TSI:  Our Current Fitzgerald Scholars

September, 2021

As we begin a new academic year, we’ve asked our scholars to share some insights on their experiences (edited slightly for length).  While the Covid pandemic has unquestionably posed challenges, their responses speak to their resiliency and determination to make the most of their college experience.  We also think you’ll find some common themes in what they’re experiencing now and what you experienced in your undergraduate years.  As it turns out, the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

Off to School in 2021-22

This year, we have three Fitzgerald First-Years:  Kennedi Malone and Julia Rademacher-Weld, both now Scotties, are our 2021 Scholars, and Alena Rooney of Smith is our 2020 Scholar.  Both Alena and Julia chose to take gap years in 2020:  Alena after being named a Scholar, and Julia before.

Kennedi Malone, after her senior year at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, writes:

While passing by so many unfamiliar faces during the first few weeks at Agnes Scott College was a bit unsettling, the slew of activities meant for first-year students to get acclimated with the campus and the student body affirmed my choice to enroll.  Not only was I instantly aware of how easy it was for others to make themselves at home by sitting under an umbrella at Alston patio or on the grass in front of the McCain library, I also knew that I, too, could soon feel comfortable enough to call Agnes home.

Entering an inclusive feminine space was a reality that encouraged me to enroll at Agnes, and is a reality that I’m really enjoying!  Such an atmosphere is so inviting and, again, self-affirming. I feel confident in myself each time I step out of my dorm, and I could not imagine a better environment for my academic growth!  All of my professors are also incredibly encouraging; they have made themselves available for course tutoring, professional guidance, and general help on multiple occasions.  The support system I have experienced thus far makes me feel grounded in the Scottie experience, and makes me excited for the next four years!

Julia Rademacher-Weld, after her gap year as a volunteer for Americorps and Parole Illinois, writes:

I love being at Agnes Scott.

During the past year of uncertainty, I looked forward to this fall as a light at the end of the tunnel, when the public health situation would be better, and I would be able to move forward with my life.   It was difficult to leave a home I love and work that felt meaningful to enter a bubble where my job is to develop intellectually, but it is also so nice to be more responsible for myself and to shed the responsibility for the health of my 10-person household back home.

I am getting along well with my roommate, enjoying the camaraderie of being surrounded by women and trans folks, taking classes I find interesting, singing and dancing to feed my soul, participating in a local faith community, and organizing with my classmates for political change.  I came here to be active in my own experience and I already feel I am on my way to doing that.  I feel a sense of ownership and pride at being able to fund this year of school through scholarships and the money I saved during my gap year.  The future I held out for over the past year is happening, and I’m so grateful to be having a safe, in-person freshman experience!

Alena Rooney, after her gap year as an intern with a family planning organization in Illinois, writes:

I’ve already met some wonderful people, joined too many clubs, and am so far enjoying my classes!     I must admit I was quite nervous about the transition to Smith, the transition back to doing academic work after a year off from school.  Not to mention the transition from an isolated Covid world to living on a fully populated college campus.

But when I arrived and began settling into my cozy double in Gillett house with my wonderful roommate, I had the overwhelming sense of being in exactly the right place. The unique experience of having taken a gap year meant that I already had many familiar faces of people I had connected with virtually, and after the past year nearly everyone was so ready to make new connections. I had anticipated that I would feel overwhelmed by the start of classes, but, although it has been difficult, I am relieved to say that I am in my element. Especially in humanities classes, I feel I have even more to contribute after the new perspectives I gained during my gap year.

Back to School in 2021-22

Fitzgerald Junior Thu-Yến Nguyen of Bryn Mawr and Fitzgerald Senior Ariana Carranza of Barnard spent 2020-21 attending virtual classes.  For Yến, that was especially hard, as her home is on the opposite side of the world!

Thu-Yến, after her virtual year at home in Vietnam, writes:

2020 – 2021 was a strange academic experience for everyone, especially international students. Since the time difference was 11 hours, it seemed as if I was a young adult living in Vietnam but happened to be a student by night.  Stepping into my new dorm room in Bryn Mawr after a year and a half, I felt as if I had “cheated” in some ways because I left as a freshman and came back as a junior.  I missed the campus, the Bryn Mawr town, but most of all, I missed the people.

However, it was ironic that my friends and I felt awkward when we reunited.  We would pass by one another and pause for a second, unsure whether we knew one another or not. Either one or both of us would want but hesitate to hug, thinking that the other person would be uncomfortable. After a few weeks, the awkwardness turned into openness. We talked and laughed about those awkward encounters, then slowly caught up with the new normal in Bryn Mawr together. I forgot how fulfilling it felt to fully invest and be invested in by professors and peers in my studies. As I only have two years left, I’m hoping to be more open to activities and people to make up for the time I wasn’t here.

Ariana, after a virtual year spent off-campus, writes:

It is crazy that I am already in my senior year! Time really does fly by. To be honest, I am a little concerned right now about being back on campus. I started school on Sept. 9, and there have already been numerous cases and emails sent to students letting them know of positive cases in their classrooms.  These have been pretty anxiety-provoking experiences for me.

On the other hand, I have enjoyed being on campus, seeing my friends and developing better relationships with my professors.  I finally met my major advisor in person for the first time!  The main contrast between last year and this year is the amount of interactions/people I see. It is definitely interesting not only to be a senior on campus, but also to be a part of a graduating class that has had the most amount of time on campus. It’s the Freshmen and Sophomores’ first year on campus, and the Juniors only had one semester of on-campus learning pre-Covid.

What I hope is that I get to have an in-person graduation.  Graduation is something that I find to be so symbolic, and also being a first-generation college student, it is truly a big accomplishment for my family and me.   I really want them to be able to travel here to NY to watch me get my diploma.