Jackeline Fernandes '24 - Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Jackeline and I’m a rising sophomore here at Amherst College. I’m from Port Washington, New York—a vibrant waterfront town out in the Long Island suburbs. As someone who grew up listening to nightly family stories at the dinner table, I’ve developed an appreciation for the power of the narrative that has led me to pursue a major in English. I’m also interested in psychology as a potential double major.

Jackie Smiling for her Blog Photo

To satisfy my constant itch to write, I’m a staff writer and editor for The Indicator, one of the student-run literary magazines on campus. I’ve also written for the opinion section of The Amherst Student newspaper in the past. On a sunny afternoon, you’ll often spot me curled up in an Adirondack chair on the First Year Quad, either reading a book for class or typing away on my laptop. You might also catch me sprinting across the Val Quad on weekday mornings throughout the semester, always in a rush to make it in time for breakfast before my first class of the day.

This summer, I’m working as a Visitor Relations intern for the Amherst Admissions Office—if you sign up for a virtual or in-person tour, I might be your tour guide! I can’t wait to share glimpses into my life at Amherst over the summer with you through these blogs. Should you ever have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime at jfernandes24@amherst.edu. In an inbox brimming with work-related emails, it will be a welcome surprise to hear from any of you! 

Small Town Wonders

As someone from the bustling Long Island suburbs, I will make the following controversial statement: Amherst is a small college town. Yet, I’m still a bit hesitant about this limiting classification. To break the COVID-19 campus bubble we had Open Fields at Flayvor's throughout the past academic year, I traveled all the way to the outskirts of town this summer to explore the ins and outs of rural Amherst. One of our fellow interns took on the role of chauffeur and drove us in her Jeep Liberty (affectionately nicknamed Libby) to Flayvors of Cook Farm, a family-owned ice cream place on the periphery of town. While my cookies n’ cream scoops of ice cream were the best I’ve ever had, I was much more amazed by the expansive open fields stretched out in front of me. We don’t get much of these open fields where I’m from, and the fact that it seemed like it stretched out for miles and miles on end made me feel like I was a part of a rather large rural town—which, I suppose, amplifies the small town charm of central Amherst.

Small Ones Farm The grand acres of rural Amherst make for great farms in the surrounding area. When I visited in the fall of 2019 as a prospective student, my family and I visited Small Ones Farm to buy some delicious apples for making applesauce. Though I will admit that the apples did look a bit strange, the label on the side was correct—it really did make for the best batch of applesauce I’ve ever made!

Puffer’s Pond—a quiet, serene area where college students will often take a swim—is another great area in town to Dad at Puffer's spend a slow Sunday. Townspeople will often fish at designated points around the pond or go for a stroll with their dogs along the various trails encircling the water. Whenever my dad and I head down to the pond when he comes to visit, he likes to peer into the water in hopes of seeing some fish, as seen in the photo to the right. There are also great hiking trails branching out from the area as well—as seen in my previous blog posts, Robert Frost has left a large legacy here in the town of Amherst, so there’s even a trail named after him! 

Robert Frost Trailhead.jpeg

...There’s really no escaping him anywhere in town.

Robert Frost in Town  

LimeRed After a nice excursion in the great outdoors, it’s simply a must to grab some refreshing bubble tea from one of our three bubble tea shops in town. LimeRed Teahouse is the most popular among our summer tour guide team, but there’s still a debate surrounding which shop is the best. LimeRed was actually the first bubble tea shop to spring up in the town of Amherst, so it doesn’t surprise me that it’s (objectively) the best and that they always have customers as soon as I enter their doors. They also prepare their milk tea with fresh local farm milk! I’ll usually opt for a classic Assam or coconut milk tea whenever I go on a boba run, and I never leave disappointed.

Mikayah and her Bagel Transitioning on to one of my favorite food places here at Amherst: The Works! When the summer first kicked off, I heard the name being tossed around with raving reviews from the other tour guides, but I had never tried it out until I voluntarily gave some extra tours to the new Summer Bridge kids outside of work hours—I got paid back with a delicious Dagwood Sandwich! Ever since then, I’ve always loved The Works and I always recommend it to the visitors on my tours in case they’re looking for a quick sandwich before hitting the road. I recently went back with a friend of mine and we each got spinach and egg bagels! It’s been a while since I’ve had a good bagel (I’m from New York, so my standards are quite high), but I’ll say that my bagel was almost as good as one from New York. Above is a picture of my friend Mikayah smiling with her bagel.

Right across the street from this little sandwich shop is a tiny store that I think perfectly captures the small town feel of literary Amherst. My friend Mikayah and I often joke that the name of this shop is an immediate indication to any passerby that Amherst is, indeed, a small town. Proudly labeled with a banner, Amherst Typewriter & Computer sells and restores just that: typewriters and computers. Whenever I pass by the shop, I always take a peek through the store window—it looks very cluttered with typewriters and old gadgets piled on top of each other, but it’s a haven for someone as messy as me, who would love to just press the battered keys of a timeworn typewriter and feel the literary legacies of all the Amherst poets enter my fingertips. I hope to actually buy a typewriter from this store someday!

Typewriters

August 6, 2021

All Things English

Jackie and her Writing Now that August is right around the corner, the daunting image of a massive stack of books has wormed its way into my brain in anticipation of the upcoming semester. Taking two English classes in the fall means that I’ll be doing plenty of reading and writing, but even though this thought is overwhelming at first, I also can’t help but feel jittery with glee to delve into two very different English classes simultaneously. The three English classes I’ve taken during my first year were by far my favorite classes so far here at Amherst, and I’m excited to explore more of what the English department has to offer.

With a variety of courses focusing on novels, poetry, film, television shows, playwriting, and memoirs, no two English classes here at Amherst are the same. Writing and reading closely are definitely fundamental pillars of any Amherst English class, but English classes here will often revolve around enhancing one (or a combination) of the following skills: analyzing, critiquing, and creating works of our own. To present a taste of what Amherst English classes are like, I’ll be raving about the three that I’ve taken so far below:

ENGL-253 Modernists: In their Words and in their Worlds

There are two parts of this course title to unpack with respect to literary modernism. The first is the phrase “in their words”: careful analysis of early twentieth-century works—done by examining experiments in literary form as well as by close reading—was a key driver of the class. The second part is “in their worlds”: by deep-diving into the historical changes going on in the worlds of the modernist writers—such as war, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology—we came to better understanding the relationship between these unconventional literary experiments and historical change.

My classmates and I expressed a common sentiment throughout the entirety of the class: the modernists were extremely confusing! Their winding, spiraling thoughts were often delivered in nonlinear streams of consciousness by unreliable narrators. Yet, this distinct indirectness and unconventionality of the modernists caused me to bury my nose in their books even more, as I became fascinated with both their words and their worlds and the interconnectedness between the two. I remember writing my first-ever college essay for this class and digging through James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to find water-related passages that would add nuance to my main argument. Looking back, I realize that it may be a bit absurd to feel so energized when writing a paper about the motif of water and its ability to serve as an indicator of progressive character development, but I do think my excitement was reflective of my burgeoning love of the English department here at Amherst. 

ENGL-270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

Taught entirely on Zoom throughout the three weeks and a half of interterm, this course explored the nature of letters as literary forms but also as complex forms of communication. On the first day of class, my professor proudly declared that he had recently changed the name of the course to read “Letter Writers” instead of the original “Letter Writing”—it was then that I realized there would be a creative writing component embedded in the class. While we had to read letters along with epistolary novels, we also had to grab the pens ourselves and write letters of our own to form small circles of correspondence with our peers. 

My favorite epistolary novel we read in class was definitely The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. As a masterpiece of satire consisting entirely of letters written from one devil to his nephew, The Screwtape Letters allowed us to explore how letters have the potential to be manipulative in their (sometimes) persuasive nature. At the end of the course, we were required to complete a 25-page capstone project; we could opt to pursue a research-oriented project that would involve archiving and analyzing a collection of letters, or we could write an epistolary novella of our own. To try my hand at creative writing, I chose the latter option and my novella actually ended up being 28 pages long! It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing for a class here at Amherst, especially because my novella was mainly autobiographical—the letters I wrote conveyed how I grappled with the notion of becoming a writer in a rather dry yet humorous manner.

ENGL-111 Having Arguments

“Good evening Professor,” I had typed in an email to my ENGL-111 professor. “Attached below is my essay on zoos.” 

When I accepted my admission here at Amherst, I knew I was going to be doing a lot of writing, but it never crossed my mind that I would be writing an essay on zoos. More specifically, I never thought I’d ever have to argue whether zoos are equivalent to “prisons, madhouses, and concentration camps” or if they’re fundamentally different from those institutions. To make matters more bizarre, I really never thought that this would be the hardest paper I’ve ever had to write throughout my Amherst career so far. The ethics of zoos can be quite hard to navigate, in my opinion.

As argumentative writing isn’t something I’d consider my strong suit, I decided to register for this class in order to improve my argumentative writing skills. While I did struggle a bit at first, I’m glad I took the class because it was so writing intensive—we had to write a paper every weekend! The constant practice definitely played a fundamental role in helping me grow as a much stronger and more concise writer. My professor was more than willing to meet with me outside of class and walk me through the strengths and weaknesses of the zoo essay, and his feedback helped me in doing well on my final paper for the class.

Having Arguments was actually my first class fully in-person, and in a real Amherst classroom down at Chapin Hall! (My Literary Modernism class was conducted outdoors in a tent on the First Year Quad due to COVID-19 guidelines, and the Letter Writers class was on Zoom). As this was an entirely academic post, enjoy the fun picture below of my two friends and me on the steps of Chapin before class—my wet hair froze over due to the frigid, snowy weather!

Snow at Chapin!

July 30, 2021

Running Routes in Rustic Amherst

Coming from the Long Island suburbs, I was a bit apprehensive about holing up in a small, rural Massachusetts town like Amherst for four years of college. Looking back, I’m glad I chose to study in such a serene area with the great outdoors just at my fingertips, as it’s nice to undergo a change of scenery at such a tight-knit college campus. With just 1,800 undergraduates, I’ve found it so easy to foster close friendships on campus while also having access to an expansive network of college students and resources through our Five College Consortium, which helps to alleviate the small-town feel. But as I’ve spent more and more time here at Amherst, I’ve found numerous ways to appreciate the small-town feel, whether it be in the countless waves of hellos I receive just walking across campus or in appreciating the surrounding natural landscapes on my many runs. Bike Trail in the Snow

As an outdoorsy person who likes to explore the rural New England landscape all seasons of the year, the 11-mile paved bike trail is one of my favorite running paths. Named the Norwottuck Rail Trail, it spans across three towns—including Amherst—and presents great views all year round, whether it's the colorful leaves scattered on the trails in autumn, the snow-coated branches in the winter, the return of green foliage in the spring, or the branches heavy with sun-kissed leaves in the summer. The small-town feel is definitely embodied in the bike trail’s passersby: dog walkers always let their furry friends bid me hello, and the bikers whizzing past always give a quick nod of acknowledgment, including an elderly man who once raised his tophat to me in a friendly salutation. Upon entering the bike trail, I’m always faced with the following Fort River question: should I turn left, or right? Turning right would mean covering a longer distance while also running past the Rangeview, an observation area meant for taking in the distant mountain ranges. At the very end of the trail rightward is the Connecticut River, which is where the Amherst crew team rows during practice and competitions. While I do enjoy the rightward end of the trail, I prefer turning leftward instead so that I can run across the bridge that passes above the frothing waters of the Fort River. Poetry Mailbox Farther to the left are various bogs dotted with lily pads, where the booming calls of male bullfrogs resound throughout the day and night in the late spring and early summer. I’ve also seen a turtle around here! Whenever I’m feeling particularly adventurous (or when I’m tired of running), I like to wander through the many side trails off the main path—one of the side trails closest to campus even has a poetry mailbox where you can leave a poem and take one that someone else has written. As an English major, this always brings me much joy.

Book and Plow Farm Near the entrance to the bike trail is Book and Plow Farm, another great running spot for a shorter run. With spacious dirt roads leading up to Tuttle Hill, the run to Book and Plow can be a tiring one, but the
vistas from the top of the hill are worth the effort. The farm is where fun pumpkin carving events occur during Fall Fest, and haystacks are often scattered all over the fields where you can sit with friends and munch on delicious apple cider treats from town. Tuttle Hill at the farm is especially scenic in the morning, as I often see the haze rising with the backdrop of the rising sun above the hills.

Bordering the Pratt Football Field is our outdoor track. About a ten-minute walk from the center of campus, the track is extremely accessible to Amherst students. This summer, I’ve had a great time running laps around Pratt Field during sunset, especially to let off some steam amidst a darkening sky after a long (but fun!) day of giving tours. It’s always very satisfying to soak in the fleeting rays of sunshine as I’m running countless laps around the track at sundown.

To make late night studying a bit more bearable throughout the semester, I always like to run a lap or two around the First Year Quad to re-energize myself for the long night ahead of me. While sprinting up the hill by Johnson Chapel can Jackie Jumping in front of Robby Frost be a bit exhausting, it's worth the satisfying downhill run awaiting me once I pass by Appleton Hall. My favorite part of these late night runs is being greeted by the Robert Frost statue as I make my way around to the East side of the quad. In my opinion, he looks a tad drained, sitting atop those sculpted black granite rocks with furrowed brows, but I always make sure to do a star jump in front of him just to remind the both of us of how exciting it is to be learning here at verdant Amherst, with the dark silhouette of the Holyoke Range behind us.

I'm all smiles this weekend because I was able to coax some of my friends to run with me on the bike trail! While running alone can be fun, it's always nice to know that there's someone by your side who is also sweating profusely in the Amherst summer heat.

Buddies on the Bike Trail

July 23, 2021

A Spotlight into Literary Amherst

I always start off my tours with a brief introduction of myself and what I’m involved with on campus. “I write for The Amherst Student newspaper, which is actually the oldest weekly college publication in the country,” I say, “and I’m also a writer and editor for The Indicator magazine.” Unfortunately, that’s about all I can fit on the topic of literary publications before we have to cross the street, but I think it deserves more of a spotlight. After all, Amherst is often referred to as “The Writing College” and for good reason: the literary influences of poets like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson are still felt in both the town and the college community. I frequently refer to them as “poets of the neighborhood” on my tours. 

The Indicator Cover May 2021 There are numerous literary publications based here at Amherst, ranging from the student newspaper, literary magazines, and academic journals such as The Amherst Dialectic. One that I’d like to highlight is The Indicator—which, objectively, is Amherst’s best literary magazine. Emily Dickinson’s first appearance in print was actually in the form of a valentine in a 1850 issue of The Indicator! The magazine is a space for our writers, editors, artists, and photographers to reflect on their varied experiences through many different forms, ranging from short stories, academic papers, personal essays, poetry, artwork, and photographs. At the beginning of each semester, we all vote on a theme for the upcoming issue from a selection presented by the Editor in Chief. While writers aren’t required to adhere to the theme, it can be fun to craft some sort of narrative around the overarching theme, especially because the topic is often relevant to the current happenings of the world. As a staff writer, I’m responsible for writing one piece, while my position as an editor also means that I have to edit another staff writer’s piece for the issue. Complemented by both artistic and photographed visuals, the written works of our spectacular staff writers are splayed out on the published pages in a rich display of color once each issue is released at the end of every semester. 

The theme for this past semester’s spring issue (May 2021) was “Ecologies of Care.” The aim was to explore the nature of self-care as well as the interconnected webs of care we weave around ourselves and each other. Given all of the hardship we’ve been through in the past year and a half due to the pandemic, I wrote a piece of prose—inspired by the theme—that demonstrated how email correspondences in a time of need create interconnected lifelines vital to balancing the frightful cacophony of the outside world with a digital sense of intimacy (you can check out the online version of our latest issue here). We celebrated the release of our spring semester issue with an open mic night out on the Valentine Quad so that our writers could read their works aloud for a live audience underneath one of the tents. It was a great night that really conveyed the mission of The Indicator: it’s a club meant for anyone who isn’t afraid to showcase their creative talents in front of an audience, whether it be live or on the published page! Indicator Launch Party

July 16, 2021

Tea Time: A Not-so-British Tradition

Sipping on bubble tea from town has become a new pastime of mine this summer (we have three bubble tea shops in total) which has caused me to reflect on the ungodly number of times my floormates and I would scramble to sign up for any on-campus events where there would be boba last semester. As we weren’t permitted off-campus in order to preserve our COVID-19 bubble, there would often be numerous social events run by clubs or student organizations where they’d order snacks from town, especially bubble tea. However, one of my favorite events where we’d all happily get our dose of boba would be organized by our residential counselor in an event called “tea times.”

As a popular tradition here at Amherst, tea times are meant to foster community on one’s residential floor with delicious food shared in good company. Entering Amherst with the gnawing thought that I wouldn’t have a roommate due to COVID-19 restrictions caused me to worry that I was missing out on the formative first-year dorm life experience, and while that does hold true to an extent, tea times were really the experiences that I needed to find community on my floor during a time when isolation was a prevalent issue. The connections that I have formed with my floormates on our all-women’s floor are ones that now seem unbreakable, and I am so glad to have met all of them through our first tea time together. 

Intern Paint & Sip My residential counselor took “tea times” quite literally, as she’d often order bubble tea from town for us (and this is completely funded by the college—neither of us had to pay a dime!) because it was the most highly requested beverage on my floor. We’d gather around in our common room or lay out a picnic blanket outdoors and slurp up chewy tapioca balls through gigantic straws while talking about anything that humored us at the moment. Our residential counselor would sometimes complement the bubble tea she ordered with pizza from Antonio’s (famous for its crazy toppings) or fried rice from Miss Saigon (a restaurant that serves Vietnamese cuisine). My favorite tea time event that she organized last semester was paint and sip night: the “paint” was a paint-by-numbers kit and the “sip” was bubble tea (not wine this time, folks)! As of late, I’ve been missing our paint and sip events, so I decided to organize my own event just the other night with two fellow interns working with me at Admissions this summer (pictured above).

My floormates and I all got so close to our residential counselor this spring that we actually decided to organize our own surprise tea time for her! We did, however, need to pay out of pocket for the expenses as it wasn’t considered an official tea time under the College. Shipped all the way from New York City’s Milk Bar, the cake that we bought for her bore an outlined chocolate heart in the middle, a token of appreciation on our behalf for all that our residential counselor had done for us this past semester. Although the cake was a bit pricey, it was definitely worth the price for how delicious it was—an accurate taste of just how delicious college friendships can be.

TeaTime

July 9, 2021

Going Green at Valentine Dining Hall

As we’ve slowly been transitioning back to in-person dining here at Amherst, I was swiping into Valentine Dining Hall (Val) to settle down for lunch with a fellow intern the other day when I was suddenly inspired to write this blog post. Chris, who is responsible for checking us into the dining hall, was wearing a black baseball cap with the words BOXED WATER Chris&BoxedWater.jpeg printed on its front, and he seemed incredibly overjoyed to be sporting such a wonderful hat. Intrigued by his hat but also partially driven by my desire to get one myself, I asked him where he got his hat. “We order so much Boxed Water that they sometimes send us free merch,” he replied. 

It’s true. Upon arriving at Amherst at the beginning of my fall semester, I remember being shocked every time I’d walk into Val to pick up a meal (only to-go meals were permitted due to COVID-19 guidelines) because of the seemingly infinite Boxed Water cartons that would line the dining hall entrance on the tables. In my mind, the visual of sipping water from one of those peculiar yet eco-friendly paper-based cartons quickly became associated with one’s Amherst experience, so much so that my friend group and I decided to dress up as Boxed Water for Halloween that fall, with the signature line Boxed Water is Better written on the front of our shirts and the cursive Hello etched onto our backs in black sharpie. (This turned out to be a very unoriginal idea. Boxed Water was so popular on campus that many other friend groups went for the same costume!)

This past spring, Amherst College Dining Services decided to buy bottled water from Open Water, another water company with sustainability at the forefront of its corporate philosophy. Bottles of canned water with BPA-free aluminum packaging lined the tables at Val, side by side with Boxed Water cartons. Once Open Water began to gain publicity here at Amherst, Amherst College Dining Services held a raffle to win a shirt from Open Water—and I won! Printed in large blue letters are the words “Bye, bye plastic,” a representation of the eco-friendly Open Water initiative. Val’s implementation of these waste reduction efforts by investing in these water companies has resulted in the elimination of the use of approximately 20,000 plastic bottles per year.

As grab-and-go was the only meal option throughout the 2020-2021 academic year due to COVID-19 protocols, Val used reusable take-out containers that were returned for proper washing and sanitizing after each use. With the return of dine-in this summer, Val has fully transitioned from green box culture to the implementation of silverware and dishes once more. If there are any scraps of food leftover after eating our meals, we scrape them off into the compost bins at the exits in compliance with Amherst’s compost initiatives. Additionally, the majority of Val’s disposable ware—such as hot cups—is biodegradable and compostable.

Thinking back to Chris’s Boxed Water cap, it seems that his hat is truly a testament to Val’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Of course, there are many more strides to be taken in the direction of sustainability here at Amherst, but I’m thankful for the ways in which Val has become more eco-friendly over the years and that I can be a part of it. Although I don’t have my own Boxed Water cap, I’ll be sporting my “Bye, bye plastic” shirt in both the literal and metaphoric sense as I work to reduce my own carbon footprint alongside the rest of the student population here at Amherst.

July 2, 2021

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Ruminations on Memorial Hill

“What’s your favorite spot on campus?”

I always grin whenever I get asked this question on my tours. As Amherst just opened up for in-person tours this week, this is by far one of the most frequently asked questions I get asked by visitors. At the end of my tours, I’m often met with subtle eye rolls when visitors realize that my favorite spot on campus requires trudging up three flights of stairs in the summer heat while I try my best to turn away from my microphone to conceal my heavy breathing, but once we reach the top and I ask if them if the view is worth it, I’m always met with a resounding yes. 

Jackie Typing on Memorial Hill Up on the hilltop of Memorial Hill lies the War Memorial, bearing the names of the Amherst alumni who have fought in both World Wars, with the scenic backdrop of the Holyoke Mountain Range. Many Amherst students will hike up the Notch, a trail within the Holyoke Range, to cross it off their Amherst bucket list before they graduate. As Memorial Hill is a regular stop on my tours, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation over the past couple of days for the view of the rolling green mountains in the distance, accompanied by the grandeur of the vagrant white clouds against clear blue skies. I was having a conversation with a close Amherst friend of mine the other day on how our notions of beauty arise in regards to natural wonders, which, strangely enough, caused my thoughts to drift to Memorial Hill. While there must be something about natural landscapes that innately draw us in, it’s up to us as mere mortals to assign meaning to these landscapes with our ruminations and personal/cultural experiences in relation to natural phenomena.

In my eyes, the view from Memorial Hill is a testament to the ways in which the natural landscape of rural Massachusetts complements our campus and gives greater meaning to what it means to be an Amherst student. The small, yet beautiful hilltop among the green expanse of the Pioneer Valley mirrors our small campus and tight-knit community in a very big world with infinite possibilities. An oasis of serenity amidst our small but bubbly campus community, Memorial Hill is the ideal scenic study spot. I’ll often spend hours on an Adirondack chair, overlooking the mountain range while typing away  important emails or working on some side writing as my ideas bounce around my skull, just as bird songs echo across Sledding down Memorial Hill the valley at sundown.

The steep hill at the War Memorial is also home to one of my favorite Amherst traditions: sledding! Often coated in thick layers of New England snow during the winter months, Memorial Hill becomes the ultimate sledding spot. However, no one really remembers to bring a sled to college (in my case, it just didn’t fit in the car), so most of us make do with flattened out cardboard boxes—and they work surprisingly well!

Shadow and the Sunset

Su, assistant coach for Amherst Women's Soccer, takes a photo of Shadow, her husky, on Memorial Hill.

June 25, 2021

"So... what's your major?"

The summer before my senior year of high school, I remember touring colleges and universities in a frenzy, constantly overwhelmed as I grappled with the growing conviction that I’d never confidently settle on a major. Other students on the tours had already determined their academic fates, inquiring about the theater department or pre-med programs, while I’d scan through the list of majors offered in the college-provided pamphlets, questioning how I could be expected to decide on something so important at such a young age. Even though there were specialized programs for undecided students, it seemed to me that I’d be disadvantaged somehow, falling behind my peers who would already be ahead in fulfilling their major requirements.

If you’re anything like I was in high school—a somewhat discombobulated mess with too many academic passions to narrow down—Amherst’s open curriculum may be for you. With no core requirements, the open curriculum presents the opportunity to explore various subject areas that you usually wouldn’t get to explore otherwise, had you been required to declare a major upon entering college. In fact, Amherst students aren’t required to declare their major(s) until the end of their second year, and most students tend to wait until then so that they can dabble in different disciplines. Even students who enter with a major in mind are often encouraged by their advisors to keep their options open—someone interested in STEM is often advised to take a humanities course, and vice versa. The flexibility of the open curriculum also makes it easy for someone with differing interests to double major, even in disciplines that don’t overlap. Reading on the Quad

As someone who was extremely undecided upon entering college, Amherst was a great place for me to test out the waters in different subject areas. Initially planning to try out economics, I registered for Intro to Economics—a popular course here at Amherst—but I soon realized that I wasn’t as enthralled by supply and demand curves as I thought I would be. Needless to say, the course taught me an abundance of valuable financial skills, and I’m happy I realized that economics was not for me early on without needing to undergo the stress of officially changing majors. In place of economics, I became enamored with my Literary Modernism class. In analyzing the seemingly never-ending ropes of sentences from stream of consciousness narratives, I felt a sort of identification with these modernist writers, as my brain also operates in winding spirals of thoughts. Over the January term—the first time that Amherst offered classes for credit over winter break—I decided to take another English course, Letter Writers and Epistolarity, which explored letters as complex mediums of communication. In completing my 28-page creative writing capstone project for that class, all in a matter of three weeks and a half, it was then I realized I should major in English. The thrill I got from typing away at 2 a.m. was a good sign that English is for me.

Prior to accepting my admission offer at Amherst, I was a bit apprehensive about the open curriculum despite its many benefits for undecided souls like myself. Having the freedom to choose just four classes out of the 850+ courses offered each semester seemed rather daunting: what if I unknowingly chose the wrong classes that fail to complement my future career path? Though, looking back, I’m glad I decided to trust the open curriculum and come to Amherst. My advisor helped me shape my desired schedule so that I didn’t have to go through the process completely on my own. But the open curriculum also taught me to take charge of my education, which requires a certain amount of independence and self-confidence. In forcing me to tackle my indecisive qualities while taking advantage of the breadth of Amherst offerings, the open curriculum inadvertently prepares me for adulting overall. So, if you’re undecided, fear not! You’ll definitely find a place at Amherst and reap many unexpected benefits along the way.

June 18, 2021