an hour long conversation about what he was doing and what he expected from a research assistant (I did of course have to actually send him my grades), he was able to make room for me as a lab assistant starting in the fall and I will work full time on a project of my own next summer. The intimacy of the small college was exactly what I was hoping for with amazing resources and intelligent, helpful, easy to reach professors.
Of course there were things about my first year that weren’t great. There were times when I thought college might be too hard for me, or I felt lonely without friends I had known for years. There are things about Scripps that could be better or that I didn’t love, but I am sure every college has its own issues. My first year had some rough patches, but I am entirely happy with my decision to go to Scripps and I can’t wait to see my friends and start class again in the fall.