Bijan Zojaji '20 - Introduction

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Hey! Hi! Hello! I am Bijan and I am from Miami, Florida. At Amherst, I plan on double majoring in both Economics and Philosophy. Prior to officially declaring Economics and Philosophy, I was not sure about what I wanted to major in. I contemplated two other majors that were very different but that I also found interesting: Political Science and Geology. I am thankful for the open curriculum because without it, I would not have been able to explore and discover other interests of mine.

Both inside and outside of the classroom, I like to be as involved as possible. On campus, I am a member of our Varsity Men’s Soccer team. In addition, this past spring semester I was voted to be the new publicity chair for our Latinx affinity group, La Causa, for the upcoming fall semester. Over the course of the school year I have worked as a Telementor for the admissions office and have helped high school students through their college application process. Some other fun jobs that I have on campus consist of playing music for both our men’s and women’s basketball teams on campus as well as keeping stats and announcing for our men’s and women’s lacrosse games. I am also interning at the admissions office this summer, so if you see me around be sure to say hi!

If you any questions regarding Amherst or myself, please feel free to send me an email at bzojaji20@amherst.edu.



Top Kebab

Who would’ve ever thought that meat on a stick, a kebab, would be such a genius idea? Not me!

bijan and Jeff It seemed to be just like any other summer day in the Valley: hot, humid, clear skies. Little did I know that it was no ordinary day--I was in for an adventure.

 I’m not going to lie, but the majority of the day was actually pretty normal. Gave some tours, worked on office projects, and answered some calls. Normal, right? Well, things took a turn sometime before 5PM. I just finished work and, per usual, ran over to Hitch where my friend Jeff was waiting. Jeff had the idea to go outside and get some sun and chill on the picnic table right out front. To be honest, I was against this idea because it was scorching hot. However, Jeff gave a convincing argument and we decided to hang outside. As soon as we walked outside the air was just so different but yet so familiar; it was humid! The air was heavy and it reminded me of home. We talked outside for half an hour until Jeff had this brilliant idea to explore downtown Amherst. It may not seem like a brilliant idea to the average Amherst student because downtown Amherst is pretty much on campus and it felt like I knew pretty much everything there is to know about it; well, I was wrong.

food There are these shops on the edge of town that I had only driven pass until Jeff suggested we check them out. We really wanted to check out was this toy store but we were unable to because it closed at 6PM, so instead we checked out its neighboring stores. They had a bunch of cool stuff but we decided not to buy anything. Instead of spending at the stores, we spent on dinner. While walking around town trying to find a new place to eat, we stumbled upon a diamond in the rough: Top Kebab! I would have never thought that I would see a Persian restaurant out in Western Massachusetts--there are barely any in Miami. I always saw the restaurant in town but had no idea it was a Persian cuisine until I walked inside. Upon our arrival, I was smacked in the face by this nostalgic smell of chicken and basmati rice. It reminded me of my Grandpa’s home. All in all, the food was exceptional--not better than my Grandma’s cooking though!

empty plate After we enjoyed a delicious persian meal, we headed back to Hitchcock, laid down on our filled stomachs, and took a much needed nap. 



Well, "Orange" You Gonna Read Below?

Have you ever had orange chicken? If so and you would like to learn about my experience eating the best orange chicken I have ever had, keep reading. If not, well you’ve gotten this far so you might as well keep reading.

It was humpday, Wednesday, and I was struggling to get over the hump. I thought a nap may help, so I took one after work. It didn’t. Maybe playing some Xbox would help. Nope. I asked my two friends, Jeff and Santi, who were sitting beside me, “how about we watch some netflix?” I changed the TV input and put on an episode of Chef’s Table. Well, that just made us hungry.

Luckily I wasn’t going through this midweek slump alone. Like myself, they wanted get over the slump and look forward to the upcoming weekend.

While relaxing and watching Netflix, I heard these peculiar sounds. Peculiar, but not novel. These noises were so familiar yet I couldn't put my finger on what they were. I thought I was hearing things. I looked around and nobody made any gestures regarding the sounds. I figured the sounds were a figment of my imagination, so I re-glued my eyes to Chef’s Table. As I watched Nancy Silverton cook her world-famous pizza it hit me like a bird flying into a clear glass window--we were hungry. Those sounds I was hearing weren’t from myself or from any inanimate objects in the room: they were Jeff’s and Santi’s stomachs growling. Bingo! I figured out what we needed to do to get over our slump: eat.

We had some ham, cheese, bread, and even some double stuffed oreos for dessert. But we couldn’t just eat. That would be boring and wouldn’t help get us over our slumps. We needed an adventure. I proposed that we all venture outside of Amherst to get some food.

Northampton is this lovely, lively, little town with a myriad of restaurants, shops, and interesting people; it was the perfect place to explore and we did just that. To our surprise we found a parking spot in record time. We parked a bit off Route 9 directly across the street from this Chinese restaurant called the Great Wall Restaurant. We decided to go window shopping and explore before we decided on where to eat. Urban Outfitters, Shop Therapy, and Thornes Marketplace were some of the stores we decided to check out. After an hour or so of walking around and checking things out, the growling stomachs were not just back, they were upset--more upset than Drake. You'd think in a place like Northampton where there are plenty of places to choose from it be easy to find somewhere to eat, but there are just too many options for three indecisive (and hungry) guys.There were too many options to choose from. One thing that helped solve the problem was that we all wanted to eat somewhere we had never been before. After much discussion and contemplation, we finally decided on a place to eat. The time remaining on our parking meter was 30 minutes and we didn’t have anymore spare change. We definitely wanted to eat somewhere near the car, preferably at a restaurant where we could sit and be able to keep our eyes on it. Once that was all figured out it was a no-brainer. We decided to eat at the Great Wall Restaurant. It was perfect; the restaurant was right across the street from the car so we could keep an eye on it, the food wasn’t overpriced, and, best of all, none of us had eaten there before so we were in for a new experience.

As soon as we walked in, I was smacked right in the face by the aroma of the food. That’s always a good sign. We waited to be seated for a total of 30 seconds before our waitress sat us down right by the window with a perfect view of the car. It was as if it was meant to be.

There was only one problem: there were too many options on the menu. From chicken fried rice to moo shu baby shrimps, if it was considered Chinese food then it was on the menu. I could not decide and I was getting nervous as the waitress approached our table to take our order. The waitress took Jeff and Santi’s orders first, yet that extra time didn’t help my situation. This problem happens a lot, but I have a unique way of solving it. The waitress asked what it was that I would like to order and I looked at the menu for a bit seeing if there may have been any dish that I might have overlooked. There weren’t any. So I turned away from the menu and gave my attention back to the waitress who was waiting ever so patiently. I smiled and asked her, “so what is your favorite thing on the menu?” She chuckled and said that the orange chicken was “fire.” After that response, I had to get the orange chicken and I did just that. 

After our orders were taken we sat and chatted about a wide range of topics from “The Decision Pt. II” (where LeBron James will decide to move during the NBA free agency) to latinx immigration policy in the U.S. Overall, it was great conversation filled with laughter and insightful thoughts.

orange chicken

The restaurant was empty. As soon as the kitchen doors opened, we knew that our food was on its way over. The waitress then came to our table with the food. It was sizzling hot, right off the grill. Almost as soon as the food was set on the table did we start digging in. The orange chicken was outright the best orange chicken I have ever had. It had the perfect amount of seasoning, was not too spicy, had just the right amount of tanginess, and didn’t bloat my stomach at the end of it.

Once the check was paid and we got to the car with no ticket on the front windshield of the car, it was safe to say that we all overcame our midweek slump. 



No-Fun Mondays........ SIKE!

Mondays are no fun. The weekend has come to an end and it’s the beginning of the work week. However, this past Monday was one to remember.

Over my time at Amherst, I have not really explored the area and, to be honest, it’s my biggest regret. In an effort to get to know the Pioneer Valley more, my friends and I spontaneously decided to go to Puffer’s Pond for the first time. Thank God we did. The clock struck 4:30 and I dashed over from the Admissions Office to “Hitch” where my buddies, Jeffrey and Emilee, were waiting for me. We planned on watching a movie together in the common room, but while we were deciding what movie to watch, I thought we needed to stop and think. It was a beautiful day outside. The sky was crystal clear and it was a sunny 85 degrees. I had what Nickelodean’s Jimmy Neutron would call a “brainblast”: Puffer’s Pond! Jeff, Em, and I had never been. So, why not?

I turned to them and suggested that we go to Puffer’s and almost immediately I saw their eyes light up brighter than the starry skies of western Massachusetts. But before we could go, we had to figure out logistics. How would we get there? I had never been on the PVTA (Pioneer Valley Transit Authority) so Jeff had to lead the way. He whipped out his phone and began to figure out the bus schedules. However, he didn’t get very far. The moment he clicked the web browser app, his screen went black. His phone died--R.I.P. Thankfully we live in the 21st century, so we had two other phones to use. Emilee’s phone was dead from before so by process of elimination we had to use mine. I only had 20%, so we had to make it last. I handed the phone to Jeff and he began looking at bus times. The next bus was at 6 o’clock. It was 5:50. We gathered our belongings and ran to the bus stop. We arrived at the stop just as the bus was arriving. The plan was set: we were going to Puffer’s Pond.

Now that transportation was figured out, we had to figure out what we were going to do at Puffer’s. It was late in the afternoon meaning the sun was on its way down. We could not be there too long because the bus isn’t available for 24 hours. Worst of all, we forgot towels; going in the water was no longer an option. So what were we going to do?

puffers pond

After 30 minutes of chit-chatting on the PVTA, we arrived to Puffer’s. Surprisingly, it wasn’t busy. We had the whole pond to ourselves but couldn’t swim; bummer. However, the fact that we couldn’t swim worked out in our favor since the sun was setting it casted a large shadow of the landscape over the pond making the water arctic cold. Aside from swimming, what else could we do at a pond? Luckily enough, we found a walking path that encompassed the entire pond. We took advantage of that by walking and checking out the nature around Puffer’s. Along the nature walk, there were several logs to sit on and admire the pond. We found the perfect spot; the light was shining on the trees in the most perfect of angles, the water was crashing against the shorefront rocks, and, oddly enough, there wasn’t a deathly amount of mosquitos. A view without mosquitos couldn’t be more perfect, so we decided to stop and hangout.

So, there we were. Three friends hanging out by the pond talking about what the rest of summer in Amherst was going to be like. I guess only time will tell, but so far summer is looking bright.



Seasons? Never Heard of 'Em (Until Amherst)

At first, spending all summer in Amherst did not seem ideal. I mean, who would want to deny a summer filled with South Florida weather, beaches, and time with family and childhood friends? Very few people; to be frank, it might just be me. However, I did not look at a summer in Amherst this way. I look at spending my summer in Amherst as an opportunity to engage myself more in the Pioneer Valley. Back home, there is pretty much only one season. Can anyone guess what season? Summer. Even then, the summers in Miami are sizzling hot and unbearably humid at times. I am looking forward to spending the end of Spring and all of summer in Amherst. For starters, I have never really experienced what a true Spring is really like. Just the other day, I was walking to work from Hitchcock dormitory when something caught my eye. It was a tornado of pollen whirring itself nearby the Admissions parking lot. I looked around and all of the flowers were blooming, bees were buzzing taking pollen from one flower to another, and the weather outside was an amazing, not-too-hot, 75 degrees. And in that moment, I realized that, for the first time, I would be experiencing all four seasons!

  memorial hill I am often asked, “coming from Miami, how was the transition from warm to cold weather?” Typically, I start off my response with a slight chuckle and an honest response, “it was not thaaaaat bad, I promise.” The first few weeks of winter were definitely the hardest to get through. The normal day was around 30 degrees fahrenheit, windy, and maybe some snow. At first, I was shocked when I was told that the winter of the previous school year was much worse; it had more snow, lower temperatures, and stronger winds. Similarly to many things in life, all I needed was time. The first week of winter was brutal. To my detriment, I had yet to figure out what “layering” was. Once I figured out that I could not walk around campus wearing just a light jacket without a hoodie, I was set. After the first week, I was feeling much better everytime I would step outside. In my mind, I was no longer walking out into the arctic tundra of Amherst, Mass; I was just stepping outside into good ol’ Amherst.

However, my confidence about facing the cold weather was short-lived. After the first week, it finally began to snow. I had only seen snow once prior to Amherst, so snowfall was something that I definitely wanted to experience. Snow is beautiful especially when it sticks to the ground--Amherst really does turn into a winter wonderland when this happens. But this time around, the snow was not sticking. Instead, the snow was leaving behind “black ice.” How could ice be black? Well, it’s not. Black ice is snow that melts once it reaches the ground and freezes. Once the water has melted and it freezes, the black ice is the transparent coating of ice along the ground. So I was walking back from the gym toward North, my first-year dorm, and I was about to reach the front entrance until BAM! As if I slipped on a banana peel, I felt myself twisting and turning in midair until I landed on my back. I was wet, in pain, and defeated. In that moment, I realized that my winter preparation was not complete; I needed winter boots.

portrait After finally deciding on a reasonably priced pair of boots, I was ready. I could handle anything the cold weather put me face to face with. I had my winter coat and boots and there was nothing stopping me from going outside. Now, entering my Junior year, I have come to love the winter time. Some of my best memories at Amherst have been making snowmen on the first-year quad, playing soccer in the snow, and sledding down memorial hill with friends. The winter isn't so bad after all.