The best thing about Swarthmore are the people and the atmosphere. You are surrounded by brilliant, motivated, and diverse group of people, yet everyone shares the same sort of passion for something unnamed. We often discussed it at school, but the unnamed connection between Swatties has something to do with love of learning (even if you don't admit it), thinking, and being challenged. When I meet Swatties outside of school there is something that bonds us and conversations with once strangers can easily become four hours chatting like old friends.
As for size, it's about right. There are times when it can feel suffocating as you keep seeing the same people everywhere. That's when you go abroad or make efforts to meet people outside your circle of friends. But, the smallness of school really allows you to build community. It also makes a huge difference in the quality of education. We may have less breadth, but the interaction with teachers is unparelled. You may hate the fact that you can't hide from your professor, but the smallness of classes forces you to be really involved in your education (This isn't to say that you can't get away without doing the reading or skimming, you most certainly can, just pick your classes for that wisely).
I spent most of my time on campus bouncing around between the buildings in which I had classes, Parrish, Sharples, the fieldhouse, my dorm, McCabe, Science Center Commons, and working outside when it was beautiful. The best part was when I figured out that I could work outside late into the night, perched on the steps of Parrish that are have lights that go on in the evening. I was a bit of a nomad at Swat, especially in my study habits. Most of my friends could be found in 3-4 places on campus, I continually switched up my spots, depending on how well I was focusing in a certain area.
One of my favorite moments at Swat was walking outside of McCabe library one night int he midst of studying for my Honors exams. As I walked out of the library, the stars were shining, and a string quartet was playing on the steps of Parrish Hall. It was beautiful. There I was, all stressed out over exams and the music was a pause, a moment of silence in the otherwise frantic day. That's one of my favorite parts of Swarthmore - it's easy to get wrapped up in you as a student and the small worries and fears and stressors and then, there is one moment where you see someone bagpiping or you notice the flowers that sprung up outside your window or you run across a friend you haven't seen in a while and have a three hour conversation debating philosophy outside the rose garden. It's that one moment that you remember why you love the place.
That's probably the trick about Swarthmore. How do you keep it in perspective? You are there to learn, you have probably always done well in school, or could have done well if it interested you enough. It's easy to get caught up in the papers and the pressure that you mainly put on yourself. But if you can step back from time to time, it is a beautiful place and something you won't ever run across again once you leave.