A first-year perspective of Chatham University

By Hannah Fierle

The beginning of college life is something that everyone dreams about. It’s been catalogued and depicted in countless movies, television series, books, songs and stories passed down from parents and older siblings to awe-inspiring kids.

When I committed to Chatham University in April this year, I knew that what I was lead to believe about college wouldn’t necessarily be true.

What I expected from Chatham is exactly what drew me to it. Being a smaller school, I knew I would receive a more personalized and participation-based education, the kind I needed in order to be successful. Its Shadyside campus is beautiful and located in the city I grew up with and love. Chatham’s focus on building a healthy, accepting community with a special focus on sustainable living practices made it incredibly appealing to me.

Since arriving at Chatham, I’ve found that most of the expectations I had regarding it have been met, if not always in the ways I had expected them to be.

In line with the specialized attention that small school offer, my welcome by the Chatham movers on the morning of Aug. 21 immediately set me at ease.

To be completely honest, my first days at Chatham are a bit of a blur to me now. They were jam packed with activities and presentations that left me exhausted by the end of the day, too tired to be homesick.

My head was swimming with countless new names and faces to keep straight. I made friends faster than anticipated, finding nearly everyone I met was just as eager to find companions as I was.

With the countless ice-breaking games, activities and trips, orientation week felt more like summer camp than the first week of my college education. A part of me was worried that the transformation from orientation to the start of classes would be a rude awakening.

Instead, I found my first week of classes to be much less stressful than I anticipated, thanks to professors who were friendly and considerate and eased us into what classes at the collegiate level are meant to be like. Tortuous amount of readings aside, Ive found that balancing my work has been easier than I had expected, given my procrastination track record. (I cant speak for my STEM friends and their hours-long labs.) Additionally, the ability to ask questions and engage in discussion in class has made learning easier and more enjoyable than it has ever been for me.

Outside of academics, I’ve found living at Chatham’s Shadyside campus to be a good experience overall, with a few drawbacks. My form has not disappointed (I live in the bay window room of the second floor of Rea House) and neither has my roommate (shout out to Leah), although I’ve heard my fair share of roommate horror stories.

The food at Anderson Dinning Hall, while somewhat hit or miss, provides a nice variety of options that have made it easier to force myself to eat healthy foods before getting to the point that I need to eat an apple or my insides will literally rot.

And, of course, the free bus rides have made navigating Pittsburgh easy and comfortable.

One of my favorite surprises about Chatham is the multiple health and wellness-related classes that are open to anyone. I’ve gone to several yoga and barre classes with friends that I’ve really enjoyed. The therapy dogs worked wonders for my mental health — I only wish there had been more of them.

My least favorite surprise about Chatham is that the washing machine in Rea House breaks once every week or so, and anyone from Rea can attest to how unpleasant it is to carry your laundry across campus to do it in Dilworth Hall when that happens.

Dilworth Hall is the newest dormitory on the Shadyside campus

Overall, my first few weeks at Chatham have been good ones. The smaller and more connected community that’s present here has made making friends easier, and the emphasis placed on diversity and inclusion has made this campus feel like a safe place to exist and grow.

As for the rest of my years here at Chatham University, I can safely say that I’m optimistic.