The Big and Little tradition has been celebrated for decades in Wellesley’s history. It emphasizes the importance of meaningful relationships between upper-class students — “Bigs”— and first-years (and sometimes sophomores) — “Littles.” Through this tradition, Bigs help Littles feel a sense of belonging and community at Wellesley. In light of unprecedented global changes, including the onset of a widespread pandemic, these relationships have adapted and expanded for some students.
“When I think of Big-Little at Wellesley, I think of a system where you have someone on campus that you can really connect with or grow with. [You] have someone to show you around and make sure you feel comfortable or ‘at home’ at Wellesley,” Sachi Tanwar ’23 said. “For a lot of us, we’re coming from different countries or states, and Wellesley is a new home for us. Having that ‘bigger sibling’ adds comfort.”
The main part of the tradition is an event called Flower Sunday, which each dorm organizes between its residents. It is typically held on a Sunday afternoon early in the Fall semester. As part of the tradition, Bigs give their Littles flowers in order to officially welcome them into the Wellesley community. A formal ceremony with speeches, song, poetry and dance, followed by a lavish brunch, is organized for the students as well.
“My favorite thing about [the Big-Little tradition] is getting to meet the freshman class. Especially through flower Sunday, I got to know people in my dorm room, which was the most interesting part,” Arundhati Chandrasekhar ’24 said. “It’s nice to be able to answer people’s questions and help people figure out what’s going on.”
The Flower Sunday event serves as a starting point for long-term and meaningful relationships between Bigs and Littles. Interviewees explained how Bigs and Littles still preserve their relationships by discussing their Wellesley journeys, catching up over meals, attending events together or even something as simple as acknowledging each other with a friendly smile in the hallways.
Flower Sunday also serves as a starting point for Big and Little events that many student organizations on campus organize throughout the year. Since members in student organizations usually have similar interests or backgrounds, Bigs and Littles within these organizations are able to build meaningful (and sometimes professional) relationships.
Tanwar, who organized the Wellesley Association for South Asian Cultures (WASAC)’s Big and Little event (which took place later in the semester), also commented on this.
“We tried to make sure the [Big-Little] pairings were good,” she said. “We really wanted to make it personalized, so we matched the Littles with the Bigs that are most compatible with them.”
Through Big and Little relationships, Bigs are also able to mentor their Littles in academic- and career-related matters.
“When it comes to internships, research positions or academic work, [both my Bigs] will always forward me new information or opportunities,” Tanwar said. “When you have someone that’s older, looking out for you, it’s really nice.”
This thought was echoed by other students as well.
“I’ve heard other people hearing stories from their Bigs about an internship they did at Facebook and Microsoft, which is super cool,” Chi said.
Last year, not everyone was able to fully experience this tradition due to COVID-19. With the Big and Little tradition moving online and the imposition of strict COVID safety measures, many students missed having the full in-person experience of this tradition last year.
“Because Flower Sunday is so tied to the Res Halls, people who weren’t on campus [last year] had no one to assign them a Big,” Chandrasekhar said.
However, students also mentioned how getting through the phase of the pandemic has made everyone more resilient and empathetic.
“Because we have had the whole experience of going through the pandemic, connections [between Bigs and Littles] have gotten a lot stronger,” Tanwar said.
Since the Big and Little tradition was held in-person again this year, many students said they appreciate the tradition more given its differences last year. In fact, many have noted that the Big-Little tradition is not limited to a single relationship between a Big and Little — it is a tradition that encompasses the entire spirit of the Wellesley community.
“Everyone that is part of the [Wellesley] community is going to be your Big,” Tanwar said.