Shikha Jha ’22 - Introduction

Shikha Jha Profile Picture

Hey!

My name's Shikha, and I'm excited to give you a peek into what I do at Amherst College! I just finished my first year and am a (recently declared!) Psychology major on the pre-med track, although I know being at Amherst means that my plans are subject to change. I'm originally from Troy, Michigan (near Detroit) but have recently relocated to Ruskin, Florida, and have been working for the Office of Admission for less than a year.

Whenever I'm not in class, I tend to spend my time marinating in the Science Center - but whenever I have some more free time, you can find me chilling on one of the hammocks or belting out some Jhené Aiko with my friends. I've danced for DASAC (Dance and Step at Amherst College) for the past year, and will be co-Artistic Director for the rest of my time at Amherst. I also volunteer with GlobeMed, a public health organization that works to provide shoes for Rwandan citizens, and am a part of SASA (South Asian Student Association). 

If you've got any questions about anything and everything, please email me at sjha22@amherst.edu! I'd love to chat and help you out with anything on your mind. 

Winterfest Antics

Hola!

Amherst College can be tough to adjust to, particularly when it comes to the weather - we are in New England, and...it snows QUITE a bit. Even though I'm from Michigan, I found that I needed to buy better snowboots and have fell quite a few times. However, something that made the winter a bit better was an event that Amherst facilitated dubbed "Winterfest" (Farmfest, Fallfest...we aren't the most creative group, clearly). ehjuoik

It was in the gymnasium/stadium place, I'm not too sure because I'm not really an athlete, but it was SO fun. There was a giant bouncy castle-thing in the center, which really consisted of two slides but you already KNOW I made my rounds, and they had a variety of food and activities around the main event. I distinctly remember pillaging the hot chocolate stand until they had none left, and they had these delicious waffles on the other side, and just WOW it was amazing.

My night started off with meeting up with my friends at Stearns Hall, a freshman dorm where a majority of my friends lived. Decked out in winter gear, we headed down to Coolidge Cage (I think that's what it's called) and walked in and were immediately excited because of how different it looked. There was purple lighting throughout the entire room (fitting), and there was even a giant mammoth on the side that we naturally took a picture in front of (literally one of my favorite pictures of freshman year). We first headed to Orr Rink, our on-campus ice skating rink, where they had more food and where they were letting students rent skates for free. I put some on and immediately started falling over, because honestly...the blades weren't sharp at all BUT that didn't reduce the fun I had. I cut myself a bit and fell down four too many times, but I had a blast - my friend Kelly probably didn't because she's an ice skating queen, but she thankfully waited for me. I even helped some friends get used to skating for the first time, which wasn't too easy considering the aforementioned dull skates. Eventually my legs got tired of falling, and we left to go back into the gymnasium where we explored all the stands.

hjuhjkl; The hot chocolate stand was definitely my favorite, but they were all really fun; we were able to take a picture at one of the stands which mimicked a photobooth, which depicted us sitting on a ski lift and provided us with plenty of props (ignore the sign, I'm not a party pooper). Right next to it was a fake curling set-up, where we had brooms and had to "sweep" the path in front of the puck as it traveled to the other side - I felt like a whole Olympic champion during those five minutes. 


We finished our night at this giant snowglobe thing...it was LITERALLY a life-size snowglobe, where we could go inside and pretend to be lil snow people. We went in after waiting in a short line and threw "snow" at each other for a solid three minutes and got some plastic in our mouths and had snow embedding itself into our hoods and jeans and socks, but overall we had a really great time and I really appreciated having the break amidst all the exam stress. I wasn't able to go to Farmfest during my freshman year because of my own tomfoolery, but I'm excited to go to all the "Fests" this year because they're SO wholesome. Prepare your camera rolls!

Boston Trip!

A couple of friends and I were able to go to Boston during the July 4th weekend, and I must say... Boston is pretty cool. I've only been to Boston once before, and I spent only a few hours there (meaning I went to Muji and Uniqlo and then left), so I was really excited to spend a couple days in the city and see what it had to offer. Tim, another summer intern, and myself, went on the trip to do some research on how other schools run their campus tours and information sessions. It was pretty fun doing this, because it brought us all back to our senior year in high school while giving us none of that same stress.

However, the other stuff we did in Boston is what made the trip as fun as it was!

FRIDAY

We arrived and had a majority of our tours on this day, so we were pretty exhausted after our last one. Before checking into our room, we went to an H-Mart - where Tim and Julie (a friend who joined us on the trip) bought a bunch of ingredients for dinner. I don't really know what the meal was called, but we ate noodles and rice and some sort of sauce all wrapped up in a lettuce...leaf thing? Again I'm not positive on the specifics, but the meal was GOOD. We finished off our night by visiting Julie's friend Jordan, who was in the MIT area, and got to meet some new people while there.

grehuosij SATURDAY

We had some brunch on Saturday at a renowned dim sum restaurant before heading off and checking out the Boston shopping areas. We first stopped by the Prudential Center, which I believe was just renovated - it housed some pretty high-end stores, and had some cool restaurants inside. The Center was really close to Newbury Street, so we headed out the side entrance and then shopped on the street; I once more spent too much money in Uniqlo and Muji, but I got some cool shirts and a new bag out of it so I'm not too angry at myself. The day somehow passed really fast, so by the time we left Muji it was time to grab some dinner. Our group split up, so Arianna and I (another intern!) went to an Indian restaurant called "Punjab Palace" which had some amazing Indian food, before reuniting with Tim/Julie/Julie's friend and chilling in a cafe for a few hours. We ended the night on the Charles River Esplanade, which had a great view of the Boston skyline, before heading back home.

SUNDAY food

Our day began at a Shabu Shabu restaurant, which was a whole new experience for me. Shabu Shabu is a meal where you keep a broth boiling and add various vegetables and meats to the broth, literally cooking your own meal at the same table you eat at. I'd never eaten something like that before, and perhaps that's why some of my chicken tasted a little off, but overall it was really fun. We stopped by Mt. Auburn's Cemetary (which has a great view) before we went and saw a few more schools; afterwards we went to Faneuil Market, where I had some of the best chocolate ice cream ever at Ghiradelli's. Ice cream in hand, we went to grab some dinner at Tenoch Mexican, where I had some great pollo asado, before heading to a Heize performance in town (where Tim actually met Heize, a popular K-Indie artist!). We drove back right after, and overall it was a great end to an amazing trip. I hope I can go back soon!

New York!

I was finally able to take advantage of Amherst's location and head to New York with some friends this past weekend, and it was SUCH a great trip. I will say the timing could have been better, because we went during the heat wave that was occurring at the time, but we did our best to stay indoors amidst the high temperatures.

SATURDAY rgfd

We left Amherst at around 11:00-ish, because our bus was leaving from Springfield at around 12:00 (protip: getting on the bus from Springfield is much cheaper). We had a friend drive us down there, and we boarded once we arrived and were on our way! It was a short 3.5-hour bus ride, and we arrived at Port Authority and were able to go from there. We were staying with some relatives of my friend DJ, so we made our way to Long Island and spent the rest of the day there - we ate at a Chinese buffet, stopped by a tattoo/piercing parlor, and played a visual novel before going to bed.

thgfd SUNDAY

Sunday was the most exciting day! We woke up a little late and grabbed some food at a nearby IHOP, and then headed on our way back to the city. We got off at Penn and went to some nearby stores; I had recently become a Starbucks addict so we went there, and then grabbed some Gong Cha for DJ and Steph. We headed back to the station and (after many cancellations, because the NJ Transit train is literally garbage) wound up at the Prudential Center for...a Twice concert!!! The concert was AMAZING and I bought some really cool merch and have tons of videos where all you can hear is our group yelling in mangled Korean, and overall I had a really great time. It lasted two hours, and they sang all of their main title gehij tracks - and all of them were SO good, because they added different rock/ballad/formation elements to change the songs up from their normal sound. They also performed some of their other songs, and even performed some covers; Sana/Dahyun/Tzuyu covered Dance for You (Beyoncé), Jihyo/Momo covered Goodbye (Taemin), and Jeongyeon/Nayeon/Chaeyoung covered Born This Way (Lady Gaga). All in all, it was a fantastic concert, and I'm really glad I was able to see them. We made our way back to Long Island after the concert, and after showering and cleaning ourselves up, finished the night with the latest Euphoria episode. 

yrhtdrg MONDAY

Because no buses run as late as we'd needed in order to get back on campus after the concert, we decided to stay an extra day and make the most of our time before we had to leave. After waking up and packing all of our stuff, we headed into the city once more and met up with Steph's family, since she lives in New York as well. We had some fantastic food (I had fried plantains for the first time...I was speechless) and chilled with her dog Neo, explored the nearby area for an hour or so, and then came back and ran to catch the subway to Port Authority one last time (admist more delays, which is always nice). We got on our respective buses and headed back home! I'm glad I was able to spend time in the city and see one of my favorite artists in the process. 

NoHo Trip!

This past weekend was a really fun one, because I finally mustered up the courage to bike to Northampton. There's a trail in the woods that I've always heard goes to the city, but I'd never been able to do it myself because I...am a very lazy person.

However, a few friends were planning on going so I decided to come along. We went to Frost Library, which is where the Bike Share facilities are housed during the summer - Bike Share is a program where (if you get there on time), you can rent out a bike for twenty-four hours. Thankfully, we all got bikes and were able to leave for NoHo at around 12:30ish. It took us just over an hour and we sustained some injuries in the process, due to the hilly nature of the path, but we managed to get there in one piece and spent a few hours exploring. 


Our first stop was Herrell's Ice Cream, where I had legitmately the BEST chocolate ice cream I've ever had. My mission is to find the ultimate chocolate ice cream, so I make it a point to order this flavor wherever I go (yes, I'm that boring). But this place literally had me ascending with each bite, it was so creamy and well-made. I'd definitely recommend the store if you're in town! My friends got milkshakes and different flavors, and we all really liked what we ordered. Plus, it was pretty affordable!

UO Next, we went to a place called Dobra Tea. This place leaves me speechless because of the design of it all, and because of the names of the teas (the one I've ordered twice now is called "The Sweet Smell of Jerusalem", with a description that just...confuses me). But it was really cute! We sat cross-legged on the Bohemian-esque cushions they had and drank tea together and it was really fun - and not too expensive either!

Our last stop was the Urban Outfitters in town. For some reason, it's placed in an old administrative building that I can't remember right now, making the interior look almost...industrial? In a way. But it's really well-executed, and the building is sectioned off really nicely because of the structure of the building. We didn't really buy anything, but we messed around and tried items on and took a picture before we left for our bike ride back. 

Biking to Northampton was a great workout, but an even better experience. I'm not sure if my thighs can survive another journey, but I know I'd always be down to try this again!

DASAC!

DASAC One of the best parts of my freshman year would have to be DASAC (Dance and Step at Amherst College), one of the many dance clubs on campus. DASAC focuses more on hip-hop styles, with there being other dance clubs that revolve around different styles, such as:

  • ACSU Dance (African & Caribbean Students' Union)
  • Intersections (contemporary)
  • Amherst Dance (tries to incorporate a large variety of styles)

 

DASAC in particular seemed most in line with my (little) dance experience, which is why I chose to audition. I remember seeing them perform at a showcase during my April Open House visit, and I remember seeing some of the dancers and going "I need to be here" - and so I tried out! Not all dance clubs require an audition, but DASAC is one that does.

The tryout was a little scary because of how I haven't actually had any formal training outside of YouTube videos in my basement, but somehow I fumbled my way through it and made it into the club and found myself in a whole new community. I'd have practice three times a week for three different practices, and initially found it hard to balance between the physical exertion of practice and my academic workload, but after a week or two I was able to make it work and found myself really enjoying the combination. I loved all the dances I was in, and felt like I was getting to know a lot more people whilst also growing as a dancer.

Hands-down the best parts of my freshman DASAC experience were the showcases; each semester, DASAC hosts a three-day showcase where all the choreographies are presented. We get all dressed up in costume and full make-up, and we always perform in front of a packed crowd - my favorite part is how during each dance, the rest of the club stands to the side of the stage and continuously hypes the dancers up to keep them going! It's SUCH a fun experience to be a part of, because it felt like my "performance high" lasted the entire showcase and I loved seeing so many people in the audience enjoying our dancing. During our second semester, we performed in the Powerhouse for the first time (a much larger venue) and had an entirely full house - my friends had to line up an hour and a half before the show started to get a good seat, and it was just an amazing atmosphere to perform in. 

Overall, my first year would not have been this great had it not been for DASAC. Not only was I able to actually show my dancing to others, I in turn found a community filled with so many diverse people who all gas each other up and make everyone feel appreciated. I've looked forward to each and every practice (despite the time commitment, which can get hard to balance during exam periods), and my life always feels empty during the practice-less weeks after the showcases. I'm super excited for this coming year, where I'll be helping co-lead DASAC amidst all the dancing - I hope I do this club justice, after everything it's already done for me!

If you'd like to see some of our videos, you can find us on Youtube here. If you're curious, I performed in this fall showcase and this spring showcase - but all of the videos uploaded are fun to watch. 

Adjusting to Amherst!

 

My first year at Amherst was definitely a whirlwind of experiences, but was one that I appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed. I remember being really scared during the weeks before Orientation, because (among other things)...all of my high school friends were staying in state, my family was moving from Michigan to Florida, and I had no idea how I'd adjust to a college that would be so far from home. Yet looking back, I know that I made the right decision to come here - and I truly feel like I've grown into a person that I wouldn't have become had I gone to another school.

 

A-B In terms of my academic workload, I came in as a pre-med student and so I immediately begain taking Intro Chemistry, amongst other "pre-med requirements" (more like recommended classes). I was overwhelmed at the get-go with the change in workload, because I'd always heard that going from the IB Program that I was involved in to college was an easy transition - it definitely wasn't! I had to work just as hard as I always had, and sometimes wouldn't get the expected results, but I had so many professors who were willing to come to my rescue (many, many times). One professor in particular, Professor Ampiah-Bonney, would actually meet with me every single week one-on-one to discuss any questions I'd have from lecture, and we got really close during the course of the school year. He actually came to my dance shows (more on that in another post!), and my friends and I were able to utilize a program called TYPO (Take Your Professor Out) to have dinner with him in town for free! He's one of many professors who were really understanding and helpful during my first year, especially amidst the stresses and tribulations of a STEM-heavy courseload. The picture on the right is from one of my Chem Discussions, where I wrote something on the board and Professor Ampiah-Bonney liked it so much, he took a picture with it LOL

 

In terms of the friends I made and how I adjusted socially, I will admit that it was really tiring the first few weeks. I didn't have a great grade school experience, and so I wanted to make sure I found a community that I enjoyed being a part of at Amherst - and because of that, I ended up overexerting myself when it came to going to every single event possible. I learned from my mistakes pretty quickly, but those days were tiring when they were occurring. Nevertheless, I was able to find people I really enjoyed being around! I will say that everyone at Amherst is essentially coming "alone" to Amherst, in that most people don't come with a full squad from high school - and therefore, everyone's eager to make friends. I found my friends by constantly hanging out in the Stearns common room (they had a ping pong table), since people would always come through and say hi; looking back, it's crazy how this one place led to me meeting so many important people, but I'm so grateful. The friends that I've made during my first year have already become so important to me (which is weird, because it normally takes a while for me), and I'm so excited to continue my time at Amherst with them. Not only did we study together and work hard academically, but we made memories at the nearby mall or Five College venues, and I was even able to go to a concert with some of my closest friends during spring break (more on that in another post!)

 

Overall, my first year at Amherst definitely wasn't a walk in the part - along the way, I went through some medical complications, and me being really prone to overstressing myself didn't really help. Yet somehow I've found a community that not only makes me feel accepted and appreciated, but one that also always wants me to succeed; and because of that, they're always pushing me to do my very best. I haven't always felt confident or comfortable in my skin, but that's already changing with just one year under my belt, and thinking of the future makes me really excited - albeit slightly scared, because I'll be taking Organic Chemistry this year. But that's neither here nor there!