Rafaela Demerath '21 - Introduction

Hi!

My name is Rafi Demerath and I'm from Shreveport, Louisiana. I'm currently a junior majoring in political science and sociology. I'm a member of Bluestockings, one of the acapella groups on campus, give tours for the Admission Office, and am a member of La Causa. Fun fact - I'm awful at writing bios, but some random information about me: I love podcasts (especially Invisibilia and Reply All), my favorite type of food is Mexican and Indian (specifically, mole and chicken tikka masala), and I love the show New Girl. I like to spend my breaks seeing my parents and brother back home in Louisiana, and visiting my abuelos and tios in Ecuador over the summers. I was a residential counselor last year and on the Amherst College crew team for two years so I'm happy to also answer any questions you might have about those activities on campus.

Feel free to email me at rdemerath21@amherst.edu if you have any questions!

La Sagrada Familia

Hi y’all,

I just finished my academic work for today and can’t help but think that less than a week ago I was in el Retiro park in Spain eating jámon and cheese while watching the sunset with all my friends. It is a bit painful and my heart hurts just thinking about what the next two months could have held for all of us, but I always have to come back to the constant and strong feeling of gratitude beneath it all. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I had the opportunity to live in another country with a family that was generous enough to let me live with them and truly learn what it was like to be a local in Spain. I learned so much about the Spanish culture by living the Spanish culture, and I had so much fun doing it!

Just last weekend I was in Barcelona walking through the most beautiful building I have ever seen in my life: La Sagrada Familia. I had visited many cathedrals at this point, but nothing could have prepared me for this otherworldly basilica. Antoni Gaudi devoted his life to creating this work of art and only a quarter of it was done when he died in 1926! Now, over one hundred years later it is almost complete with expected completion in 2026, one hundred years after Gaudi’s death. While I walked through the basilica, admiring the rainbow of sunshine filtering through the stained glass, I imagined coming back to La Sagrada Familia with my kids and telling them I had been here when it was still in construction. Flashforward one week, now I am thinking about how one day I will tell my kids how not only did their mother see La Sagrada Familia while under construction but in the midst of a pandemic as well!

It all just astounds me. Of course, the pandemic is alarming and a harsh wake-up call for the entire world, but what continues to move me is watching us find our “oneness” again. As I walked through La Sagrada Familia I was in awe with how you had to unite hundreds, if not thousands, of people to donate their time, energy, and money into a project they most likely would not see the completion of. Now more than ever I realize how fundamental it is that we find that sense of unity again. We have no choice now but to believe in the power we have as a whole. And although it is pretty awful having to learn in these circumstances what humanity is capable of, I am proud to be here to witness it. 

That’s all for now!

- Rafi

The stunning stained glass inside the Familia Sagrada.   The enormous pillars that hold up the basilica. Tree trunks were used as inspiration.

Home Sweet Home

Hi All,

Oh what a world. Who would have thought I would be back home in Louisiana in the middle of March? Not me! As chaotic as these last 72 hours have been, I am so happy to be back, and so ready to tell you all about my (half) semester abroad. Also, now that I have all this time on my hands during my self-quarantine (more about that later), I have plenty of time to reflect (longingly) on all my favorite moments!

First and foremost, (and I swear I am not being told to say this) I have to seriously thank Amherst College for the way it has handled the COVID-19 crisis. I was in Madrid, Spain the last two months and, as many of you know, this last week things took a turn for the worst. Within the span of 24 hours, the cases of coronavirus doubled and soon tripled, and students began to wonder whether it was safe to stay. Although the study abroad program I was studying with (hosted by another college) was relatively quite during this stressful time, Amherst consistently kept students up to date and answered and listened to all of our questions and worries. When Trump imposed the European travel ban, my parents called me immediately and said it was best to book a flight home. Mind you, this all happened at 4:30am Spain time, and despite all the chaos and frustrations (with my program, the US government, the world, coronavirus herself, etc.), Amherst College was a constant and reassuring voice. I seriously commend every single member of the faculty and staff who reached out to students and did everything in the power to  make sure we were all okay. So, seriously, thank you Amherst for keeping a very stressed out student calm despite the chaos surrounding her. 

So here I am back home in good ole' Shreveport, Louisiana! Due to CDC regulations, I will be spending the next fourteen days taking my temperature twice a day and staying at home. Although the boredom is already beginning to set in, I am so happy I get to be home with my family and almost just as happy to be home for crawfish season (which I will definitely be providing pictures of as soon as I get to eat them). For now, I am counting my blessings and just happy I can cuddle with my cats and dog.

I can imagine as a prospective Amherst College student you might have questions about what it is like studying abroad with the help of Amherst College–especially during a pandemic–so don’t hesitate to ask and I will happily answer all and any questions. Just shoot me an email to rdemerath21@amherst.edu

See you soon,

And from a very safe distance,

Rafi


The view from my room!   One of my last sunsets in Spain.

Junior Year Already?!

Hi!

Still in shock that I’m beginning my junior year already, but I’m excited to be getting back into the swing of things. I spent the summer in Ecuador visiting family and interning in Cuenca with the local government. It was challenging and fascinating in so many ways, but I can’t help but admit that I’m happy to be back in my Amherst rhythm. This year I am living in Greenway D, now known as Nicholls Biondi, with my best friends in a suite with my favorite view so far on campus. My window is perfectly positioned so I always get to see the sunrise and it’s the best alarm every morning.

Today was quite honestly a perfect day. I went on a run on the bike path with my friend and felt nice and energized for the day (they don’t lie about exercise being healthy… ha). I did some reading, ate some breakfast, and headed to my first class: Sociological Theory. Later I got lunch with some friends and ate a fantastic cinnamon roll for dessert, and headed to my next class called States of Extraction. This class is one of my favorite classes and is taught by Professor Picq who helped me get the internship I did this last summer. She is incredible and I want to absorb every single drop of information she tells us. After class I sat down with her on the first year quad and chatted with her about my summer in Cuenca, Ecuador and what she’s working on this semester. Then went to grab a quick dinner and went to auditions to find our new members of Bluestockings (an acapella group I’m apart of on campus)! So yes, a very good Tuesday.

Lots of auditions and readings ahead of me but I’m feeling good starting my second week back. I’m especially looking forward to doing our tradition of going out and finding all of our “newsox” Saturday night and singing for them to tell them they got in!! I’ll be sure to keep you updated on other shenanigans on campus and just the day to day of our lovely lil Amherst world.

Oh, What a Semester!

Hi y'all!

As I sit by the fire on this perfect, snowy day in Western Mass, I think it is the perfect time to look back on this past semester. This one especially flew by so quickly and I still can't believe the year is already half over! This semester I got to live with my best friends in a suite that immediately felt like home. I took classes in subjects that gave me perspective and insight into what I want to pursue not only for my thesis, but for the years to come. I developed stronger relationships with my professors that I know will be incredibly helpful in my senior year. And now, in less than a week, I will be traveling to Madrid to live with a host family, take classes in spanish, and immerse myself in a new culture. Despite the small nervousness I feel about speaking my second language, I feel so ready and excited to be completely vulnerable in this new world because, in many ways, Amherst has prepared me exactly for this. Without Amherst College I would not have been able to make connections with professors which lead me to spend this last summer in Cuenca, Ecuador. In that time I learned and grew more than I could have ever anticipated. I learned how to be independent and, maybe even more importantly, be unafraid in asking for help. I know that I am ready for a semester abroad, and I know I have partly Amherst to thank for this confidence. So here is to another successful and enriching semester here in cold (but oh so beautiful) Western Mass!

Thanks for reading,

Rafi

What is Keefe?

Hi everyone! Here at Amherst we are all experiencing the Thanksgiving countdown. We are reaching the end of the semester and after lots of midterms, we are all very ready to get our much deserved week off. This week was pretty calm with not a whole lot going on so I thought I’d tell you guys about my experience with the Keefe Campus Center.

When I first toured Amherst I wasn’t sure what exactly Keefe did on a daily basis for students. I knew it housed a bunch of resource centers that students could hangout in, but that was about it. One of my first experiences when I realized one of the many things Keefe provides to the students happened during my first semester here.

I walked into Keefe to grab some food from grab-n-go or pick up a package, and happened upon a table that was surrounded by students. As I walked up to it, I realized there were piles of sage, lavender, rosemary, and other herbs. A few students were showing others how they could tie these herbs in a bundle, dry them out, and then burn them later. I immediately knew my mom would love to know that I did this. She always loves to cleanse the house whether it be with sage or holy water, and knowing that I did this for my dorm room would make her very happy. I stepped up to the table and asked some questions about how to start my bundle and as I looked around I realized I was surrounded by a bunch latinx students! I made a joke about latina moms and always cleansing everything and they laughed and we began making conversation while we made our bundles. I finished making my bundle, thanked the students who were helping, and continued going about my day. Later, when I called my mom and told her about the bundle of herbs I had made, I realized just how cool it was that I had gotten to meet other latinx students in a public space that wasn’t specifically directed to latinos, but attracted them nonetheless. Just by chance, I got to see how some of the more simple and fun things that the Keefe Campus Center provides can be a nice way to be reminded that there are pockets of students on campus that share similar cultural backgrounds as me. It felt like just by walking through campus I was given a little piece of home I could share with students I had just met, and this, especially during freshman year, meant a lot. 

So there ya go, just a quick story about my personal experience in Keefe, and how meaningful even a small event can be. Let me know if you want more stories about certain spaces on campus! 

See ya next time!

- Rafi



Half-way!

More than half-way through the semester already? I still can’t believe that Junior year is flying by like this A picture I took on my drive through New York during fall break and in only a few months I’ll be heading off on my semester abroad! My classes have been a bit more
 challenging than I anticipated, but I’m definitely hanging in there and learning so much. My two hardest classes currently are Sociological Theory and Owning the Bilingual Self, but they also are some of the most fundamental and important classes I’ve taken. Sociological Theory is dense and sometimes can make you feel like you’re losing your mind trying to comprehend these theories, but once you do it is so gratifying. Owning the Bilingual Self is a much more personal challenge that I decided to take on. I’ve always been able to breeze through Spanish classes and this is the first one to really force me to put in the effort to refine my Spanish. So I guess I can believe that we’ve made it through half the semester already because I feel like my brain has been lifting weights the whole time. I’m exhausted and fulfilled in all the right ways. 

Another more fun creative way I’m stretching my brain is brainstorming thesis ideas! It’s a bit overwhelming trying to come up with something that I will be spending two semesters researching and writing about (and maybe even a summer too!), but I’m so excited to have a freedom I’ve never experienced before to learn about something I am passionate about. But for now I’m on a mission to constantly be on the lookout for ideas and inspiration. 

Everyone's favorite view... On a non-academic note, this weekend is halloweekend! I am proud to say I planned my costume in advance this year and I’m going as Carrie from the iconic 70’s horror movie. Halloween means that we are deep into fall and winter is right around the corner... actually I'm pretty sure we'll be getting snow next week! I will say this fall might be the best so far during my time here at Amherst. The weather was surprisingly warm most of the time and the leaves seemed even brighter than normal (or maybe that’s just me already being nostaligic knowing I only have one more fall here). 

 

I'll be sure to keep you updated on more of the average Amherst life, but feel free to let me know if you have any specific topics you want to hear about!

-Rafi

Madrid, here I come!

Helloooo readers! This past week has been hectic as ever! I spent the entirety of my weekend held up in the science center, and although this is definitely not my ideal weekend it was actually really nice because I got to work alongside my friends and stayed super motivated because of it. I also used a new favorite app of mine called Flora, where for every 25 minutes you don’t use your phone, you grow a plant! So after this weekend I have a very impressive digital garden which I am way too proud of.

Although I do love my fake garden, what I am most excited for right now is going abroad next semester! To think that I will be in Madrid in two months is wild, and knowing that my best friend is also going with me makes it all the better. Recently I’ve been thinking of all the things I need to take advantage of while I’m there because I know time will fly once I arrive. There are so many museums to visit, food to eat, and historical places to explore solely within Madrid! My friend and I have decided that during finals we will sit down and make an abroad bucket list. It’ll be the perfect thing to motivate us during our study breaks. (Let me know if you have any ideas!) 

I think studying abroad is such a crucial part of not only the Amherst experience, but college in general. The opportunity to have a change of scenery and experience a completely different part of the world is not something that comes around often, and I feel so lucky that I get to do it! Also, I hear from so many students that after going abroad they are all the more energized and excited to get back into the Amherst swing of things. As much as I love Amherst, I think it is time to take a break and come back more ready than ever to finish off my senior year. I do have to shout out Amherst though for making it so easy to go abroad here. I’ve heard at other schools it can be incredibly competitive to get into a program, but that is never an issue here which is so nice. Honestly, the hardest part about planning to go abroad is the visa… but don’t get me started on that. Anyway, let me know if you have any questions about going abroad or anything else you might be wondering about the Amherst experience!

See ya next week!

Rafi