Jess Li '24 – Introduction

Hello everyone! My name is Jess and I'm from San Diego, California. I'm a senior majoring in Economics and Sociology, and I'll be studying abroad during my senior fall semester at Yonsei University in Korea! I'm so excited to be starting this blog and sharing my Amherst experiences with you all.

On campus, I'm involved with...

  • DASAC (Dance and Step at Amherst College): This is where I've spent most of my free time, and I'm so grateful for the people and experiences this club has given me. I personally think our semesterly shows are a must-attend event at Amherst!
  • ASA (Asian Students Association): This affinity group offered me an amazing support system when I first came to Amherst, and I feel as if we've developed a "pay-it-forward" culture where we try to offer the same to each class of new students.

You can find me...

  • In the Greenway D studio, most weeknights and some weekends
  • Studying with friends in the Science Center (my favorite building on campus!)
  • In my room being a homebody-- I love making my dorm room comfortable and homey
  • In town eating at one of the three Chinese restaurants or at Moge Tee/Vivi's Bubble Tea

I hope my blog can give you a sense of what it's like to be a student at Amherst and the culture here! Whether you're looking for an answer to a specific question or general insight that you can't find on this blog, you're welcome to email me at

Best Places to Nap on Campus

As a night owl and a busy person, I’ve taken many daytime, afternoon, or evening naps in various places around campus. As advertised, I consider these places to be great for a nap, but they’re also beautiful places on campus that I feel are worth a visit. 

  • Science Center: The Science Center couches are just as—or more comfortable than—a dorm mattress, depending on if you have a mattress topper or not. There are also a variety of chairs, so your nap is customizable to the position you feel like sleeping in. The main room has the largest selection of chairs and couches, but if you want a more secluded area, there are lots of little nooks and crannies tucked around the Science Center for you to find. 
  • Behind Johnson Chapel: This is the perfect spot to relax on a sunny fall day. There are usually a couple Adirondack chairs stationed on top of the hill for you to sit in, but you can also spread out a blanket and sit in the grass or on the steps behind the chapel. It’s a great place to nap and warm up under the sun!
  • The Reading Room in Beneski Museum: A recommendation from a friend, the couch there is apparently “ideal.” This is optional, but you can take a look at the fossils and minerals before or after your refreshing nap. Being able to sleep in one of the biggest natural history museums in the Northeast isn’t an experience everyone can say they’ve had.
  • Next to the Moose in Frost Library: There are some very comfortable couches and upholstered seats in the moose statue’s vicinity, and you can sleep comfortably knowing the moose is watching over you, a silent protector.
  • The Common Room of Valentine: Right on the second floor of our dining hall, I had a friend that napped in there at least a couple times a week after lunch before classes. It’s not the comfiest couch, but it sure is a convenient location.

With one suggestion from a friend, here are the best places to nap on campus (in my opinion). I hope this encourages some campus exploration, and please let me know if you find any other cozy napping spots. Good night!

My Friends and I Rank the Desserts at Valentine Hall

Food at our dining hall, “Val,” is one of the most popular conversation topics between me and my friends.  I personally believe that desserts are among Val’s best menu items.  When I asked my friends to name their three favorite Val desserts, here were their responses:  


  1. Tiramisu — “Ranked first for its slight bitterness, adding to its complex flavor, and extremely moist texture. Bellissimo!”
  2. Non-vegan berry bread pudding — “It tastes really good and it’s nostalgic for me because we used to serve bread pudding at my family’s restaurant. Back when we had the restaurant, I would eat about four pieces; now I hold myself to one.”
  3. Apple squares — “I never had one until I got to Amherst, and now I look forward to it every time and it makes me feel a little less guilty because it has a fruit. I prefer it over the apple crisp because I can take it to go and drink my coffee while I eat it. My favorite apple square memory is, a day during my sophomore fall when they were serving apple squares and hot cider outside of Val, and I was the first person in line. By the time I finished chatting to my favorite Val employees, I looked back and couldn’t help but smile as I saw how long the line had gotten. I had my dessert secured. Go Mammoths!”


  1. Applesauce — “Not an actual dessert but a consistent side offering, I like because it’s easy to eat. Sometimes I'm too lazy to pick up an apple and chew it. I just like applesauce.”
  2. Non-vegan berry bread pudding — “The bread part of the pudding is really soft, so you don’t really have to chew it that much. I like that it’s warm, and that you can put it in a cup.”
  3. Sugar cookie — “It’s simple. I like cookies that are soft on the inside but are crunchy on the outside, but it’s all crunchy, but I'm still getting 50% of what I like, and 50% is better than 0%.”


  1. Val soft serve with Cinnamon Toast Crunch — (After providing his ranking, Parssa was furious to discover that ice cream could be included, so while he feels really bad to get rid of his third choice, at the end of the day he would still 100% do it because he’d choose ice cream over any of his top three, hands down.) I like to smash the cereal into the ice cream and mix it. It’s like a McFlurry, but cinnamon-y.
  2. Zucchini cake — “It reminds me of the fall, and I like cream cheese frosting. I don't know. It's just sugar, spice, and everything nice.”
  3. Blueberry cobbler with Val’s vanilla soft serve — “It tastes like a Michael Elliot shake (a berry milkshake at our late night cafe, Schwemm’s) when you mix it. It makes the ice cream purple. Go Mammoths!”

Jess (Me)!

(Unlike my friends, I gave myself the allowance to list five dessets instead of three. Blog author rights.)

  1. Vegan chocolate-coconut bread pudding – I also like that you can put it in a cup. This is usually served on Wednesdays when I only have half an hour to eat dinner before my dance rehearsals, so my friends and I would always take a coffee cup-full (or two) to eat during breaks. I like that you can have both crispy and soft bread pieces, and the chocolate is so nice and melty… simply the best.
  2. Vegan ranger cookies – Coconutty with the edges crunch and the middle chewy, I always grab one to eat with my lunch, and sometimes a second to munch on while I get to class. (Personally, this is the only cookie I like from Val. Sorry Emily.)
  3. Zucchini cake – I LOVE cream cheese frosting. It tastes like a milder spice cake, and it’s always dense and moist. The vegetables are a nice touch, so I feel somewhat healthy eating it. So yummy.
  4. Tres leches cake – Moist and sweet, but not too sweet… delicious. If you’re brave (I’m lactose intolerant), scoop some of that extra condensed milk from the bottom of the tray onto your slice. Trust.
  5. Apple crisp – Perfect for a cool fall day, it’s even better combined with the vanilla soft serve. 

Whether you think dessert is the most important part of a meal or just an afterthought, I hope that these recommendations can help you figure out what's important to try at our dining hall or convince you to try these. We've all eaten through three full years of Val at this point (and we all have sweet tooths), so take us as trustworthy sources. Bon appetit, and of course, "Go Mammoths!"

Reflections from a To-Be Senior

Over the past month, I’ve sort of been in denial of the fact that I’m about to be a senior. My time at Amherst has flown by so quickly, and thinking about how it’s almost over is bittersweet. I wanted to spend my first blog post reflecting on some of my favorite memories at Amherst and hoping it’ll give you some insight into what Amherst life is like. 

Freshman Year

My freshman year started out rough– I matriculated into Amherst in 2020 during the height of coronavirus, and I was afraid that campus restrictions would restrict me from making friends and connecting with professors, but that wasn’t true at all. My first favorite memory is meeting people who I still consider my best friends today. My dorm-mate and I ventured out into the First Year Quad, saw a group of people sitting outside under a tent, and decided to take a leap of faith and bring out our more outgoing sides. We ended up talking for hours, about home, about our first impressions of Amherst, about our aspirations and fears for our freshman year. The next evening, we all had dinner together (outside, of course) and later in the night, we brought a speaker out to the very same tent and played Paranoia. Paranoia has now become a favorite party game for us, and these people have become friends for life. 

I will never forget my first in-person DASAC show during my freshman spring. It was outside, and the feeling of the audience’s energy and seeing the glowsticks we passed out remains unmatched. Amherst students love coming out and supporting one another. Not only did my friends come and make posters, people I’ve rarely or never spoken to had also congratulated me. 

At Amherst, people have a way of finding each other, and the small size gives you many opportunities to meet more people you might connect with, sometimes in the most unexpected situations. I’ve met many people in my classes and clubs that I might not have been friends with otherwise, and I’m thankful to Amherst’s community environment for facilitating that. This summer, the Admissions Interns and I have become quite unexpectedly close, and it’s been so rewarding to work with all of them!

Sophomore Year

To avoid the infamous “sophomore slump,” I decided to overwork myself (ironic, I know). Looking back, I have to admit that I remember a lot of stress. Sometimes, I forget about that there were some amazing moments sophomore year. During the first half of Thanksgiving Break, I had one of the best dim sum meals of my life with friends in New York City (Ping’s in Chinatown). There are bus companies that serve Amherst, and all you need to do is walk down the Amherst Common to catch one to the city! 

Amherst Student Activities hosted a prom in and outside the Science Center during the spring semester. Those in the class of 2024 never got a senior prom because of the coronavirus, so we were all really excited to finally dress up and have our “redemption prom.” Laundry Day was performing live, those over 21 were lining up for drinks, and people were posing in the photo booths inside. It’s one of my most memorable nights at Amherst, and it goes to show that with all of Amherst’s rigor and work, there’s a lot of (administration-mandated) fun, too. 

There’s always other small moments that shape years at Amherst: rolling down Memorial Hill and drawing pictures in the snow, dog-sitting for a CDC, going down the big slide at Fall Fest, ice skating at UMass, late nights with friends in the Science Center, and picknicking at the river down the Rail Trail. There are a lot of beautiful memories to be made at Amherst, and I’m grateful to have the chance to reflect on them now!

Junior Year

Amherst’s Asian Student’s Association and Asian and Pacific American Action Committee was able to collaborate with other Five College API affinity groups to bring Niki’s “Nicole” world tour to UMass, with hundreds of free tickets reserved for students. My friends and I got seats at the front and spent an amazing two hours singing and dancing along to one of our favorite artists. 

I went back to November during Thanksgiving break and stayed at my friend’s place, six of us crammed in her living room and frantically cooking on Thanksgiving Day for our potluck. 

That winter, we didn’t have to roll down the hill anymore, dragging a mattress out in the dead of night and taking many a precarious ride down both Memorial Hill and the grass “bleachers” at the side of the baseball diamond. 

Many of my friends studied abroad or away during the spring. It was disheartening at first, but as I mentioned before, at Amherst it’s never hard to find your people. I had the chance to branch out and grow closer to those I previously considered casual friends and acquaintances, and I am so glad I did. I spent most of the semester in the dance studio, whether it was for rehearsals or for fun, and in my room waiting for my friend to barge in and interrupt my nap, and booking the AAS car to make trips to Northampton or the various shopping plazas around Amherst. 

Now that I’m going into senior year, I’m looking forward to making more memories to reflect on. Next semester I’ll be studying abroad in Korea at Yonsei University, returning to Amherst in the spring for the final chapter. For now, I’m enjoying my summer on campus. Some of my amazing fellow interns already have, or will give a rundown of our summers and fun things to do in the area, and I’m excited to do the same and to tell you guys more about Amherst!