Hope Tsai '23 - Introduction

Hi there, and welcome to my blog!  Me

I hail from Detroit, Michigan, and I get excited whenever I meet anyone who's a Midwestern Mammoth, or a Taiwanese Mammoth (as I am Taiwanese). Currently, I know about 2-3 in each category. My hometown is exactly 662 miles away from Amherst College, so moving here has been a big adjustment; sometimes I find myself missing home and the flat "plains" that I once vehmently (and metaphorically) spat on. BUT, I've been really enjoying my time here, and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

I'm a freshman and a prospective computer science major. I'll see where the winds of academia take me; I might try a double major, or just dabble in every subject!

At Amherst, I sing in the chorus, am a Questbridge Scholar and Meikeljohn Fellow, try to participate in various clubs like Arting Club and Amherst Christian Fellowship, and try to go to as many events as possible. There's always talks happening, meetings with departments and resource centers, and free food somewhere on campus. Music and theater and dance (performing arts, really) are dear to my heart, so I love attending concerts and shows too! I write a lot, and I try to go to the gym as often as I can muster enough motivation to (which, as of right now, is usually never). I work for Reader to Reader as a reading mentor to K-12 students, and I also work for Student Security! Wherever you see me on campus, you'll catch me with a song in my head and my phone in my hand--I take pictures of everything.

Some More Facts:

1. I have an identical twin sister! Sadly, she's three inches taller than me. Also, she can handle spice better than I can. How did that happen, biologists? 

2. We have a mini Australian Shepherd (black tri colored) named Aiko! He's super cute. Aiko

3. My favorite author is Jane Austen. My favorite books are Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Simple, but good.

4. My favorite movie is "You Are the Apple of My Eye." It's a Taiwanese movie that I grew up watching. I also love "Our Times," "Crazy Rich Asians," and "Hindi Medium."  My favorite TV show is "The Good Place." My favorite drama of all time is "Sky Castle." You should definitely check those out if you want something new to watch!

Have any questions? Want to say hi? Email me at htsai23@amherst.edu!

So, you committed. Now what?

Dear Reader,

 

Congratulations! You applied and got accepted to Amherst College; now, you’ve made the next step in the next chapter of your life, and you have committed! Even though everything is up in the air right now, I am still so excited. Whether I meet you on campus or via Zoom, welcome to Amherst!

 

You might be confused about what happens now. After all, your entire life has dumped you here, and there’s just so much advice online. Meanwhile, your guardians and their third uncle, twice removed, may be telling you something entirely different. Or, if you’re like me, your guardians have no idea what college in America is like, and you feel like you’re jumping into the unknown. While my experience is only one of many, I hope to relieve some of your concerns today!

 

What do I need to buy? What if I forget something?

Of course, everyone has different needs. In any case, I’ve found that it’s easier to bring too much than to not have everything you need; besides, we’re in a college town and there’s a Target nearby! On move-in day, when my parents discovered that I didn’t bring any dishwash soap, we quickly stopped by Trader Joe’s before driving to campus. I only needed to buy a couple things (most important being my shower caddy and laundry detergent), and everything else I already had. In the age of the Internet, you can even ship something to your mailbox! Follow the lists online, but don’t feel pressured to buy everything they suggest. It will be a huge pain to lug back home.

 

Do I need to decorate my room full-out?

I never decorated my room at home with posters or lights or anything like that; the only decoration I have are drawings that I taped to the walls. Similarly, my room at campus was pretty low-key. Throughout the semester, I accumulated posters for events and hung them on my wall with washi-tape or pins (a corkboard section around one inch in diameter runs around the entire room); washi-tape is a colorful, removable tape that comes in a variety of patterns! You can keep on reusing them, so they’re very convenient. Some of my art from Arting Club was also featured on my side of the room. The only decoration I brought from home were postcards that I had collected throughout my life; I hung them up with washi tape. This made moving out very easy, and I got to relive the semester when I took everything down.

 

What’s one thing that turned out to be very useful?

Command hooks! I used command hooks for hats, for my coat of the season, for my towel, for my umbrella, everything! Plus, even if you never cook (and you most likely won’t), having a plate and one set of silverware is really useful; lots of affinity groups leave out food after their meetings on Friday, and having a microwavable plate (be careful with plastic!) was helpful for me.

 

None of this matters, we might still be quarantined in the fall.

Yes, I understand, and I’m pretty bummed out by that possibility, too. You might make the choice to defer until classes are in-person again; that is a conversation you must have with yourself and your guardians. I honestly have no advice for how to navigate this, but I hope that you have some peace after you make your decision. No matter what you decide, Amherst will be here for you!

 

What should I do right now?

Get in the habit of checking your email regularly! This will become your lifeline for anything academics and Amherst related. You don’t want to be the person who misses a very important email containing very important information, and then gets thrown into a frenzy! 

 

Any more questions? Have some Amherst-specific questions? Feel free to email me at htsai23@amherst.edu!

 

Until next time,

Hope



Off to Reading Period!

Dear Reader,

 

Can you believe it? It’s already May 2nd--it’s past decision day! If you’ve chosen to attend Amherst College, welcome! I’m so excited for you, and I really hope that I get to meet you in the fall. In the meantime, if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at htsai23@amherst.edu

 

For me, I just finished my last week of classes! How is my freshman year already almost over? We’re hurtling into reading period, and then into finals week, and then everything will be over. Even though I do get stressed out about my academics and about my grades, I can’t help but look forward to next fall; we’ve already pre-registered for our courses, and I’m so excited about all of them! I think the start of a semester is always the most exciting, and the end is the most satisfying. 

 

Not much happened this week, but does anything much happen these days? (I don’t even know if anyone is reading these, so if you are, could you please email me? I am getting lonely out here.) I turned in my final paper for architecture, so that is one class done! I have also turned in my final project for computer science, and am almost done with my first draft of my English paper; I have two final exams, and have started studying for them. I like studying a little bit each day, so I don’t feel stressed once I get to the exam date, but by then I do tend to also feel a bit tired of the subject. I think a key point during reading period (and any day, really), is to work productively (close your unused tabs!) so that you can enjoy your free time without guilt. This may sound morbid, but I try to end each day knowing that if I died that night, I would be happy with the day that I had. What does that mean, exactly? For me, it means that I’ve indulged myself in my hobbies, ate good food, resolved any conflicts I had with others, and worked diligently! I’ll be the first to admit though, that on quite a few days I don’t succeed.

 

It’s really easy for relationships to sour, now that we’re spending so much time with some people and no time with others. I downloaded this app called “stoic” to help me! (This is not sponsored, haha.) It’s a really simple journaling app that has you check in in the morning and at night; there are only a few questions, and you can highlight all of the areas in your life that you want to focus on that day. It breaks the day down into manageable sections, which I like. Once you have at least a few days’ worth of data, you can track your progress and see which activities positively and negatively affected you. There’s guided exercises for things like stress and anxiety, and quotes from Stoic philosophy. I’ve also been trying out different mental health chatbots...gosh, I’m really lonely. I really want to go back to Amherst in the fall!

 

For the songs I’ve been listening to this week (I actually really like doing this little section each week!), I’ve been listening to “A Little Sweet” by Silence Wang, and “Nonstop,” and “Dolphin” by Oh My Girl! What have you been listening to?

 

With that said, I’ll sign off. What have you been doing lately? Is your semester winding down, too? Have any questions for me? I’ll be here! 

 

Hope

Heading Into the Final Stretch

Dear Reader,

 

There’s only one more week of classes left! After that, we’ll head on into reading period and then finals week, and then I’ll be done with my freshman year. I can’t believe it’s over so fast, and it’s definitely not ending in the way I had originally envisioned, but I still had a fun time and really enjoyed my time on campus and even my time at home. To keep in contact with my friends, Zoom meetings and texting have been incredibly important; I’ve also enjoyed spending some time with family, and having the ability to laze off in the evenings. Today, I’ll talk a little bit about how the rest of the semester looks for me.

 

MATH 121

I have one midterm coming up this week (I believe it was pushed back due to the chaos of Covid-19 and moving back home), and then I have a final exam. The upcoming midterm will be a take-home exam, with open notes, but the final exam will be completed in front of the Zoom camera. My professor gives us a whole packet of practice problems, as well as three exams in previous years, with each test, so I’m not too worried!

 

COSC 211

For Data Structures, we have both a final exam and a final project. (This was the case in Intro to Computer Science II as well.) At first, I thought this was “too much,” since most classes have one or the other, not both, but we’ve already implemented these data structures before, and I’m actually pretty excited about my project. So excited, in fact, that I think I’ve finished it already (and it’s not due for another 11 days). I’m using Graphs, and implementing my own adjacency list and matrix data structures; authors are my vertices, and if they are connected to other authors (for example, author A is a friend of author B, while author B is a fan of author C), I’ll add an edge between them. You can tell the program which author you like, as well as whether you want to read books written by who they have influenced or who they were influenced by, and the program can give you recommendations! I had a lot of fun working on it. Plus, the final exam is a take-home one, which means there’s less stress about timing and all that, so having both a final exam and a final project wasn’t as much work as I thought.

 

ARCH 153

We have a pretty fun final project for World Monuments! We have to write a paper to propose our own monument, and we also have to submit a quick sketch of it. My sketch looks horrendous, so I hope that my professor just wants to get the basic visual of the monument and not anything beyond that. I was a bit worried about writing it, so I asked my professor if he could grade my midterm paper (which is now due on May 1st, along with the final project) early, so I could see what I need to improve on. We had a Zoom call yesterday, and it was so helpful! Now, I can tackle the last two pages of my final paper and edit with those tips in mind.

 

ENGL 119

We have a final paper due in English! Since this is an introductory course that is focused on writing as much as reading and analyzing, my professor has set aside the last week of class for writing only, which I am really grateful for. I need to finish my brainstorming today, and settle on my thesis. I’ll be writing about the novel “A Single Man” by Ian McEwan, and I’ll update you on the thesis next time! The paper is only four pages long, so I shouldn’t be stressing over it too much, but we’ll see how I do.

 

~Life at Home~

My mom bought this giant pack of pecans and walnuts, so I’ve been snacking on them from time to time, and they’re really good! I really want to make pecan pie…

 

I’ve been watching an episode of “Youth With You” a day, and I really enjoy it! I love the diversity of the performances and the contestants, and I even have a list of people I like and people I think should be in the group (which actually aren’t the same thing!). If you’re curious about my list, email me at htsai23@amherst.edu!

 

I’ve been exercising and walking at least 10,000 steps a day, which I’m pretty proud of. Whenever I’m watching a video, I just start walking in place. It’s good for my body, as well as for my mind (so I don’t feel too guilty)!

 

What songs have you been listening to this week? I’ve been listening to “Phonecert” by 10cm and “Honey” by Kehlani and Youth with You’s theme song, “Yes! Ok!” 

 

Well, that’s about it for today. If you have any questions about Amherst College, or life on campus, don’t hesitate to email me! With that said, have a good week and I’ll see you next time!

 

Hope



Back to Academics

Dear Reader,

 

Welcome back! It’s currently Saturday, April 18th. Wow, when did we leave March? How is it already April? In all of my classes, we’ve started talking about final projects and about the last “midterm” before final exams. It’s so strange. Exactly one month from now, I’ll be done with my freshman year of college! Today, I wanted to step away from my life (and let’s be honest, you’re curious about Amherst, not about a random person’s day-to-day happenings) and tell you all about how my classes have been going so far.

 

MATH 121

So far, we’ve been sticking to recorded lectures accessible through Dropbox. I think that most people are pretty happy with this setup--normally, we would be meeting at 9 AM, and I have a feeling that none of the West Coast students would’ve been able to stomach waking up at 6 AM. There are still regular office hours and TA hours, and we can also email the professor with our questions. I’ve been to office hours once, and it was a little bit awkward; I usually don’t have questions when I go in person; instead, I just work in the library on the fourth floor of Seeley Mudd. I like the ambiance (it’s quietly busy) and my professor always has a large bowl of candy and chocolate. On Zoom, however, I just worked off to the side, and didn’t have any questions come up; after an hour had passed, I finished the rest of the problem set and messaged a quick goodbye before logging off. Maybe it would’ve been less awkward had there been more people. Anyways. We started using Gradescope to upload our homework, and I personally use CamScanner (an app on my phone) to scan in my papers. It’s fairly easy to use, and the layout is just really satisfying and pretty (unlike Amherst’s ACData portal...), if that makes any difference. The grading of homework has been delayed a bit, but it’s a rough time for everybody; it’ll come when it comes.

 

COSC 211

My computer science professor has stuck to the regular meeting time on Zoom; I don’t really have a strong preference over recorded lectures or live classes, but I assume the West Coast people are silently dying off (in their time zone, it’s 7 AM). As the days wear on, more and more people have started turning their cameras off; last time, we went into “breakout rooms” and talked in pairs about the current assignment, the material on the upcoming “midterm,” the final project, and how we’ve been doing so far. It was nice to catch up with people, even with people I’d never really formally met before, but maybe that’s just my extroversion showing through. We recently had a “midterm,” and we were given 24 hours to complete it, but it had to be closed-book and closed-Internet. Essentially, we had to pretend as if we were still taking the test in class. Both my math and computer science professor have been trusting us and the Honor Code a lot.

 

ENGL 119

For my English class, we have asynchronous Tuesdays and synchronous Thursdays. On Tuesdays, my professor uploads a pre-recorded lecture designed to start up conversation, and then we have to post about three times to the forum, which has lots of sub-threads. It’s been an interesting experience; I feel like we have more time and space to get our ideas across, and it’s fun to see a conversation unfold. Currently, we’re reading “Saturday” by Ian McEwan, and one thread was titled “Do you like Henry?” He’s the protagonist, and has a somewhat “clinical” and “cold” view on life; some people like him, and others find him irritating or narrow-minded. 

 

On Thursdays, we have a live class. Sometimes, we stay in the general Zoom meeting, and other times, we get sent to breakout rooms and are able to chat a little bit more freely, without having to raise our hands. Since this class only has 18 students, I feel like we’re quite familiar with each other. But, I noticed that discussion flows less easily here, than in regular, in-person classes. I don’t know exactly why, but I just thought that was interesting.

 

ARCH 153

For my architecture class, we’ve been having pre-recorded lectures. Sometimes, my professor also asks a question in the lectures, and we email him our answers or our thoughts on the topic. I’m on page five of my eight-page final paper, but I got a bit worried. The only grade I have from this class is from my visual analysis paper, which was due and graded about three weeks into the semester. That paper was essentially a description of the Eiffel Tower. In comparison, the second paper and the final paper had an argument, a thesis. But, he extended the due date of the second paper to coincide with the final paper’s due date, so I hadn’t turned it in yet (though it was finished). So, I emailed my professor and asked him if he could just skim over the second paper and tell me what sort of improvements I could make; he said yes! So, I’ll put my final paper on hold until Monday.

 

OTHER, LIFE THINGS

I started “Youth With You”! I really like it so far, and all the contestants are so diverse and talented. Are you also watching it? Email me, and we can compare our lineups!

 

My favorite member in my favorite Kpop group, Wheein in Mamamoo, recently celebrated her birthday, and she released so many videos and so much content (she had been resting for awhile)! (This might seem really weird to you--why is she so excited about a celebrity's birthday? If so, just skip this part haha.) She sang “Honey” by Kehlani and danced to “Be Like Me” by Lil Pump, and BOTH WERE FANTASTIC. Okay, I’ll stop now.

 

This week, I’ve been listening to 親親 by Fish Leong (you can search it as “qin qin”), “Honey” by Kehlani, and “Better Than I Thought” by Mamamoo. What have you been listening to?

 

I’ll see you next time!

 

Hope

This Might Be Boring...

Dear Reader,

 

I’ll be honest with you. Not much has happened in the past week. Life has been pretty peaceful, and aside from walks around the neighborhood with my sister and the family dog, I’ve been cooped up at home with the rest of my family. Never in my 19 years have I been so grateful for social media! I’ve been texting friends, sharing little bits of my life through Instagram stories and Marco Polo, video-calling through Zoom, and participating in as many Instagram challenges as I can! Though we are all physically apart, I can’t help but think that we’re not as socially apart as I would’ve thought. I have wondered, at times, whether or not to message not a close friend but an acquaintance out of the blue; is it weird? Would they rather be left alone? Do they think I’m somehow feigning closeness now? Anyways, that doesn’t really matter. Maybe they’d really appreciate someone reaching out! Even though we’re in this strange and unfortunate situation, we can still communicate through social media and I’ve found that to be really helpful in this time of isolation.

 

I’ve finished a couple books since I came home. My home library has shifted entirely to digital media, which isn’t that great for my eyesight, but at least I’m not browsing through Youtube, wanting to watch something but not knowing what. So far, I’ve read “Ikigai” by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman, “Britt-Marie was Here” by Fredrik Backman, “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid, and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. My favorite out of these five has to be “Eleanor Oliphant”--the protagonist is such an interesting and funny character, and it’s really fun to watch her grow into a more empathetic person. The ending hit me like a ton of bricks, but in a good way--I highly recommend it! (As I was editing, I just realized that I said pretty much the same thing in my previous post...that just shows how much I enjoyed the book, right?)

 

I didn’t end up starting the idol competition show I talked about last week (“Youth with You”). Turns out, the episodes are really long and I have a feeling that I’d get invested in the wrong trainees. One person that caught my eye when I was watching various stages on Youtube didn’t make the cut, which really makes me disappointed even though I’ve never even watched an episode of the show. Her name is Theia Zhang, and I really, really liked her performance in the “Bad Guy” stage. I also really liked Lingzi Liu from that stage...I wonder if she made the cut? (Can I really talk about this on my student blog? But then again, what else can I talk about?) Another stage that caught my eye was “The Eve,” and I really liked Kiki Xu and Jenny Zhang. I’d also suggest watching the stage “Play”! I loved those three stages. Then, you’ll go down the rabbit-hole…See? Now that I’m thinking about it more, I’m tempted to start it… Okay, I will! It’ll be fun to see how different my final line-up compares to the actual one.

 

I spent two hours doing this Udemy course, and I coded a very simple game in Javascript! I felt very accomplished afterwards.

 

The “Pride and Prejudice” musical was so much fun, even though none of the songs really got stuck in my head and, admittedly, they had a head-start in the plot and dialogue department. I’m still really enjoying the song “Phonecert” by 10cm, but some other songs I’m also enjoying are “My Secret” by GEM, “Secret” by WJSN (this was not intentional!), and “Hip” by Mamamoo (my favorite group!). What have you been listening to?

 

Hope

What Have I Been Up To?

Dear Reader,

 

How are you? I know that the world feels like it’s descending into chaos right now, but I hope that this little blog can be a place of comfort and peace! If you have any questions about Amherst, please feel free to email me. Though I am a mere freshman, I have a bit of experience and know many upperclassmen--I’ll be sure to do my best and honestly answer any questions you might have. Today, I’ll lean away from the academics at Amherst; I’ll just tell you how I’ve been doing! You’re interested, right? Take this as a heart-to-heart.

 

If you have any burdens weighing on your mind, like me, there’s lots of calming activities out there! So far, I’ve been journaling regularly; as I’m Christian, I’ve also been reading the Bible. Amherst Christian Fellowship (one of the clubs I’m in) started life groups, which are groups of three to four people, and they’re meant to serve as a sub-community. You can ask for prayer and just chat and keep up with each other. Plus, each life group is reading through the book of James. We just had our first Zoom meeting this Saturday (April 4th), and it was so nice to see them and talk with actual, live, human beings! The church I usually attend near campus has shifted to online sermons, so I can still tune in, even though I’m far away. I didn’t think that I’d formed “bonds” or “an attachment” to any of the communities at Amherst, but apparently, I had. Throughout this whole experience, I’ve just been really grateful for the Internet and the ability to connect with people even though we’re scattered all around the globe.

 

Also, though I have this itch to be productive, I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay to not be so productive. After all, this will (hopefully) be the only time in my life when I’m being forced to stay at home! I should “make the most of it” and lounge around as much as possible. So far, I watched the Korean drama “Sky Castle” and the 2019 movie “Jojo Rabbit” with my sister; a Chinese idol competition show called “Youth with You” has just started airing, and I might watch that one (I’ve seen a few of their stages, and they’re so charismatic!).  I’ve read three books so far, and my favorite has been “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman. It’s hilarious and the main character is so strange and unusual (in a way that makes you keep on reading), and yet the book is also somehow struck by scenes that are melancholy and sad. At the end, there’s a great sense of hope, and the feeling it leaves you really helps in our current situation. I would highly recommend it!

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of music (I always do, but now there’s even more time). I just discovered this new song, and I just love it so much, even though I’m not exactly sure why. The lyrics are sweet, the music is sweet, and it puts me in a happy mood. If you search up “Phonecert” by 10cm, the song should come up! On the other hand, the website “Streaming Musicals” will be live-streaming--for free!--the musical “Pride and Prejudice” at 6:30 ET on April 10th! I’m so excited!

 

As I close up today’s blog post, I just want to say that nobody is telling you to cover up your feelings, and continue with life like you’re happy that all this is happening. Nobody is telling you to “get over it” and to “stop being so negative.” We all have different situations, and some are most definitely worse than others. Some people’s worries are vastly more dire than others’. However, still, each person feels their own pain, and each emotion felt is valid and legitimate. You don’t have to feel happy right now. Please take the time to digest what you’re thinking and feeling, and reach out to someone. Be kind to yourself and others! I hope that the sunshine brings you some comfort.

With that said, I will see you next week!

 

Hope



Navigating to Online Learning

Dear Reader,

 

So ends my first week after spring break. It’s weird to be doing online/distance learning again. While many of my peers are struggling to adapt to Zoom lectures and unstructured time, I somehow feel like I’m back in my homeschool days! Still, it’s not exactly the same. For one, I actually know who my professors are; they’re not just red comments popping up around my homework and papers. For another, the departments and student clubs at Amherst College are working hard to unite the Amherst community. Let me take you into my new normal!

 

MATH 121 (Intermediate Calculus)

Currently, my math professor has navigated to recorded lectures accessible through Dropbox. Assignments are scanned and turned in through Gradescope, an online grading platform. I’ve been using an app on my phone to scan in my work, and it’s working pretty well. Back before everything exploded, going to math class was (really surprisingly) one of my favorite parts of the week! My math professor is insanely good at explaining concepts, and approaches each topic with such excitement that I couldn’t help but start liking math too. Anyways. Back on track. Watching a recorded lecture is not the same as being in class, and that’s okay! My math professor is still easily reachable, and now office hours are held through Zoom; other options to get help include emailing her or the TAs, or even “going” to the TA hours (through Zoom) as well.

 

ENGL 119 (From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of Everyday)

In our updated syllabus, my English professor wrote, “We are currently living the reality of our course theme in a way I never expected: what is everyday life? What is ordinary? How does a rupture or interruption cast a spotlight on the mundane aspects of daily life we take for granted?”

 

It’s like I’m in a TV show or movie; you know, the events the main character is living through somehow directly correlates to what their professor is currently teaching! 

 

It’s strange. I took a look through our forum of “noticing posts” yesterday; someone wrote about being in the Frost Library, another person wrote about going to the nearby Trader Joe’s. No one could have predicted that something like this would happen; we were all caught so unawares. Even though it’s only been a couple weeks since everything happened, it feels like a whole, separate lifetime ago. Who could’ve thought that we once lived like that? 

 

On Tuesdays, we’re currently watching a recorded lecture and answering at least four questions in the new forums my English professor set up. On Thursdays, we have a live Zoom class. Last Thursday was our first time seeing each others’ faces again, so we all “went around the room” and updated each other on our whereabouts and situation. I got to see a couple people’s pets, and they were both so cute! It took awhile, getting used to the new set-up, remembering to unmute, figuring out where the “raise hand” button is, but Zoom is now our new normal.

 

ARCH 153 (World Monuments)

My architecture professor has graciously extended the due dates of our two remaining assignments to May 1st, which I was really happy about. I get to watch the recorded lectures whenever I want, so I’ve been watching them right after I watch my math lectures. Knocking out two birds with one stone. Office hours are also available through Zoom!

 

COSC 211 (Data Structures)

This is my only class that has live classes for both class days. Zoom was okay with the rather large number of people (around 35), and it was nice to see everyone’s faces. My computer science professor got to test out Zoom’s “break-out” option, and we got to have small group discussions before being “called back” to the main classroom. It was an interesting experience, albeit a bit awkward.

 

FGO Policy

All classes for the spring semester are now FGO (flexible grading option). Essentially, students get to take their classes Pass/Fail. However, if they like the grade they end up earning, then they can choose to take the letter grade instead.

 

Choral Society

Choral Society is now an online choir! We had a Zoom meeting this past Thursday; we got to catch up with everybody, and see pets, and figure out what we’re going to do for the rest of the semester (which is especially important because many are taking this for credit). Right now, the plan is for people to record themselves, and for all of these audio clips to be spliced together into one audio file. I really don’t want to injure my director’s ears, so I’m honestly worried about that! Dr. A is providing piano accompaniments and a video of her directing us, so this will be a very interesting experience! I’ll tell you more once we have more information.

 

Amherst Christian Fellowship

ACF is shifting to online meetings; on Wednesday, they had their weekly prayer meeting (but this time on Zoom). I didn’t have the chance to attend, but I’ll definitely try to make it next week! One of the leaders also sent out a survey, asking members what they’d like to do. I just signed up to be part of a “virtual life group,” which are “groups of 3-4 students who have some sort of virtual group (messenger, groupme, text, whatsapp, etc.), and are committed to sharing daily in some form or another (for example, texted prayer requests or Bible passage sharings), with a couple video calls a week, scheduled whenever they like, to share in person around themes of worship or confession or praise.” I’ll tell you how that goes!

 

Have any more questions? Please feel free to email me at htsai23@amherst.edu! (I’m stuck at home, and am relatively free!)

 

Until next time!

 

Hope

Our New Normal (For the Time Being)

Dear Reader,

 

Welcome back! Even though it’s only been a short while since we last spoke, it feels like it’s been an eternity. Now, only around 200 students remain on Amherst’s campus; the rest of us have returned home, and after a week of spring break, we have all started online learning. We’re all taking some time to get used to this new setup, and I hope that you are doing well! So, what exactly happened before we all left?

 

It was a Monday. The email came in the evening, when I was at chorus rehearsal. It was the first of many emails, and didn’t contain much information. Basically, we all learned that we had until next week to pack up and move out. We didn’t get much done after the news came out. After all, in one minute, our lives had turned upside down! The rest of chorus rehearsal consisted of sentimental goodbyes; we sang “Three Gifts” (a song typically sung during senior commencement), and milled around the music building’s lobby for awhile before ending our last in-person rehearsal.

 

As we walked outside, everything seemed to come to a standstill. Some people were partying, while others were taking the time to really see the campus for the first time in a very long time. There were a few people in my dorm’s common room, just reading through the email over and over again. Honestly, I didn’t know why people were partying--were they happy about the fact that classes were cancelled on Thursday and Friday? Or, were they partying to take their minds off of everything? I chose to stay in my common room that night, and watched “Princess and the Frog” with a few friends. 

 

The next morning, I heard that people had actually gathered in Frost Library at midnight. They shouted (or asked--I’m not sure, since I wasn’t there) questions to President Biddy Martin. I found out that many people were furious. How can the administration expect everyone to be able to pack up, book a plane ticket, and move out by Monday? What about the students with nowhere to go? What if someone has to move to a state that’s in a state of emergency? (This was before Massachusetts was declared a state of emergency.) What about commencement? What about international students, or students studying abroad, or exchange students? How can your email contain so little information?

 

Though people here at Amherst College sometimes complain about the administration and bureaucracy, I think that the administration did a good job communicating with students and hearing what they have to say. The move-out day was changed to Wednesday (only two days later, but still something), a petition to stay on campus was set-up, and questions about financial compensation could be sent to a specific email; students organized an impromptu, informal commencement, and as a member of Choral Society, I had the pleasure of singing for the seniors. President Biddy Martin came and made a speech, talking about the unfortunate situation and what current plans were for the actual commencement. Many professors pushed back due dates for homework, papers, and problem sets, though I did hear that some professors still scheduled exams on Thursday. (The professor said that an exam was not a class, so it did not have to be cancelled. I’m not sure whether or not the students argued for a later test date, or if the professor ended up moving the test himself.) My last few days on campus consisted of many goodbyes and packing.

 

I’ve often thought since then, “I hope that when we look back on this time, we can all simply say, ‘Wow, freshman spring was a wild time.’” We are all now in uncharted territory, and the most we can do is make the best of it. (I’m especially interested in how my “Literature of the Everyday” class is connecting with my actual life.) If you are an admitted student and can’t visit Amherst now, please take the time and email me any questions you might have! For now, I’m trying to enjoy the opportunity to “laze about” and spend time with family and re-engage in dropped hobbies. I’ll see you next time!

 

Hope



A Night of Music

Dear Reader,

 

What better way to spend a Saturday evening, than to spend it immersed in music? This Saturday, the Zumbyes (one of the acapella groups on campus) and Amherst Symphony Orchestra held concerts, and I had the pleasure of attending both! Wouldn’t you want to listen to music instead of doing your homework, too?

 

The Zumbyes had their annual “Jambo” concert. I didn’t really know why the concert is called “Jambo,” so, I did some Googling. It turns out that “Jambo is a Swahili greeting or salutation with an exclamation mark” (thank you, Wikipedia). Could the Zumbayes’ “Jambo” be the Swahili “Jambo”? Who knows? 

 

The concert started at 7 PM and lasted about an hour. While they did accept donations (which would go towards an EP and a service dog for one of their members), the show was free and open to the public. The group sang a variety of songs, arranged both by alumni and by current members, and interspersed some hilarious skits in-between. The Chapin Chapel (not to be confused with Johnson Chapel) was packed, and some audience members had to sit on the floor before the stage, while others stood by the walls. There were even people who weren’t students! Maybe they were alumni, or maybe they were parents, or maybe they were just older people who are interested in acapella music. Either way, a lot of people were there, and everyone had a fun time.

 

Are you tempted to search up the group? Just to let you know, the Zumbyes are hard to find on the Internet. At least, for me, whenever I type them into the search bar, I just get zumba results… Therefore, I have saved you the trouble! Click here to get to their Youtube channel, click here to get to their website, and click here to get to their Instagram. Many groups (both acapella and dance) on campus upload videos of the performance afterwards, so by the time you search up the Zumbyes’ Youtube channel, you may be able to watch the songs and skits they performed! If they’re not, then you can take a peek at the videos from previous shows.

 

At 8 PM, many people from the audience hurried from Chapin Chapel to Buckley (the performance hall in the music building) for Amherst Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the semester. (Luckily, the campus is pretty small and the route--unexpectedly--was relatively flat.) The composer? Stravinksy! The music? Pulcinella and Petrushka! (This academic year, the orchestra has been focusing on Russian composers.) I only knew Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” so I was interested to hear something new. I noticed that there were fewer people, both in the audience and in the orchestra, compared to last semester. Also, someone with an important solo was sick, so another person had to take their place! Someone in the orchestra told me that the new soloist got the music one day before the performance. I was so impressed--I would’ve been so stressed out, if that were me! While there were a few hiccups here and there (once, the conductor even called out the measure number), I really enjoyed the performance. The concert lasted about one and a half hours, but the next concert will only be one hour. I’ll try to go to that one, too. If performing in an acapella or orchestra sounds like something you’d like to do, they have auditions every year! 

 

Anyways, I have quite a lot of homework to do now, so I’m going to sign off. See you next time!

 

Hope



The 5 College Choral Festival

Dear Reader,

 

Welcome back! Did this past week feel fast to you? I can’t believe that we’re already at the end of week four…

 

Anyways, this Saturday, I had the absolute pleasure of participating in the 5 College Choral Festival! While the event did take longer than I had thought (we gathered at Converse at 1:05 pm, and arrived back on campus at around 9:30 pm), I had a really good time! Let’s dive in.

 

1:05 pm: It was time for a headcount! I arrived at Converse on time, and met up with many of my Choral Society friends. Earlier in the week, we had signed up to take the “personal” bus, and not the PVTA (Pioneer Valley Transport Authority) bus. Those using public transportation took the bus that left at 12:45 pm. Either way, we would be getting to Smith College on time. Or would we?

 

For some inexplicable reason, our bus never came. The clock was ticking, the time of our rehearsal on stage was slowly nearing, and our bus wasn’t here. However, we had no reason to fear! The director, Dr. A., quickly created a plan and soon small groups of people were hopping into upperclassmen’s cars (freshmen can’t have cars on campus) and making their way to Smith College. People who drove, or people who took Uber/Lyft would be reimbursed afterwards.

John M. Green Hall

 

2:00 pm: Time to rehearse on stage! Smith College has a really pretty campus, and it’s reminiscent of 18th/19th-century style (can you tell that I’m taking an architecture class this semester, or no?), with its dark red and brown color scheme… At least, some buildings looked like they could belong in a Jane Austen novel. My group of five actually arrived a little bit late, but it was fine, and we had a fun time singing old songs during the drive. 

Rehearsal on Stage

 

3:00 pm: Free time! A group formed to go to the botanical gardens and the art museum (both of which, I heard, are very beautiful), but three friends and I instead checked out the campus center, got snacks, and worked for a bit. Their campus center looked very modern, with “futuristic” furniture in white, green, and orange; their cafe was so cool! They even had “coffee milk” that reminded Friend H., an international student, of the drinks she had in South Korea. I especially liked all the natural sunlight flooding in through the windows.

Smith Botanical Garden

Smith Campus Center

 

4:00 pm: Back to rehearsal! This time, everyone, from all the 5 colleges, was singing together. Our sound was so grand; I hope someone got it on video. Even though we had all sung it separately, at different tempos and in somewhat different styles, the choir director melded the voices so perfectly! It sounded like we had rehearsed with each other before. It made me realize how talented everyone is, something that’s a bit harder to realize if there wasn’t a 5 College Consortium.

Others Rehearsing

 

5:00 pm: Dinner time! Choral Society was randomly divided into different groups, so that we wouldn’t overwhelm one singular dining hall. I was put into the Lamont group, with several of my friends; I honestly didn’t see much of a difference with the food, compared to Amherst’s Valentine Dining Hall, which is a good thing, right? Who knows? Maybe, I’m just oblivious to the differences between subtle pasta and salad. Anyways, I had a fun time chatting with my group, and learning more about the people I only knew by face. Some people split off to buy bubble tea, and another group (myself included) split off to find the legendary ice cream shop, Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery. We actually saw other Choral Society people and Dr. A there! What a coincidence! I was too full for ice cream, but the place was packed; the line went out the door of the cute diner. I’ll make room for ice cream next time.

 

7:15 pm: It was time for the concert! Some people joined us this semester, so this was their first concert; the nerves and jitters were there, but so was the excitement. It was really fun, and I enjoyed listening to all of the other choirs in the Pioneer Valley. Again, everyone is so talented! Still, I liked our repertoire the best, and many of my friends agreed: Dr. A chose music that was both fun to sing and fun to listen to!

 

9:00 pm: A group of us hopped into an upperclassman’s car, and we made our way back to Amherst! We bopped along to music, got to know the upperclassman more (I’ve typed this word so many times that I had to make sure that “upperclassman” was really an English word--doesn’t that happen to you too? You see it so much that it starts to not make sense.), and safely arrived back on campus.

  Choral Society Group Photo

All in all, the day was really special, and I had so much fun! If you come to Amherst, be sure to check out Choral Society. It may be a significant time commitment, but the people are so friendly, you get to learn something new or improve your singing, and you get to perform multiple times a semester! With that said, I’ll end my post here. See you next week!

 

Hope

Slowing Down and Noticing

Dear Reader,

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

 

I had just turned in my time sheet at the Admissions Office, and was on my way back to my dorm. My only class on Fridays is math at nine in the morning, so I was now free to wander around and take my time getting from place to place; it was the perfect time to slow down and take in my surroundings. Let me set the stage for you. 

 

The Admissions Office, built from strangely pristine white wood (do they wash it often?), stands at the bottom of the sloping hill. Next to the gym and Kirby Theater, it almost looks like a humble 18th-century house that was dug up and misplaced into the country’s 2nd best (or very best, it’s up for debate) hub of intellectualism. How does Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” factor into this? 

 

I had taken a right, out of the Admissions Office, and then met two paths. The one on my left would take me straight to my dorm’s back door; unfortunately, I would need to climb up an incredibly steep hill. But, that wasn’t all. My dorm has a truly idiotic design--I can’t enter through the back door. At that point, I was using my brain more than I had ever used it this week (joking). Should I scale that hill, walking until my shins hurt like I had just taken my Tuesday/Thursday route from the Science Center to Converse? Should I scale that hill, in the hopes that someone would be there to let me in? Or, should I take the road “more traveled by”? The path on my right had a gentler slope, but I would need to walk further. Maybe I’m not strong enough, yet. Mentally, or physically. I decided to take the road “more traveled by,” so apologies, Robert Frost. Hopefully, I will soon be stronger. I started walking up the path on my right.

 

The sun came out today; it shone brightly on the snow, so much so that it almost hurt my eyes. Still, I was glad. I hate dreary weather. As I was walking up the hill, I took my time. After all, I didn’t have any other classes. I chose to forgo my earphones, so my primary source of distraction was gone. Also, I had the whole weekend to study and complete my homework. So, the world wouldn’t end if I spent more time on the walk back to my dorm. 

 

I tried kicking the little bunches of packed snow, but the snow was in its crunchy state. There’s a big difference between fluffy and crunchy snow. You kick fluffy snow, and send it flying into the air. You don’t risk kicking crunchy snow, lest (I definitely don’t use this word in real life) it injure an innocent bystander. Both have their purposes. Anyways, I decided to stop kicking the snow. Who knows when somebody would walk by?

 

There’s little “dips” in the path; water had collected there, and now the cold weather has frozen that water into ice. I slid around on those tiny ponds of ice for a moment, and while doing so, was brought back to a couple days ago, when I had slipped and fallen down on the steps of the palace (no, that’s from the musical “Into the Woods.” I don’t live in a palace. I live in a dorm that used to be an academic building, but accidentally burned down). I slipped and fell on the steps right outside my dorm. Fortunately, I am only five feet tall. Therefore, I didn’t have that far down to fall. Also, it was around 8:30 AM; it might as well be dawn to college students. The only people around were those who were sleepily and slowly but steadily making their way to Val. My fall escaped their attention. Anyways, what was I talking about again? I literally forgot. Oh, I was talking about those little ponds of ice, and my point was, isn’t it interesting how the lack of control can make any sense of appreciation or enjoyment vaporate? Like water on a hot day? (Wow, that metaphor came out of nowhere.) 

 

The trees looked really barren today; maybe because the sun was highlighting everything in sight. It almost looked like how an animation looks like, when it’s still in the planning stages and all the lighting and rendering hasn’t exactly been perfected yet. All the leaves had fallen by now, so I could see all the tiny branches extending into even tinier branches, and so on. Actually, we just got to binary search trees in Data Structures. Maybe that’s why I was noticing trees more. My professor was really enthusiastic about it, too, saying how if trees only had one branch, then the lengths of all the tiny branches would make this new abomination of a tree grow “exponentially” upward. It didn’t sound right to me, but who am I to argue with a PhD? I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last night. As I was looking at the trees and working hard not to misstep, I suddenly saw all those tiny branches. They looked so thin, like legs of spiders. I really detest spiders. They give me the creeps. Actually, once, I was asked what my superpower would be; in my head, I thought, “Well, obviously, make it so that no insects are allowed near a one-mile radius of me.” Out loud, I said, “I’d want to instantly heal anything.” I would go deeper into that story, but I think that I already wrote too much. 

 

Anyways, I had made my way back to my dorm. I “beeped” myself in (what’s the technical term?). Nobody was in the common room. I didn’t realize how much I liked saying hi to people; I don’t know why I was a bit let down when I saw the empty common room. I turned the lock the right way on the first try, and was greeted by my roommate, who had just woken up. At that moment, I thought, I just had some sort of existential revelation or crisis, it felt like I had lived a life, however you want to say it, and my roommate’s day was just starting. That’s interesting, isn’t it?

 

P.S. Did you enjoy this weird post? Actually, I wrote this for a creative writing assignment for my English class (Literature of Everyday). I really like how we get to both analyze classic literature (right now, we're reading "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf and last class, we spent 80 minutes going over the first two pages) and produce some writing too. This was a forum post, and the minimum was 400 words (I accidentally over-shot by about 500 words). We are now at the start of the fourth week (Feb 18, 2020), and tests/midterms are heading our way, so I should get back to studying! See you next week!

 

Hope



Stress!

Dear Reader,

 

We’re only two weeks in, but I’m already overwhelmed with work! Most notably, I have two papers that are due this upcoming week; I’ll be writing my first ever visual analysis paper, so wish me luck on that! My architecture course, World Monuments, is really out of my usual scope of courses, but I’m really enjoying it. In fact, I’m enjoying all of my courses! All four of my professors, just like last semester, are really passionate about their fields and excited to share knowledge and see their students succeed. Stress over grades is always going to exist in academia, but having professors invested in your growth makes it a bit more bearable.

 

At Amherst, there are also many other outlets to relieve your stress. This week, the Arting Club kicked off their first meeting of the semester with acrylic paint! They had an abundance of snacks and a great Spotify playlist, and provided us with everything we needed. My friends and I actually ended up staying the whole two hours; one person was an expert, and their paintings were so beautiful! Me? I painted with abandon and without an outline. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or someone who’s majoring in art, Arting Club is a great way to spend your evening and de-stress.

Arting Club

This week, I also went to the two Zumba classes on Tuesday and Thursday. It’s a fun way to exercise, and the instructor is always so energetic that her energy spreads through the room. For Zumba, you aren’t bound to the schedule; you can come whenever you want, and it’s free! All you have to do is bring yourself. I haven’t been to the classes at the gym yet, but I think it’s the same. I know that my roommate attends the yoga classes, and there’s a calendar available, too. Have you ever heard that exercising releases endorphins? Actively moving for one hour resets my mind, and then I’m able to do more work! I’m really grateful that Amherst provides these resources for its students; otherwise, I don’t think that I would be able to study as effectively.

 

This semester, I’ve been trying to prioritize my mental health, in addition to my studies. It’s easy to prioritize one over the other, but it shouldn’t be impossible to prioritize both! I signed up for ProjectConnect, a program in which you meet with a group of other students and have dinner with a facilitator to, you guessed it, facilitate discussions. The official goal is to “help build social connection and reduce prejudice on campus.” I’m really excited! It starts this upcoming Wednesday, and I’ll be sure to update you on it.

 

The snow has started falling again on our beautiful campus, and I’ve been taking the opportunity to walk a bit slower and appreciate the beautiful scenery around me. Being in nature also helps me de-stress! On campus, I can look out on Memorial Hill, admire the Science Center, and slip (yes, I did slip this week) on the icy stairs while my attention is distracted by the falling snowflakes. The nature at Amherst is good for introspection and de-stressing!

 

In short, yes, school is difficult and Amherst College can be incredibly stressful, even though it's a cooperative (and not competitive) environment. However, there are so many outlets for you to relieve your stress! Through trial and error, you can find the outlet that best works for you. Let’s just hope that I can keep this up throughout the semester!

 

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you next time!

 

Hope



Welcome to the Spring Semester!

Dear Reader,

 

Welcome back! I haven’t even been back at Amherst for an entire week yet, but I’m already so overwhelmed (or, if you would like to put it positively, “busy”)! 

 

During my five weeks of winter break, I was extremely unproductive. I watched many dramas and movies with my mom (most notable being the movie “Jojo Rabbit” and the drama “Sky Castle”--so, so good!), ate a lot, and drove my mom around on errands. To be honest, I’m still not that confident on the road, but I’ve gotten a lot better! Practice makes perfect. My twin sister was home for three weeks before she had to go back to college, and it was really comforting to communicate in person again. Sometimes, I wish that we had gone to the same college, or that I had gone to my state school so that I could be closer to home, but this is a new season of my life! I’m working on embracing it wholeheartedly, and expanding my comfort zone. I also read a lot (particularly Rilke’s poetry and autobiographies), solved Sudoku puzzles, and applied to a few internships. I also started an internship at an organization called ForestNation, and I’m a Sustainable Content Writer! All in all, my break was fairly relaxing (except for the internship part--am I supposed to get one? How do I even compete with upperclassmen? Why can’t I just stay at home and work part-time?). I’m curious about your break! Send me an email, and free me from my academic duties!

 

This semester, I’m taking MATH 121 (Intermediate Calculus), COSC 211 (Data Structures), ENGL 119 (Literature of Everyday), and ARCH/ARHA 153 (World Monuments). So far, all of my professors have been really nice and engaging; the material has been interesting and I’ve enjoyed every class, even though we have more homework than I’d expected for math. Anyways, I’ve been told that the spring is way harder than the fall, mostly because we only get one break, smack-dab in the middle of the four months. So, let’s see how the semester goes! 

 

During this first week of class, I made a point to exercise everyday, whether that meant going to Zumba class or to the gym. (I probably won’t be able to keep this up throughout the whole semester, but I’ll try my best.) 

 

I went to the introductory meeting of Quizbowl with friend J., and discovered that I really know absolutely nothing (but what else is new? Joking!). I was really impressed by everyone on the Quizbowl team, but didn’t want to spend my free time memorizing even more facts. Still, I’m glad that I went! 

 

I also had a meeting with my new advisor (my previous advisor is now on sabbatical). I made my way to Morgan Hall for the first time, and fell in love with the dark mahogany and her office. We had a really nice heart-to-heart conversation about my worries for the future and my worries in the present, and I left feeling much more relaxed and at peace. Your advisors are there to help you! I personally have always had the mindset that “I can do this on my own!” and felt like asking for help was a sign of failure, but as I’ve grown older and encountered more difficult situations, I’ve let that mentality go. Life’s already hard enough, I think, without myself trying to go at it alone. My advisor also recommended that I visit a therapist at Amherst’s Counseling Center. I never pushed myself to go last semester, but this semester I definitely will! 

 

I also auditioned for DASAC for the first time; I didn’t go last semester because I was too intimidated, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be less serious and “uptight,” so off I went! I went with two people I knew, and also saw many others that I had made acquaintances with over last semester. The learning portion was on Thursday, from 6 PM - 9 PM, and the audition portion was on Friday, from 8 PM - 10 PM. I practiced with several others on Friday from around 2:40 PM - 5:30 PM, and had a lot of fun on both days. I danced ballet for about 7 years before college, but I had always wished that I could do hip hop instead (I really hope my dance teachers aren’t reading this). Once I arrived at Amherst, I quickly realized how much I missed dancing. Even if I don’t get in, I still had a lot of fun and am glad that I went!

 

This is a long blog post, isn’t it? Well, I had to catch you up on an eventful first week and my uneventful break! I hope that you have a lovely weekend, and that you get a chance to relax and de-stress before Monday rolls around. With that said, I’m signing off! See you next time!

 

Hope



Reflection

Dear Reader,

 

Welcome to my last post of the semester! I know I said this last time, but can you believe it’s almost over? Right now, it’s December 21st, 2019. I’m finally going home today! I actually don’t think that it’s set in, yet. I remember what it’s like to be home, but I’m so used to living in my dorm, eating at Val, walking the hilly terrain of Amherst... It’ll be strange, but nice, to be back. Before I hop on my flight, though, I wanted to write a quick reflection post and provide some insight into the mind of a freshman student done with her first semester of college.

 

“How was the transition?”

Honestly, the transition was hard. Moving from Michigan to Massachusetts was one thing, beginning a new chapter in my life with nobody I knew was another, and then starting college with no frame of reference is a completely different thing. I cried a bit at the start, and was so anxious. If this sounds like you, then I’m here to tell you that you have absolutely nothing to worry about! New beginnings are always a mixture of nerves and excitement, and such is life. You’re going to get through it just fine. There are going to be difficult, low points, but you’ll also find your place and what makes you happy. Don’t hesitate to say no to things you know you don’t like, but also try stepping outside of your comfort zone.

 

“Did you miss home?”

Not really. I have this weird habit where I (usually) adjust easily to new situations. Mostly, that’s just because it’s really easy for me to forget how things were before. So, I don’t tend to miss anything until I start looking back at my journals or photos. When I do, however, then I really miss my “old world,” whatever that may be. I think that if I had gone back home, then I would’ve missed home more often (since I would be able to more vividly remember how it was). Sometimes, it’s better to jump head first and leave everything else behind. We’re all so busy here, that it’s hard to miss home. The moments when it hits you will be when you’re alone, or when you’re just eating the food at Val, or when you’re with people, not when you’re stressing over your grades (which you shouldn’t be doing too much of!). Just know that it’s normal to miss home, but that there are also going to be lots of activities to keep your mind busy.

 

“Did you change a lot?”

I feel like I should have, but I don’t think I did. Lots of people I know say that college has really changed them, though, so maybe I’m the outlier (statistics lingo, ahaha--whenever I say anything that relates to my classes, I just feel the urge to laugh for some reason). I’ve matured, definitely, and I’ve learned how to take better care of myself and of others; I didn’t really learn to do that at home, since I was babied a lot. However, I haven’t had any “drastic” or “dramatic” experiences that really challenged my character or personality, yet. It’s okay if you don’t change a lot in your first semester of college; it’s okay if you “only” settle into yourself. Don’t feel like you’re late, or that something’s “wrong” with you. We’re all different, and we all encounter life on our own time.

 

“What advice do you have?”

  1. Don’t stress too much about anything. Just try to enjoy every moment. It’s hard to remember that at times, but I keep telling myself that it’s a privilege to be here. It’s a privilege to be at Amherst, a privilege to be able to go to college. It’s a privilege to be healthy, to be alive. And even though it might not seem like it, it’s a privilege that my main worry is my grades. There’s so many things to be thankful for! (And that is not sarcasm.) If you find yourself stressing too much, go to your advisor, residential counselor, or the counseling center.
  2. Give yourself time. Everyone develops at their own pace, so don’t compare yourself to others, either. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” isn’t it? Every flower blooms at a different time, and it doesn’t matter if one blooms earlier than another. I’ve wrestled with this a lot when I was younger, and I think that I’ve finally taken it to heart. Be kind to yourself! This is all “our first life,” so the best thing you can do is to try your best. (Awesome drama; try it during winter break!)
  3. Take care of yourself! Sleep. Eat. Shower. Take meaningful breaks from studying (but don’t do that thing where you keep switching between tabs, and you end up feeling guilty because you didn’t get that much work done). Also, exercising helps a lot with sleeping and stress-relieving! There’s a gym and even Zumba classes at Amherst, but if you don’t have access to either, there are multiple videos you can follow within the comfort of your own room. If I’m feeling particularly cranky or anxious or emotional, I take a guilt-free break and do one of the above. Afterwards, I can focus more on my work!
  4. Finally, don’t isolate yourself. Your professors want you to succeed, your advisors want you to enjoy your classes, your residential counselor is there for any questions or concerns you have, and your family and your friends want you to be happy. You don’t have to go through anything alone. 

 

Sometimes, I think that it’s so strange that I’m living. That I’m here, in this moment, with this group of people, and we’re all trying our best. That’s the most anyone could ask for, I think. I’ve really enjoyed my first semester here at Amherst; I did my best in my classes, and it’s okay if my grades aren’t as good as what I’m used to. I grew more “into myself” and found lots of amazing acquaintances and friends and dorm-mates. I survived a whole semester without my twin, which is pretty amazing and strange at the same time. 

 

Actually, I used to be scared of becoming an adult; if I had the choice, I know that my younger self would want to stay in sophomore year of high school forever (I was weirdly specific). However, just being around so many interesting upperclassmen and professors has made me excited to be an adult. There’s so many cool things to do and experience!. I hope that my posts this semester has made you excited to consider Amherst, college in general, or leaving the nest. I will see you next semester!