Kate Redmond '23 - Introduction

Hi folks! My name is Kate and I'm from Cape Cod, MA. Coming from the Cape, I practically grew up in the water. I learned how to steer a boat about a decade before I could drive a car. Luckily, I have been able to find a bit of home on Lake Arcadia with the sailing team. In additon to sailing, I'm on the ultimate frisbee team, I'm an advocate and activist for public health in the Public Health Collaborative and GlobeMed, and I try to stay politically active as a member of Amherst College Democrats. As a first-year, I am undeclared. However, I am thinking maybe psychology or English. Me and an iced coffee on the Cape I will let you know in a year! On weekends, I like to hang out with friends or walk into town and get an iced mocha at one of the myriad of coffee shops.

If you have any questions about life at Amherst, feel free to reach out to me at kredmond23@amherst.edu.

Galentine's Day!

It’s like Valentine’s Day … but for friends! February 13th has been dubbed “Galentine’s Day” (I think after a Parks and Rec episode). The school has taken advantage of that in the MEAD art museum. The morning of February 13th, my roommate and I went over to the MEAD for a waffle breakfast and crafts put on in collaboration with the Arts at Amherst Initiative, The Common, Amherst College’s Human Resources Activities Committee, and the Women’s and Gender Center. We were able to write thank you notes and little cards to our friends to show our appreciation for them as well as just hang out and look at the art. I wrote three cards to send to family and friends. Additionally, you could write cards for Amherst students/faculty that they would put into AC mailboxes. Amherst always has little events like this going on, so it is very important to check out the Daily Mammoth (an email sent at 8am every weekday that lists upcoming events) to find out which are happening on campus. Galentine's Day

Later that night, my friends and I went into town to celebrate Galentine’s Day with dinner. We dressed up, put a little bit of makeup on together, then walked into town. We had so many options for dinner, but ultimately chose Oriental Flavor. With so many people, we had to call ahead and make a reservation. We were able to order a bunch of dishes and share amongst ourselves. It was a Thursday night, but we were able to manage our time earlier in the week so we would be able to go out to dinner that night. The nice thing about Amherst and I think college in general is that we students are not in classes all the time like in high school. You can choose when you do work and when you hang out with friends. And since classes do not meet every single day, people often have few classes on Fridays so you can either get ahead on work or take the day to relax a little bit more. Taking two lab classes, I do not have Fridays off and have lots of classes. But luckily town is close by (just a ten minute walk), so I can take an hour or two out of my Thursday to go celebrate my friendships (and get really good food!). Galentine's Day

Networking and Summer Plans

The Alumni Directory is an amazing source of information for finding alumni who work in your area. I looked up alumni in Woods Hole and came across Stephanie Madsen ‘90, the sustainability coordinator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I reached out to her via email using a format that pre-health advisor Dean Aronson sent to me. Luckily, she was willing to meet with me over Thanksgiving break. She gave me advice about her career, but also helped suggest areas of research I should look into for this summer. She suggested the Twilight Zone Project, a new project at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that is looking at the largest migration of any species in the world. These fish and phytoplankton hide in the depths of the ocean during the day, but come up to feed at night. When they go back down in the morning, they bring a lot of carbon dioxide from the air down into the deep ocean where it is stored. This can seriously help keep carbon out of the air and help with climate change. I found this fascinating and Stephanie was actually able to give me the emails of two senior scientists working on the project.

I was able to meet with these two scientists, Joel Llopiz and Ken Buesseler, to discuss their research. Joel works in biology specifically focusing on the fish and phytoplankton to try to figure out how often they reproduce and whether they are safe to fish. Ken works in chemistry focusing specifically on the carbon cycle and the role of the migration in global carbon storage. Both scientists ultimately offered me spots in their lab since I would not need housing and have funding from Amherst thanks to the Meiklejohn Fellowship.

LOEB Center

The LOEB Center for Career Exploration has been so useful over the past semester in a range of ways. There are so many different people ready to help you with whatever you need.

The first person I met with in the LOEB Center was Dean Aronson, the pre-heath advisor. He helps anyone who is planning on going to medical, nursing, dental, or veterinary school. He taught me how to use the alumni directory in order to reach out to alums for a range of things. I have called alumni to get advice and hear about their careers. I have been able to shadow a few of them and see what their job is like. I sat down with them and talked over coffee. One even helped me get a summer internship in biology at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for this summer. It is pretty incredible that so many alums are willing to help you out and that searching for them is so easy with the directory. Dean Aronson helped me figure out what to say to alumni in the emails I sent as well as plan my schedule as a pre-med student. Dean Aronson will be especially useful when the time for applying to medical school comes my senior year.

Another very useful employee in the LOEB Center is Casey Jo Dufresne who runs the Meiklejohn fellowship at Amherst and is especially attuned to helping FLI (first-gen, low-income students). She was able to help me with creating my first cover letter and resume as well as plan applications for summer internships. Casey Jo has lots of experience being low-income herself and is extremely sweet and helpful when assisting you. For any FLI students looking for assistance, I would highly recommend reaching out to Casey Jo at some point. You can schedule an appointment with her for set times, go to her drop-in hours on Wednesday evenings, or just email her asking to meet. While everyone in the LOEB center wants to get to know you and help you, I think this is especially true of her.

The LOEB center also brings in speakers, typically alums, who students can listen to present, meet with one-on-one, or even have lunch with. Next week, I am meeting with Dr. Scott L. Rauch ‘82, President & Psychiatrist in Chief of McClean Hospital during lunch in order to find out more about his career and being a psychiatrist at McClean. The LOEB center brings in a range of people from all different fields, so whether you are dead-set on one path or are interested in exploring different possibilities, you can meet with people with all different careers.

Shopping (but in academia)

For the first two weeks of every semester there is an add/drop period. This means you can easily change your schedule and add or drop classes (assuming there are openings in the class you want to take). Your advisor is a huge asset at this time. You can meet with them, talk through your current thoughts and plans for the future. With two labs this semester, my schedule was super full. In fact, with two labs you only need to take one other class. However, I’m ambitious and a bit foolish, so I decided I want to take a 4th class. What that 4th class I will be has been changing in my head, so luckily I was able to shop and attend the classes in order to get a better idea of what I want.

I was able to meet the professors, see who’s in the class, and get the syllabus which is extremely useful. For humanities, the syllabus with all the readings and assignments is super useful for planning the semester. The classes I was considering, a French class or poetry class, were all humanities so getting an idea of workload and readings was very useful.

The poetry class was already in my schedule, so I just needed to attend the first class to secure my spot. I wanted to attend the first class to get a feeling for the class. Poetry with Friends is a small class with an eighteen student cap. There are weekly assignments as well as many author visits (authors who wrote the books we read!). Since the authors are in town, we are required to go to readings outside of class adding onto class time. Additionally, the class is poetry with friends, so lots of the work is to be done outside of class with other students.

French was difficult since I wasn’t sure what class I should even be in. The French department does not have a placement test, but rather relies on previous experience with the language. Since I had taken French for four years in high school, I was placed in either 207 or 208 (one focusing on writing/reading while the other focuses on conversation). The department sent me a letter in August explaining placement options as well as things that are available for French majors such as the French House, study abroad options in France, and le table francais. Since I was so confused about what class to take (especially since I took a semester off from languages), I emailed the head of the French department, Laure Katsaros, who helped me figure out what to take and let me shop the first few classes.

Fink Bioscience Symposium

The 12th annual Fink Bioscience Symposium is put together by the class of 1962 that exposes students to careers in medicine and biology. It is a great opportunity to network and learn more about different career options.

The symposium started at three in the afternoon with an introduction of all speakers by George Carmany ‘62 who is an investor in health care in Boston, former chairman of the Tufts Medical Center and a member of the Advisory Committee on Education at Harvard Medical school. Speakers ranged from older alumni approaching their 80s to graduates from the past May. Gerald Fink ‘62, after whom the symposium is named, spoke first about “The Spirit of Science.” He talked about the importance of science and research in medicine and how this can be used to make a positive change as well as money. He talked about how a Stanford professor actually stopped teaching in order to use science to create a veggie burger that tastes like real meat. You know the famous Impossible Burger at Burger King? Yeah, the professor created that with hemoglobin from soybean roots. Science!

Next, Kipp Weiskopf ‘07, MD/Ph.D,  talked about his experiences after Amherst and into a joint MD/Ph.D. program at Stanford as well as the research into pharmaceuticals he is doing now at the Whitehead Institute. Then, Sinead Murphy, MD ‘12, talked about being a pediatrician in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) at Boston Children’s Hospital. She had wonderful insight into the human part of medicine and being there for the patient and families at their worst times. We then had a break with snacks brought to us by Val catering and were able to talk with the presenters.

Then, Niyi Odewade ‘17 talked about studying at Harvard Medicine and discovering his love of surgery. He is working with Massachusetts General Hospital to improve access to surgery and medicine in Uganda. Another recent graduate, Hilary Bediako ‘19, talked about being a first-generation, low-income as well as undocumented student going to Amherst and then attending Penn Med. Finally, Robert Mignone ‘62 and Marc Pohl ‘62 talked about the “Medicine of Aging” which got into the heavy topic of dealing with aging and death. This then got into the discussion of doctor assisted suicide as well as the pressure my generation will face living to be 100. Essentially, the problem is that while we can have hips and knee replacements, the brain cannot be replaced and neurocognitive degeneracy will be the biggest problem moving forward.

Finally, we had dinner with wonderful food where we were able to sit down and talk to faculty or presentors. I was able to sit with Professor Pat O’Hara who was the first female professor in the hard sciences at Amherst. We were able to learn lots about how the college has changed over time as well as provide our own insight on where we think the college is headed as well as national health care. Finally, Harvey Lodish talked about creating companies to treat diseases, specifically pharmaceutical companies that treat rare disease. The thing to note about his talk is that all of these rare diseases he is looking at affect primarily white populations. And they take hundreds of millions to produce, but can be sold to larger companies for tens of billions of dollars. “Here’s the thing about business, it’s about making money.” While this is a true part of business and capitalism, my table had an interesting discussion on how the work Harvey is doing is actually creating more inequity in the world by only finding treatments for rich, white people. Some gene therapies he is developing cost $1 million. His idea is that you just take out a mortgage for that. The thing is, not everyone can get a mortgage which is why there’s a housing crisis for those who are low-income. By creating this gene therapy, he would be creating a medical crisis that discriminates against low-income folks and people of color.

Ultimately, lots of discussions were had and I look forward to these discussions to continue to happen on Amherst’s campus.

Interterm

Interterm is a fantastic time at Amherst that I didn’t even know about until it was upon us. After about two weeks we have off for the holidays, students can come back to campus for Interterm for a variety of things. There are workshops on fun things like cooking and knitting. You can take classes or do research with professors. You can train to be on ACEMS (Amherst College Emergency Medical Services). This is an especially cool opportunity since you can become a state-licensed EMT in a few weeks instead of the usual 6 month training … it’s just a lot of work. All sports in season are required to come back to train as well. That means there’s good basketball and hockey games for the rest of us to watch! There’s even club meetings like Mock Trial preparing for competition. And even before interterm starts, the dorms are always open so that students who can’t get a ride/flight home have some place to stay.

I didn’t know that Interterm was such a great time to do so many cool things. As a freshman, I wanted to be home for a while during this long break. I saw family and friends. I worked to gain some extra cash. However, after a while I grew sick of it and all my other friends started college again before I did. So, I came to campus for the last week of interterm and am I so glad that I did!

The gym has normal hours so I have been able to workout whenever I want which is great. Val is open, so I can get proper sustenance and food that isn’t always available at home. I’ve been able to work on applications to summer internships that I normally wouldn’t have time for. Most importantly, I’ve been able to enjoy Amherst without feeling the stress of academics. I have hung out with friends and watched the bachelor at night. I was finally able to figure out the bus system (PVTA) and take the bus to the nearby Hampshire Mall where we shopped for school supplies for the upcoming semester. Cambridge

I know friends who have been taking advantage of the outdoors near here and have hiked or cross country skied. Hopefully, this weekend we will take the bus into Northampton and explore another local college town. It’s also great since my friends can take Peter Pan buses directly from Boston to Amherst, so I can spend more time with them before school starts.

You can sign up for specific events as I mentioned earlier. One thing I signed up for was the Fink Bioscience Symposium. More on that next week!

Study Spots

Everyone likes to have good spots to study. I’ve spent the past semester exploring different parts of campus trying to find out what places are good.

Frost Library:

The library is a very cool spot because there are so many different floors with so many different sound levels. I like the main level because there are tables for multiple groups to work or you can just claim a table all to yourself. The floors get quieter the further up or down you go. I like the top floor (3rd floor) because there are windows overlooking Val quad and some rolling hills which are beautiful if you need a study break as well as let in lots of wonderful, natural light. There are also single person desks up there that have outlets near them; thus, you can just plug in your computer and grind.

Science Center:

The science center lets in so much natural light; it’s fantastic (huge fan of natural light for studying in case you haven’t noticed. It helps keep me alert and keeps those neurons firing.). The main level has comfy chairs for sitting or has desks with outlets where you can grind as well. Similar to how the library has Frost Cafe, the science center has its own cafe on the first floor which is probably why so many students hang out there. The Quantitative Center is also on the first floor which has nice group tables as well as all science books that are on reserve in the nearby Science Library. These books on reserve are books for your classes that you can check out in 4 hour intervals in order to get work done. This is fantastic so you don’t need to buy ALL of your textbooks. This area also has little individual desks that wrap around and keep you enclosed. I like this because it closes me off and allows me to work. Sci Centre

On the second level, the chemistry and biology wings have their own study spaces with giant white boards to work out your ideas. There is also a high table that overlooks the first floor and all the front windows. This nice view of the MEAD Art Museum and first level also provides a nice study break. Since it’s a long table, you can choose to work alone and just put a backpack in the chair next to you or work with friends.

Study Nook:

My personal favorite is the study nook. These are small alcoves on every floor that’s a nice place to sit and work, or get distracted and hang out with friends. Usually it’s a mix of both. I love the nook in my dorm (Stearns) since it is almost always quiet. I tend to go to South to see my friends and by this point, I know I’m not getting any work done. But you need a mix of hanging out and studying, right?

Being Undecided

Going into college undecided can be scary, but it is ultimately a blessing. Being undecided, you can take classes in so many different subjects and find out what really interests you. You have three or four semesters before you even need to declare a major. Thus, you can really explore different fields all over the place from humanities to social sciences to STEM. Or, if you find that you like a specific subject such as English, you could take a lot of different English classes before you have to decide that that’ll be your major. This allows you to avoid the hassle of switching majors like other colleges which leaves people worrying about requirements and if they’ll graduate on time. Also, other colleges will make you pay extra money to take additional classes, so if you did get behind from switching majors, you would have to pay more to catch up.

Additionally, Amherst does not have general education requirements. Many colleges have specific classes or specific requirements that students need to meet in order to graduate. This is in addition to the requirements for a major. Because of this, students are very worried with fulfilling requirements and are unable to simply take classes in order to enjoy them. At Amherst, you do not need to think about these general ed. requirements or even major requirements for the first few semesters which leaves you completely free to take whatever you want. This freedom of an open curriculum is one of the reasons I chose Amherst.

However, it is important to note that it can be stressful to not know your major when so many other college students do. Many adults, when they find out you attend college, will ask what you are studying. It can be uncomfortable to admit that you don’t know exactly what you want to go into yet. It makes it seem as though you are not commited and you are just going to college because that’s what everyone else does. The thing to note is that if you are even considering applying to Amherst College, you likely are a very good student and very intelligent. You need to recognize this and know that not everyone knows the beauty of an open curriculum. The people who do know how wonderful an open curriculum is are typically well-educated themselves and will understand that you are taking your time to explore your interests and curiosities. And, your major does not always define what you do in the future. Things, specifically technology, is always changing. So, what you might want to go into with your major now, might not even exist in the future. Your major does not necessarily define you. Remember that it is just a small part of you and your interests.

Semester in Review

As the semester wraps up and I reflect upon the year, I think of all the friends I made, the professors who taught me, and all the opportunities I’ve had. My classes this year have been informative and I’m so happy to have such a close group of friends.

This year, I got a two-room double on the 4th floor of Stearns (down the hall from Victoria!). Stearns is one of two mirror image dorms fondly called Jearns by students (James and Stearns). These dorms are outside the MEAD art museum and are very nice as they were built in 2005. While you cannot request your dorm, you can request a roommate if you know someone going into Amherst. I didn’t know anyone, so I went for a random assignment (like many people do). My roommate and I both happen to be Meiklejohn fellows which is very nice because we bond over our shared identity. She is from NYC, so it can be pretty cool to get her perspective about living in a city. Hopefully sometime we’re at college I can teach her how to drive!

In the mornings, I tend to get up first. Usually around 7:45am or sometimes as late 9:30am. I quietly go out, brush my teeth, and get ready for the day. Luckily, people on my hall are very quiet and respectful, so it’s never too loud in the morning or when I try to go to bed early.

This semester I had chemistry at 9 am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then 8am chemistry lab on Tuesday morning. Thursdays, I slept in until 9:30 then got up to do work; however, I didn’t have class until 11:30am on Thursdays. Monday mornings my chemistry professors would hold breakfast in Val (the dining hall) before lecture and it was a great opportunity to get to know them better and for them to get to know me.

In between classes, I would often go to Frost to study. I am definitely the type of person who finds specific spots they like and stick to it. While Frost has 6 levels, I tend to stick to the main floor or go up to the third depend on how much quiet I need. The floors get progressively more quiet the further up or down you go from the main level, so you can choose what you need at that specific time. I like the main and third levels because they have nice windows with natural light as well as a pretty view.

After classes, I usually have a mix of things going on. Sometimes there are specific events that I like to go to, like bonding for FLI students. Other times, I head to frisbee practice and get some tossing in. Afterwards, we go to Val for dinner as a team which is always nice. It’s a good time to grab some food and fuel up while also becoming closer as a team.

Later in the evenings, usually around 8pm, my clubs will meet and we will discuss upcoming events or learn more things particular to that group. UMass

Sometimes there are spontaneous days where I do things with friends I wasn’t expecting. For example, on the snow day earlier this month, I had lots of fun with my friends building snowmen and sledding. Other times, we might walk into town and do work in a coffee shop. This week we went to UMass Amherst to try one of their dining halls. Lets just say there’s a reason they are the number one ranked dining hall in the country. We filled many plates haha.

While daily life has changed a lot, I have found that I love the variety rather than the rigid schedule I had in high school. If you ever have questions about daily life at Amherst College, feel free to email me at kredmond23@amherst.edu!

Weekends!

What does one do on a weekend in Western Massachusetts? Lots!

The town of Amherst is very cute with lots of coffee shops and small stores. You can go into Amherst Books to look at new releases or go downstairs to explore used books. I adore the basement because there are books everywhere and it reminds me of being home. You can also go down to AJ Hastings to pick up some Amherst merch or get some holiday gifts for family members. My mom has been dying for an Amherst College sweatshirt since I got into the school. There are also loads of good restaurants like Pasta E Basta and Formosa. Or, you can explore my favorite part of Amherst, the myriad of coffee shops! The Black Sheep is a bit closer to campus and has really good Fair Trade coffee. Amherst Coffee and Share Coffee also is pretty good. Or if you like bubble tea, LimeRed and Vivi’s are two cute places with very good boba. These cafes and boba shops are all very good for doing work too. I have spent lots of time sitting there, sipping my (always iced) drink, and doing work. You just need to get there early because lots of people like to do work there too.

There are also lots of farms around Amherst that you can get fresh produce from. There’s a really good ice cream shop called Flavors that’s a bit of a drive, but it’s such a pretty area with farmland everywhere. You can even go out and pet the cows! I had never been close to a cow before coming to Amherst, so that was extremely exciting. Befriending a cow was the highlight of my semester.

NH On campus, you can easily find friends to hang out with. Since almost everyone lives on campus and freshman all live on the quad, it is so easy to walk to a friend’s room and hang out or go to the common room to watch a movie. There are also almost always some sort of activity going on on campus such as a movie showing or a fun spa night. These things are usually posted on the Daily Mammoth, an email that comes out weekday mornings at 8am that lists events for the upcoming days.

Cambridge Amherst is also very nice because it is in between NYC and Boston. In October I had the opportunity to take the bus into Boston and watch my high school teammates compete in the Head of the Charles Regatta. It was a lot of fun to see everyone in the city, but also to get out of rural MA. The nice thing too is that Boston is only about 2 hours away compared to a lot of other colleges (like a certain one in Williamstown, MA) that is much further. The close cities also means it is easier for those flying to get to airports and luckily, the student senate funds shuttles to airports for people traveling for break. I’m excited to spend the next few years exploring the surrounding area even more!

Choosing Classes at Amherst College

Choosing classes has always been important for me. I care about how interesting the class is, who the professor is, what time the class is, and where the class is. However, it is impossible to have all these things. Thus, I chose classes first based off of classes I needed to fulfill my pre-med requirements. You can look for classes in the course catalog. Schedule

Chemistry 161: This chemistry is the second introductory chemistry class after 151 or 155. It uses the same textbook, continues and expands upon material learned in the first class, and introduces even more lab techniques. The class meets for lecture three days a week with a smaller discussion section occuring on Fridays. You also needs to sign up for a lab that happens either in the morning or afternoon. While I’ve been told that the class is very difficult, I’m excited to continue with chemistry and try even more experiments.

Biology 191: This is another class I need to take as a pre-med requirement; however, I loved taking AP Biology in high school and I’m very excited to continue with biology in college. Biology 191 is more molecular biology rather ecology, focusing on the small things that help us function rather than larger ecosystems and species. This class needs to be taken after or simultaneous with chemistry 161. In high school, I never had the opportunity to do a lot of biology labs as we primarily focused on studying for the AP. Thus, this will be a nice change and an exciting opportunity to try doing biology experiments.

With pre-med classes taken care of, I can choose other classes specifically based off of my interests. With two lab classes, I wanted to have more of a balance with humanities. Thus, I decided to take an English class.

Poetry with Friends: After scrolling down all the 100 and 200 level English class, I ultimately decided to take Poetry with Friends. I have always loved English and one of the main reasons I decided to take this class is that it meets for three hours on Wednesdays. When I start writing, specifically poetry, I love to get into it and lose track of time. While this can be difficult in a short, hour long class, I think it will be much easier to get lost in the poetry during a longer class. The class is also small, capped at 18 students, which will make it much easier to make connections with students, work together on poetry, and work more directly with the professor. This provides a nice balance compared to the 100 students in my chemistry class. Hopefully I will make friends in the class too because my friends either didn’t like poetry or the class did not fit in their schedule.

The next class, I wanted to take was a psychology class as I am considering being a psych major. I took AP Psych in high school and tested out of introductory psychology. I also took statistics this semester, so I completed that major requirement if I end up majoring in psych. I looked at the long list of the next level psychology class I can take and decided to take developmental psychology with my advisor, Prof. Palmquist. 

Developmental Psychology: This class is a lecture with 40 people. However, I’ve noticed that over time fewer and fewer students come to lectures, so the class will likely become smaller. The class will pick up on developmental psychology from where introductory psychology left off and will cover the psychology of people developing from babies to adults.

Activities at Amherst

When you go to college, I think most people worry about finding clubs and activities they enjoy. Luckily, at the beginning of the year, the school hosts a club fair that allows you to walk around tables and meet with club heads for every club. You can ask what they do, when they meet, what resources they have available. There are clubs all throughout the gym and you can sign up for however many you want. Most clubs encourage you to sign up for their email list if you are even a little bit interested.

When I went this year, it was overwhelming. Off to the sides, people practiced tossing volleyballs to encourage people to sign up for club volleyball. People called for your attention left and right and lured you in with offers of chocolate and candy. One club that focused on beauty was even giving out free face masks. In all, I probably signed up for over 20 clubs that seemed interesting to me. They ranged from sports like crew and skiing to clubs that focused on public health to specific interests such as psychology and politics. In the beginning of the year, I put myself out there, joined the mailing list for all these clubs, and tried to attend all the first meetings of the clubs.

I wanted to get an idea of when they met and how active the club was. This way, I could see if it fit in my schedule and if it was really worth joining the club -- in other words, if the club was active. I eventually narrowed down the clubs over time and found the ones that I enjoy and I have time for. Really, as long as you have good time management, you should be able to balance academics and your extracurriculars. For a list of activities at Amherst, check out the Hub.

Through joining clubs, you will meet lots of people and make new friends. Snow Day I think this is most important because then you will be able to hang out and do things that are not structured. For example, today was a snow day at Amherst (crazy right?!), so my friends from frisbee and I practiced throwing the frisbee in the snow. 


We also went sledding down Memorial Hill and met up with my friends from ACDemocrats to build a snowman. And while organized activities are so much fun and are great for finding friends with similar interests, I think its also important to have some unorganized fun and just hang out with these friends.

 

On weekends especially, it’s nice to just hang out with friends.
Before break, my friends and I went down to LimeRed to get bubble tea and just do some work. We then stopped at Antonio’s for lunch and looked around at Amherst Books. It’s great to just explore town and not have every second of your life scheduled.

If you have any questions about specific clubs on campus, feel free to reach out to me!

First Semester Classes

Amherst has so many classes to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming. Lucking, there is a course catalog that can help you see what's available.

The first class you find out that you’re taking at Amherst College is your first-year seminar. You rank 7 of your top choices for your seminar online in July and can check which class you were placed in online via ACData in August. Your classmates for your seminar are with you during orientation in what is called your orientation group. You meet to discuss what to expect in college with your orientation leader and play games to get to know each other.

Anthropology and Science Fiction:

I had never taken anthropology before and decided to take this class because I have always enjoyed science fiction. I figured drawing connections between anthropology and science fiction would be interesting too. In the class, we had frequent readings that ranged from ethnographies to science fiction short stories and books. We often drew connections between the two asking what characters from the books would do in anthropological texts and vise versa. We also looked at sociocultural factors that were prevalent in the ethnographies and applied them to science fiction to make the story more realistic. The class met twice a week where we would discuss what we had read for homework. We typically spent a few minutes talking with a partner about each question, then came together as a class. Everything we learned accumulated in a twenty page paper, either an ethnography or a science fiction short story, that had to combine texts that we read (both the scifi and anthropology).

Chemistry 155:

When you first start taking chemistry at Amherst, you either take 155 or 151 depending on placement. Chemistry 155 is a slightly higher level intro class that requires some calculus. The class covers everything from gas laws to stoichiometry to basic quantum mechanics. We had three midterms and a final which ultimately ended up being far fewer exams than I was used to in high school. Thus, each test was a high proportion of our grade which was a bit stressful. However, Professor Marshall, who gives lectures three times a week, is very knowledgeable and is extremely outgoing and fun. He also taught my discussion section Monday afternoons which is a smaller group that meets once a week as opposed to the large lecture with 70 students. One of the best parts of the class was the laboratory in which we learned different lab techniques and how to organize a lab notebook. My favorite lab was one in which we all got a sample of coffee and tested the level of caffeine in different types of coffee and espresso around campus. The decaf from Val we tested turned out not to be decaf!

Statistics 135 with Modeling:

When first taking stats at Amherst, you get placed into either stats 111 or stats 135 depending on prior experience and achievement in math and stats classes. Stats 135 is a bit of a higher level class that includes using a coding program called R to make graphs. While I was not expecting nor completely understood that modeling included basic coding, I was happy that I was able to learn how to do it. Using R will likely be useful in the future too if I decide to become a psych major and do a senior thesis.

Finding Your Roots

Every freshman at Amherst is required to take a first-year seminar. It is the only class at Amherst you are required to take (well, until you declare a major and have to take all those classes). Luckily, the first-year seminars cover so many different topics, you are bound to find one that matches your interest. I have friends in seminars on olive oil, progress, French literature, and War and Peace. My seminar is called “Finding Your Roots” and I absolutely adore it.

The seminar is based off the hit TV show hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. that explores celebrities' family roots and follow their story as they discover more about their roots. Our homework consists of watching videos from television shows like “Finding Your Roots,” reading articles related to genealogy and genetics as well as short stories or excerpts of novels that focus on culture and identity. The class has been fantastic in helping me explore my family’s origins and learning about all the diversity at Amherst that is reflected in my class.

We started the class by guessing our genetic make-up and taking a DNA test. Some people (like me) were fairly certain about our ancestry and our genetics ended up being pretty much what we expected. I found out that I was 73% Irish and British and 27% Scandinavian. While I was not surprised by this composition, I was surprised that my family traces back as strongly to London as we do to Cork, Ireland where I know my family came from. I was never told I was English, but apparently I am. We likely don’t talk about being English since the Irish and the English have always had a tense relationship. Other people had maps of DNA from across the world and their maps glowed with colors from almost every continent. This rainbow on the board just reminded me how Amherst tried to diversify its campus and how someone may appear a certain way, but can also have mixed heritage. It also just proved to me that we are moving towards a world with less segregation and more genetic diversity which hopefully will benefit humans in a multitude of ways.

Aside from the genetic route, we traced our genes through government documents like census records and immigration files in order to piece together family trees. I had no idea when my family had come to the States and just assumed we came around the start of the nation. After being introduced to immigration records that Amherst has access to, I was able to find that I am actually a 4th generation American with my family immigrating in the late 19th century. This led me to rethink my own view of my family, but ultimate did not change how I identify my nationality (American).

One of the best parts of the class was picking a family myth or story to use as the start of a research paper. The class has been working for this term paper for a month and it has given me the opportunity to hear so many stories of families’ struggles immigrating between nations and fighting in wars. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to explore my grandparents involvement in World War II and learn about the benefits of female veterans like my grandmother received following World War II then compare this to post-Vietnam War to see if women were still being discriminated against in the military. Our class recently has just been discussion about our paper and has given us the chance to get feedback from peers and the professor about drafts. This is extremely helpful, especially since all first-year seminars are small with about 20 or fewer students. We can actually listen and have a conversation which just isn’t possible in a large lecture hall at large public universities.  Cooking in FYS

Ultimately, I am so thankful to have this first-year seminar as I’ve been able to foster my discussion and debate skills in a small class setting and have been able to talk to students and one-on-one with the professor about my writing which I believe has helped it tremendously.