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For Those Without Hell Children

From Lantern Night to May Day, Bryn Mawr is famous for its memorable traditions.  While these special events undoubtedly make the Bryn Mawr community feel richer and more intimate, Hell Week is one that many students have a complex relationship with.

For newcomers and prospective students who may be reading, Hell Week is a tradition in early February where first-year students “propose” to upperclassmen they want to build stronger relationships with.  The upperclassmen are then responsible for creating a week-long schedule of “tasks” for the student to complete, ranging from mildly intrusive tasks in the middle of class to embarrassing public displays that happen all around campus.

As a wide-eyed, anxious first year, Hell Week made me feel panicked at first.  I was convinced I didn’t know anyone older than me well enough to propose and that I would be left parentless. Thankfully, with Hell Week drawing dangerously close, my roommate and I pulled off the band-aid and asked our friend to hell us.  She happily said yes, and the week ended up being a wonderful bonding experience. I got to yell stupid phrases at passing students from the stairs of Pem Arch and tend to a budding friendship with my hell mom––one that truly made me feel like Bryn Mawr was home.

Now I’m a sophomore and was sure I wouldn’t have a hell child.  Everyone around me was being asked, and I knew my chances were slim.  While I was, of course, elated for my friends who were becoming hell parents, it was hard to dodge the sharp pangs of jealousy every time a new text message announcement arrived.  If you’re feeling left out of Hell Week, here are a few points that will hopefully provide some comfort and perspective:

There are plenty of first-years who are without hell parents because they haven’t built relationships with upperclassmen yet.  You likely feel isolated because you’re being flooded with announcement posts online––you’re not aware of the hordes of students who are feeling equally isolated and excluded.

There’s always hope for future semesters.  Students sometimes ask juniors and seniors to be their hell parents.  While it may slightly complicate the family line, it’s something that happens relatively often––so remain prepared to welcome a first-year with open arms in the future!

Lastly, there is nothing wrong with you for not having a hell child.  It can be easy to fall into the mentality that you’re inadequate or aren’t trying hard enough to make connections, but this is often far from reality.  Where you sit in class, the type of classes you’re taking, and your ratio of Bryn Mawr to Haverford classes are all factors that impact your likelihood of having a hell child.  

While Hell Week might feel a bit dispiriting, never doubt that you have a place at Bryn Mawr.  Annual traditions are just that––temporary, once a year events. Hell Week won’t last forever, and things will snap back to normal before you know it.  

Stay strong, and best of luck!

Avery Matteo

Bryn Mawr '22

Avery Matteo is a junior at Bryn Mawr College from Charlottesville, Virginia. Her interests include reading, traveling, and sleeping during every available moment. In her free time, she is either listening to podcasts, indie music, or sprinkling Disney Parks facts on her unsuspecting friends. She can be found as @memeteo on Instagram.
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