January 23, 2017

Siblings for life

Aayushi Mishra ’17

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The Big/Little program is one of Mount Holyoke’s oldest traditions, tracing its origins back to the early 1900s. At its heart, the program is a really simple recipe for friendship: a junior (the “Big”) is paired up with an incoming first-year student (the “Little”). Big + Little = friends.

Why does such a recipe continue to resonate with today’s students, despite their seemingly limitless access to the support of family and friends? In addition to the many resources available on campus to help first years transition successfully to College life, having an older, more experienced student as a sibling can simply be really helpful. Bigs have the power to ease homesickness, inspire new adventures and more. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

Bigs and Littles, fall 2016

Here’s how it works

The junior class board has the pleasure of assigning each Big to a Little and of creating programs to nurture the siblings’ relationships. This year, in an attempt to make it even easier for Bigs and Littles to meet up, we paired up students based on their residence halls. We made the assignments over the summer, having received all of the necessary info from the Office of Residential Life.

One obstacle we faced: the large size of the incoming first-year class — and the large number of juniors who were going abroad. Luckily, many enthusiastic juniors volunteered to “adopt” more than one first-year student.   

We notified the Bigs with their Little’s name and residence hall address the week before fall classes began. After email introductions, the pairs met in person and started to get to know each other. Some met for a meal or coffee. Some caught a movie or wandered around the Village Commons or campus. Others hung out in the common areas of the residence halls.  

Bigs and Littles, circa 1984Bigs and Littles, circa 1984

“Comfortable in my new community” 

The Big/Little tradition can set the stage for a true and welcome friendship. Bigs can shares their personal experiences and insight. Littles have the opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and just feel more welcome and connected to Mount Holyoke. Many pairs become friends throughout their time at MHC — and even after graduation and beyond.  

“My Big has been an indescribably key part of my Mount Holyoke experience,” said Amelia Benich ’20, a first-year student studying economics and film studies. “She answers questions for me regardless of the complexity of the topic, which makes me feel a lot more comfortable in my new community.” 

Bigs and Littles hanging out by the amphitheater

A Big success 

The 2018 class board hosted the first Big/Little event of the year on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September. The Big/Little pairs were invited to arrive together and complete a scavenger hunt as a duo.  

In Skinner Hall — the liveliest station of all, with music and dancing — siblings made friendship bracelets for one another. On Pageant Green by the Gettell Amphitheater, pairs painted on giant tarps with homemade paints (the 2018 class board mixed lotions with cornstarch and food dyes to make the paints). In Dwight Hall, siblings wrote letters to each other that will remain sealed until fall 2017, when siblings can open them to recall their first adventure together.  

Face painting: sign and supplies

Broadening the scope             

Over January intersession, the 2018 class board paired spring-admit students with juniors returning to campus following a semester abroad. The 2018 and 2020 class boards are collaborating on the next Big/Little event. Ideas include a karaoke contest, a cookie-decorating fest or even a spa evening.  

The 2018 class board will meet with the 2019 class board to share tips and advice on how to orchestrate the Big/Little tradition. We want it to continue for centuries to come, encouraging a stronger sense of community and contributing to the unique Mount Holyoke experience. Our traditions help make Mount Holyoke what it is: a community where friendship and siblinghood are a natural part of the experience.

Big on traditions? Yes! Learn More

Aayushi Mishra ’17 is a biology and environmental studies double major. The concentration of her major is environmental policy, politics and economics. As president of the 2018 class board for the 2016 – 2017 academic year, having begun at MHC as a red pegasus, her duties include overseeing traditions such as the Big/Little Sibling program and the Junior Show, and keeping in touch with 2018’s sister class of 1968. She works at the Groves Health Center as a health education assistant. You can find out more about Mishra on her website.
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