There is tension on campus, and a lot of groups gravitate toward each other. People don't talk much about religion here, because the majority of people are so liberal and automatically bash any sort of conservatism. I haven't really noticed any strain between socio-economic classes, but honestly? I think the majority of people here are pretty well-off back at home. Like I said, most racial groups befriend each other and kind of put a barrier between themselves and the rest of the campus. LGBT stick together as well, but as a straight girl, I still have tons of friends who are lesbians--it's not completely unheard of. Yet, different groups really don't interact that much. Let's say we're in the dining hall. One table will be brimming with loud, crazy rugby girls. The next will be half full, and have some nondescript girls eating and having a quiet conversation. The third will have a few pretty girls and a sprinkling of guys from Haverford. The fourth will be occupied by two girls, both with their noses buried in books. The dining hall can be awkward--I tend to get take-out and bring it back to my room to eat while I work or watch a movie. Students who are outspoken about their political activity are overwhelmingly liberal. It's easy to start a conversation about politics and just assume that everyone around you is going to agree with your liberal statements--you really have to catch yourself, because people with conservative views generally don't speak up about them.
Like I said, they are right to an extent. There are a lot of weird people at Bryn Mawr, but there are obviously an enormous number of normal people, too. I think because it's an all-women's atmosphere, a lot of stereotypical traits of women are emphasized--there is a lot of cattiness, drama, and gossip on campus that I don't think would be so blaringly obvious if the school were co-ed.
By the end of the semester, all of my professors know my name. It's not hard to have a relationship with your professors, either. I mean, obviously if you sit in the back of the classroom and never partake in discussions or ask questions, you can go through the semester unacknowledged. Professors make it easy to meet with them, which I've started to take advantage of. It really depends on the workload that someone is taking, because some people seem to be studying all the time, and others have a lot of free time. Bryn Mawr women do have intellectual conversations outside of class, but in my experience, most of them are driven by current events (at the moment, the 2008 Election is a hot topic). More often, students talk about popular culture. The academic requirements aren't difficult at all. If you come into the school with an AP credit or two under your belt, it's especially easy to get through all the division requirements and still have plenty of room for credits toward your major. I was worried about PE credits coming in, but they're so easy to fill. Every freshman is required to take a wellness class, which is pretty much the equivalent to high school health class. After wellness, you can fill PE credits with a huge variety of classes, from pilates to kickboxing to rowing. A lot of people fill PE credits simply by playing a school sport.
Sports teams are really popular on campus--they define what your social circle is. Every dorm has a different feel to it. Some of them are open and inviting, and people leave their doors open all the time. Others are really quiet. Dorms really have personalities that never seem to change throughout the years--but there seems to be a dorm for every kind of personality. The dating scene is terrible. It's really hard to meet guys unless you make the effort to get off campus, and even when you do, you get a lot of judgment for being from Bryn Mawr. You really need to prove yourself. Meeting guys at parties is generally pretty pointless, because they won't remember you the next day. A lot of people take classes at Haverford, Swarthmore, or UPenn to get into the co-ed atmosphere and meet people through their academics. But most people just don't make the effort. There are not many parties on campus. If you're going to drink, it'll normally happen with a few friends in a dorm room. People do take the bus to other schools to go to frat parties, but it takes a lot of time and effort, and while a lot of people do it in the fall, it cools down by winter and people just don't want to go out anymore. There are two epic Bryn Mawr parties: Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. There are other smaller parties, but they don't draw as many people.
A lot of surrounding schools think that Bryn Mawr is a school full of freaks. I don't think that 'freaks' is necessarily the right term to use. There are a lot of very individual women here--I think that as a strong womens' college, part of the appeal is that you can be as unique as you'd like to be. It's obnoxious when people from Haverford or Swarthmore automatically peg you as that weird Bryn Mawr girl who runs around with a cape on. Not all of us are like that. However, within the school's boundaries, you can definitely see a lot of stereotypes. You have the rugby girls, who are more often than not are partiers that date at least two of their teammates. You have the capies, who play Quidditch and spend their meals discussing anime. There are a lot of groups, and, for me at least, it's hard to really relate to any of them.
Bryn Mawr honestly does have great academics. I love that I can have relationships with my professors. I recently missed a week and a half of classes, and most if not all of my professors were just as concerned for my health as they were for my work. The professors are all excellent at what they do--I have yet to come across a poor professor. The administration is fabulous, as well. It's easy to form a relationship with your dean, who can help guide you through registration, personal issues, extracurriculars, and time management. The campus has a very close feeling of community, which can have its perks, but also its drawbacks. Sometimes, it can feel claustrophobic. With a campus as small as this, one can feel cramped. I'm sometimes starving to just be anonymous, but everywhere I go, I see someone that I know. What's more, the surrounding town is pretty dismal. Other than the independent movie theater, there's not much that's catered toward a younger crowd. The R5 train can take you into Philly pretty easily, but even then, unless you have a lot of money, it's hard to find cheap things to do. You can always go over to Haverford, Swat, or Villanova for parties, but the fact that you have to search them out gets old, and the judgment on being a Bryn Mawr woman gets old even faster. Another problem is that there is a bit of racial tension on campus. I wasn't here for this, but last year there was a huge scandal that involved a student in SGA sending out a racist Facebook invitation. It wasn't meant to be racist, but it came off that way, and suddenly there was a huge split in the campus between those who were offended and those who defended this girl. You can still feel a lot of the tension--racial groups tend to draw towards each other.