As I'm writing this, Amherst is barely a month into summer holidays. Being so fresh off my first year of college, I thought I would dedicate my first blog post to a reflection of all my ups and downs, my highs and lows, my Ws and my Ls. One thing that I can definitely say is that I've ended up in a place I never expected to be in at all in my journey of personal growth, and the wonderful Amherst community had a lot to do with that.
But first, let's rewind all the way back to Pre-Orientation in August of 2018, which Amherst hosts every year for international students to get a lay of the land and adjust before everyone else comes back to college.
I remember coming here with my parents, driving on campus for the first time ever. The lush green trees, the rustic red brick buildings and dorms, even the rolling hills that I've come to dread after a heavy meal... All of it was just as beautiful as the mental image of Amherst I'd built up in my head. Coming from Thailand, a country quite literally half a world away, I never had a chance to do my college tours. My college tours consisted more of obsessively looking up pictures on websites, holed up under my comforter in the safety and familiarity of my bedroom at home. For any other students who might be in the same boat as me, I'd be happy to share all my pictures (and the stories that come with them) of Amherst with you. Just shoot me an email!
Back on topic now. Pre-Orientation is where I met one of my best friends here on campus. We went through various intro meetings to the various offices of the college together: from the Loeb Center of Career Exploration and Planning to the Title IX office. We got to pick through some of the things that the international seniors who had graduated in May 2018 had left behind for us younglings. From the huge pile, I managed to hunt down a kettle, a lamp, and a fan. Our ISL (International Student Leader) brought us cookies from Insomnia and took us to town to get Bart's ice cream (If you visit Amherst, you have to try it. I recommend Mass Mocha or Local Blueberry.) Pre-Orientation, and later Orientation itself, passed by in a huge blur of excitement and the giddy rush of making new friends. One of my favorite moments from Orientation was from my LEAP trip, which is a program designed to help incoming freshman form closer bonds and truly become a community with their fellow classmates. I chose to go on the FOOT (First-year Outdoor Orientation Trip) hiking program, and one of my best memories is standing on top of Mt. Monadnock with my new friends, the strong wind blowing my hair in my eyes and my mouth, following a grueling hike up where we had to climb a 10 ft face of rock.
Fall semester went by in a rush too. For maybe the first time, I genuinely enjoyed all of my classes. My favorite class of fall was Multivariable Calculus, taught by Professor Zhang. Don't get me wrong: Multivariable Calculus was never going to be an easy class. I still vividly remember how I felt in class as Professor Zhang started solving triple integrals on the board with his multitude of colored chalks, but his dry humor and how much he cared about his students (enough to hold office hours nearly every day of the week, and night office hours on the day before midterms and finals, even though this wasn't his only class) really cemented this class -- and his --- place in my heart. Math was always hard for me, but Professor Zhang made it easier, and a lot more fun. It's hard to not have fun when you're munching on a donut as you calculate its surface area with triple integrals.
I auditioned for DASAC, which is the dance group here on campus, in the spring. I remember the night I found out that I had actually made it. We were in my room, watching the Super Bowl on my roommate's TV, when that email came. Over the course of multiple rehearsals, aches, and pains, I think I had become a better dancer. On the very last day of our showcase in the Powerhouse -- which is our multipurpose event venue on campus -- for the first time, I really felt like I could call myself a dancer. Of course, there is always room for improvement, so keep your fingers crossed for me in the upcoming fall audition too!
I also elected to take 5 classes, which is beyond the usual number of 4, in the spring. With the benefit of wisdom and hindsight, I can say now that maybe it was not the wisest decision. The workload was definitely manageable with the right time management and task prioritization, but the added stress of an extra class was what really got to me in the end. From this too, I learned a valuable lesson: always push your limits even as you know where your limits are. I think I might try to take 5 classes again, just not any time soon!
College, I guess, is like that. You make mistakes sometimes, but ultimately what matters, in the end, is the lesson that you take away from it. Adjusting to the new culture, being independent without my parents hovering over me, ready to help correct my mistakes, has helped me learn a lot about what being an adult with real responsibility feels like. But if that sounds scary to you, don't fret. Amherst has a lot of resources for you to take advantage of. The community here is so warm and supportive that you are never going to feel like you're alone. Who knows, maybe one day you'll be a part of this community too!
Shoot me an email at email@example.com if you want to talk about anything! If you need tips on the kind of clothes to pack for cold weather as someone coming from a tropical area, I'm your girl.
Until next time!