Zach Jonas '22 - Welcome to my blog!

Let me introduce myself...

My name is Zach, and I am in the class of 2022. I’m all the way from Kansas City, Missouri, and I am a proud supporter of all Kansas City sports teams. I am a prospective history and biology major — which some say is an odd combination. 

Bio Pic When I am off campus, you will most likely find me on the bike path riding my bike to Northampton for a cup of coffee with lots of sugar (though sometimes I take a wrong turn and find myself at the bird sanctuary), wandering the streets of Amherst checking out and critiquing the newest boba cafés, playing pick-up soccer with friends on Gooding Field, or walking through the Amherst Books bookstore.

On campus, I love writing articles as the managing news editor for The Amherst Student newspaper (the college’s student-run newspaper), playing defense for the club soccer team, practicing my Spanish at the Mesas de Español, and listening to Rabbi Bruce while stuffing myself with food at Hillel with my friends.

I love talking and writing about my time at Amherst, and I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about campus, the town of Amherst, my major, or anything else you can think of! Just send me an email at zjonas22@amherst.edu.

What's it like going to such a small school?

When I tell people at home that I go to a small liberal arts college, they’ll ask me, “What’s going to such a small school like? Don’t you get tired of seeing the same people every day?”

To be clear, Amherst College has about 1,800 students. That is not a lot. And it’s nothing compared to the state schools some of my friends in Kansas City attend like the University of Kansas and Missouri. They have so many students they could be small towns. Amherst is not in a city, either, but it is just a fifteen-minute walk away from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, home to thirty-thousand students. Yet I don’t see a lot of UMass students unless it is Friday night and I’m in downtown Amherst getting a slice of Antonio’s pizza. 

Christmas Lights

(Enjoy the pictures of downtown Amherst and the gym at the college (below)!)

So when people unfamiliar with Amherst College think of 1,800 students, they may think of a small, rural town, where everyone looks and sounds the same.

I must get tired of seeing the same people every day, right? Not really. If everyone at Amherst were from the same hometown, went to the same high school and had the same background, I might get tired of it. But Amherst is incredibly diverse. 

It might be the most diverse place I have ever been. My high school in Kansas City used to proclaim that it had an unprecedented amount of diversity compared to similar schools. Of course, where I lived, it did. But Amherst blows that out of the water. Students of color make up about 50% of the college. To me, it seems that every student brings a slice of their home to Amherst, which makes it hard to get bored. For example, my friend from Hawaii recently started the “Hawaii Club.” We eat Hawaiian food, talk about Hawaii, and it’s a place for students to come together and talk about where they are from. 

I first noticed the (geographic) diversity at a party I went to during my freshman year. It was one of my first parties I attended, and the theme happened to be “hometown teams.” I put on my Kansas City chiefs hat and walked in. If you have ever been to “Lids” store in a shopping mall — it's the store lined with a thousand different hats for teams and cities —that is exactly what I walked into. About fifty people wearing their jerseys from their hometowns. And while there was definitely more New England Patriots apparel, I was surprised to see so many people from all across the world at a party. 

Gym

When students come from different backgrounds, they’ll have different stories to tell, all 1,800 of them. No one at Amherst is the same, and I think it would be impossible to get tired of so many different people. Some of my closest friends live in Colorado, Tennessee, Hawaii, California, Arizona, Illinois and Florida — Completely different people who arrived at Amherst in completely different ways. Also, just about 10% of the matriculating students each year are from outside of the U.S. Whenever I go home or to other colleges to visit my friends and notice how everyone looks the same, I remember how special of a place Amherst is. 

I was inspired to write this blog after I went to Antonio’s pizza the night before my last final. I looked at my friends around the table while eating my chicken, bacon, ranch slice and noticed that all five of us looked different from each other and came from different places.

Skating, Snowmen, and Snow!

I’ve had quite the active week! My finals are just around the corner, so you know what that means: procrastination. I’ve picked up multiple new hobbies: I’ve started reading the news every day, playing Pokemon Go for the first time in two years, and watching the show “Watchmen” on HBO. It's amazing what I can do while I'm procrastinating writing all my papers!

On Sunday, it snowed about 8 inches, and we all rejoiced when we received the email that said ‘Classes are canceled.’ So, like all college students who have finals projects and essays due the next week, we went to Frost Library to get our work done. Just kidding — we built a huge snowman outside of the Greenway D dormitory. Take a look! 

Snowman!

I was invited by a couple of friends on a whim to go skating at Orr Ice Rink on Tuesday. I brought my skates up from home the past semester for this very reason, but I had never skated there except at the annual Winter Fest last year. We had the ice all to ourselves. Once I started skating, I realized my skates were incredibly dull (and rusted). I saw two guys wearing Amherst hockey merch walk into the rink, and I hopped off the rink to ask if they knew where I could get my skates sharpened. One turned to the other, looked at me, and said, “I could probably do it for you right now if you want… for free, too.” That made my day so I thought it would be important to add to the blog. Ten minutes later, I had my skates sharpened and I was happily skating around! Take a look at the picture I took of the rink to show you all. 

On Saturday, I went to Morris Pratt dormitory to see my roommate Corey perform in his acapella show. He’s a member of Route 9, one of the many acapella groups on campus (Sidenote: Amherst is known as “The singing college.”). 

Route 9 Concert! Now it's Sunday morning. I have just walked into Frost library and found the quietest, comfiest place to write my history paper. Before uploading this blog, I drank three coffees and began grinding away at my history paper that's due on Wednesday. It's a 10 page review essay in which I analyze all of the work that we have done over the semester to reach a final conclusion. Wish me luck!

Ice Skating! Skates

Exploring Amherst's Surrounding Areas

Happy Thanksgiving break! I am currently writing this blog post in the comfort of my bed in Kansas City, Missouri, a long way from my home at Amherst! I thought I would dedicate this blog post to Amherst College’s surrounding areas, where people like to go when they have some free time. Usually, students will head to Northampton, which is just 15 minutes by car east of Amherst, Hadley, Springfield, Boston, New York, and even sometimes Montreal. 

I travel most to Boston and Northampton, so I will talk about those two places and how to get there! Northampton is the closest place to campus. It is the home of Smith College, one of the colleges in the five-college-consortium where we can take classes. It also has, I truly believe, the most coffee shops per kilometer in the universe. People head to Northampton to do all sorts of stuff, mostly shop, eat, attend classes at Smith, and do work at any of the cafés. 

During the holiday season, it feels like Northampton turns into a different world. Last year, I was trying to find some last minute gifts for my family before I went back home. I wandered around the town, lit up with holiday-lights, and turned into what seemed to be a small store called “Thornes.” When I ventured inside, I found the store packed with college-age people, walking through the plethora of small, artsy stores that are found inside Thornes. When I take friends and family to Northampton now, I make sure that they see Thornes!

I get to Northampton by taking the PVTA bus line (it's free for Amherst students!) which takes students through Amherst College, UMASS Amherst, and Smith fairly quickly, riding a bike that I can rent from Keefe Campus Center, or taking a quick Uber. It’s not a hassle to get around the area with all these resources! 

Head of the Charles River Regatta!

I try to go to Boston once or twice a semester because its so fun! Obviously it’s a big city and there is a lot of stuff to do, so I won’t talk about that here.

For breaks like Thanksgiving and the holiday season, Amherst provides free buses to and from Boston. Otherwise, most students without cars rely on friends with cars to get them to Boston — or you can take the Peter Pan bus line (which can sometimes be a little pricey). Take a look at the picture of my friends and I in Boston! We went to support the Amherst Men and Women’s Club Crew Team while they competed at the famous Head of the Charles Regatta!

Midterm Season is Upon Us!

This weekend, I traveled in a crowded bus of rowdy Amherst students all the way to Williamstown, Massachusetts — home of our rival college (whose name I will not say!). Though I thought about writing about my experience there and how that college’s physical campus differs from Amherst’s, I will table that topic for now and instead tell you what I was thinking about during our hour and a half bus ride to (more) Western Massachusetts. Midterm season.

Midterms are hard. Studying for midterms is hard. But I’ve learned a few tricks in the past year (not a lot of time, I know, but I will keep learning!) to help me prepare for my midterms during the heart of the semester.

NSC Hall View

First, I must mention that when I came to college, I didn’t know what exactly a midterm was. At my high school, we had essays, tests, midterms and finals. My first semester of chemistry that I took, I spent a lot of time studying for my midterm that came up a mere 4 weeks into the semester. How can this be our midterm?, I thought. Is it really already halfway through the semester? As it turns out, I had 3 other midterms for that same chemistry course. All tests here at Amherst College are called midterms! 

I think to do well during midterm season, you need to figure out how to study for your tests and essays (both of which are called midterms). When my midterms are coming up around the corner, I will get lots of sleep on Saturday night, grab a cup of coffee from Valentine Dining Hall and then travel to the Science Center to find a spot to hunker down and study. This is around the time of year when lots of students will find their designated studying spots. Last year, my place to study was the quiet, third level of Frost Library. This year, I’ve migrated to the third floor of the Science Center to work. It helps me to take intermittent breaks while I am studying and look through the long panes of glass that make up the Science Center (It really is a great view. Look at the pictures that I have attached!).

NSC View

For me, I have to start studying, at least, maybe, 5 days before essays are due or tests. And I don’t want to scare you. I know lots of people who do almost no work over the weekends. Ever. But, most of my friends and I like to spread our work out over the weekend, which, I think, is the most common approach to dealing with a lot of work at Amherst. Two of the most infamous weeks for midterms (in the fall semester) are the week before the start of our four-day Fall break and the week before our week-long Thanksgiving break. But, during those weeks, and other weeks interspersed throughout the semester, the college  and student-led clubs support us with fun activities for students to engage in. For example, I know that one club last week brought baby bunnies and goats to campus for students to play with! I also have to mention that last year, before the finals period of the Spring semester, a student-run club put on a yoga class with baby goats. 

Anyway, I’ve learned to deal with the stress of midterm season by finding my spot in the science center and grinding away at my work with a hot cup of light roast coffee. Interspersed with a little bit of destressing time by working out, taking a walk along the bike path, playing with goats, or hanging out with friends at the student-led club events, you can get through midterms season just fine.

My Spanish Class at Amherst College!

For this week’s blog, I want to tell you all about one of my favorite classes this semester — my Spanish Literature and Culture class (Español Literatura y Cultura 301). If you are thinking about majoring in a language or even taking a language class while in college, this blog post is for you. Each week my professor tasks our class with reading poems, short stories and books. We take notes on them and share our notes with the class through google docs. During class, we answer questions and discuss the readings (all in Spanish, of course) with our professor and language TA, Lucho. 

This past week, Colmbian Director and Professor Margarita Babel-Arboleda came to our classroom to direct three of her short plays with my classmates and I as the actors. Keep in mind that I have never been a part of any meaningful theatre show or act, basically, in my life. In two classes, my small group and I learned the basics of theatre by performing one of her plays, “Patadas de Ahogado.” The next Tuesday, we performed the play in front of some of our friends not in the class in Keefe Campus Center. It was recorded and everything — very professional (besides our poor acting abilities, of course)! Here’s a picture of us performing:

Spanish Teatro

While I do love our two class meetings every week where we take an in-depth look at the poems, short stories and books that we read, what I really love most about the class is how it has helped me develop my Spanish speaking skills by engaging me in other activities that the Spanish department puts on.

I actually began my first semester here by taking a different language class, Elementary German I. To be honest, I took the class because I thought it wouldn’t take a lot of time and would guarantee me an ‘A’ grade. To be blunt, I was very wrong. I found out a couple of weeks into the semester that I had to dedicate more hours of homework to my German class than some of my other classes! I also had a lot of fun practicing (some words like Fünf­und­fünfzig, the number 55, are super fun to say!). 

Even though I enjoyed my German class, I made the decision to switch to Spanish, which I had taken in high school. I wanted to be fluent in another language, and I wanted to be fluent fast. 

Each Friday since the semester started I have eaten lunch at La Mesa de Español (The Spanish Table) in Valentine Dining Hall. During La Mesa, all sorts of students get together to speak Spanish while eating. 

It is one of my favorite times of the week. I generally sit with Lucho, Braulio and Rocío who are the Fulbright Scholars and Teaching Assistants (TAs) from Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina, respectively. I get to practice my Spanish by talking with them and other students about anything we want.


When I have time on Thursdays, I walk across campus to attend La Tertulia in Newport House, the Spanish Language house. You can think of La Tertulia as a fireside chat where students gather with faculty, TAs and students affiliated with the Spanish Department. You can learn a little bit more about the Tertulia at this Link (In the first picture in the article, try and find me! Hint: I was cropped out of the picture :( , but my single brown boot made an appearance!)

I declared my majors! (Well, sort of)

I did it! Today I declared one of my majors (and tried to declare my other one). I walked right into Converse Hall, where the registrar is located, and proudly handed over my major declaration form with the words “Biology” and “History” on top of the page.  

I smiled, accepted a pin that said “I declared!” and was about to begin walking towards the exit when I heard the man at the desk say, “Wait a second, you can’t do this.” 

The pin I got when I declared my major!

Before I turned in my major form, I spent some time cuddled up in my dorm room trying to figure out if I even wanted to major yet. After all, I could wait as long as possible (second semester sophomore year) to declare my major. So in this blog post, I’ll try to explain why I tried to major in two, seemingly, completely different fields. 

Before my first semester at Amherst, I knew that I really enjoyed my biology and history classes in high school. When I signed up for my first year courses during the Fall of 2018, I took an introductory chemistry course, a history course, and two other humanities classes, intro to German and philosophy. I didn’t take any biology courses because I thought I could make them up later. Even though not taking an intro biology class that first semester delayed my start to beginning the major, I don’t really regret that decision because it let me to figure out what else I liked. For example, I quickly realized that even though I thought the language sounded so cool, German was not for me . 

Ironically, I think, my love for history at Amherst came from the first philosophy class that I took. In my introduction to philosophy class, even though I didn’t like the materials we read from, I did think it was interesting to break down the arguments and decide whether it made any sense. During my history class my first semester, I found myself breaking down an argument in a manifesto that we read. I thought, ‘Huh, I guess I can do the argument thing in my history classes, too!’ And that was that. I decided that I really liked history.

As for my intro to chemistry class, one of the classes that I need to take to major in biology, I struggled a bit with material and, mostly, the math in the problems. The math didn’t, I thought, seem to click in my head like it did in everyone else’s. Frankly, what kept me going in the very first chem class was knowing that I needed to take it to take higher level biology classes. At the end of the semester I thought, ‘Okay, if I can do these super hard chemistry problems all by myself, I can figure out how to do biology, too.’ 

Next, I needed to announce to my academic advisor that I planned on majoring in biology and history. She completely supported me. To make up for the biology classes that I hadn’t taken yet, I would just need to take two biology classes at the same time for the next few semesters. And to finalize the process of declaring my major, all I needed to do was to get the signatures of the history department chair and the biology department chair. Easy enough, right? I was so excited that I totally forgot to get the history signature. I went straight back to the science center to get the signature for biology that I needed. 

Back in the registrar’s office, I was just about to leave when it was pointed out to me that I had left the history department chair’s signature blank. I wouldn’t be able to declare my major in history without it. But that didn’t stop me from declaring in biology! I honestly just didn’t want to wait any longer. I told the man working at the desk in the registrar, I’ll be back early next week to get my second ‘I declared’ pin! 

My Sunday Routine

Where I am from in Missouri, I’ve never really experienced the changing of the leaves. Of course they change colors and it’s pretty — the trees in Missouri aren’t that different from Amherst’s — but I never put myself in a position to appreciate it. That’s completely changed since I got to Amherst. I remember walking to the gym last fall, taking the path from the first-year quad down Memorial Hill, and looking across the hill to see an ocean of oranges, yellows, and reds. I had never seen anything like it. Since that moment last semester, I make sure to sit outside on Memorial Hill, just for a bit every weekend during the fall, to watch the trees slowly change colors. So, this Sunday, I tried to spend most of my time outdoors.

Greenway Tree
I love my Sundays at Amherst. I make sure that my Sundays are my day to relax. I think everyone needs a day like that — one day that’s dedicated to relieving any stress that’s built up over the week. Usually, I explore town, hang out with friends, and eat a lot of food at the dining hall. On Sundays, those are always my priorities. This weekend, I started out by exploring.

I borrowed my roommate's bike and traveled down the bike path toward Northampton, spending most of the morning wandering through the shops near Smith College, stopping in at coffee shops, and arriving back on campus in time for brunch.

The Sunday morning breakfast at Valentine Dining Hall happens to be one of my favorite meals. It is the only time I have the option to gorge myself on an all-you-can-eat buffet of chocolate-filled croissants. This morning, instead of eating in my usual spot, on the couch of the first room, I ate on the second floor balcony of Val — it’s a lesser-known spot on campus that we call the “Valcony.”

FYQ Leaves I would usually head to the New Science Center to finish up some of my post-laboratory work for my organic chemistry class — sounds bad, right? It’s not. I like to spread out my chemistry homework over the week so I never have to do too much at one time.

I have a routine for doing my homework over the weekends. I start with my STEM classes, biology and chemistry, finish that work to get it out of the way, and move on to my other homework that I find more unwinding — homework I can do on Sunday evenings without any stress. On this day, that work was the readings from my Spanish and black studies classes.

After I finished, it was more smooth-sailing for the rest of the day. I walked into town, stopped by CVS for a few bags of chips to store away in my room for later that night, and then checked out the newest assortment of Amherst merch at A.J. Hastings.