20151019_HA_AC_ADM_StudentHeadshots.jpg

My name is Andrew Kim, and I am originally from Seoul, South Korea. I now reside in Mukilteo, Washington, a suburban neighborhood 30 minutes north of Seattle. I am currently a sophomore at the college, studying math and history.

Aside from my academic studies, I am heavily involved in the music scene at Amherst: I recently was promoted to sing Tenor II instead of Baritone for the Amherst College Glee Club, and I am also a jazz pianist for one of the student-run jazz combos. I also lead tours for the Department of Admission on a weekly basis.

Some fun facts about myself? Here are a couple. 1) I still don't know how to tie a tie. 2) I write with my right hand but do everything else with my left hand. So am I left-handed or right-handed? 3) I grew roughly 8 inches from 8th grade to my freshmen year in high school. 4) I love all things related to old Hollywood movies, and my favorite actor/actress will have to be Audrey Hepburn.

Staying on Campus for Spring Break


 

As I walk back to my room from my last class before spring break, I see my roommate hastily packing his backpack to catch the shuttle back to New York. Going back home for spring break is a luxury that not many of us can enjoy, especially for those who are from the west-coast or are international. So, once again, I wave goodbye to my roommate and stare into the void, imagining the space that used to be occupied moments ago.

Flash forward and it is already four days into spring break, and I have loved every moment of it so far! The atmosphere at Amherst during spring break is so different from Amherst during the school day. Here are some reasons why you should consider staying on campus for at least one spring break, even if you live close to Amherst.

1) You have a newfound appreciation for tranquility.
Things are hectic during the school year. People are always moving to and fro, trying to make the deadline, and showing up to meetings that they have overbooked themselves for. But once spring break rolls around, the campus falls into hibernation, and for the first time, people are aimlessly meandering. I wake up when I want to, go to town if I feel inclined to do so, and eat food whenever I want to. The college is calm once again, and I find peace in the fact that I am a part of that calmness.

2) You can finally explore the college and the town of Amherst.
Spring break is an apt time to go explore the college and the town. Many people assume the town of Amherst to end at CVS, but there is so much more to the town than the convenience store. Likewise, there is much more to Amherst than Frost and Merrill. It’s not a bad idea to bring a picnic blanket, lie down on top of the Memorial Hill, and look out into the distance without worrying about other people’s judgment.

3) You can catch up on sleep.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I woke up around 1PM yesterday and I have no regrets.

4) You can go on random excursions.
The Pioneer Valley Transport Authority will take you to places outside of Amherst and show you that there is actually a sizable population in Western Massachusetts. If you are feeling really adventurous, there are Amherst College vans you can rent to go on excursions beyond Amherst. I went down to Boston yesterday, and some of my friends went to check out Maine, New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. The New England region is in your hands – but only if you plan well.

Staying on campus over spring break is not too bad. Of course, the warmth of home-cooked meals may seem more appealing, but there is a certain sense of comfort Val provides as well. Maybe I am becoming used to the idea that Amherst is taking place as a second home for me. 

On Thanksgiving

This year's Thanksgiving was especially more memorable for many reasons.

It came at a time right after the Amherst Uprising movement, which emotionally drained many of us as we fought for causes that we saw as undeniably fundamental to every student at Amherst.

It came at a time after the tragedies in Paris, Lebanon, Japan, Nigeria, and everywhere else in the world suffering from terrorism, disease, natural catastrophe, and the like.

It came at a time where I felt lost in many ways - people have called this symptom to be "Sophomore Slump" - in terms of academics, life decisions, career paths, and so forth. 

So, as my plane departed from Boston Logan airport to head to Seattle, I felt a surge of relief and anticipation for the week of relaxation I would have back home in Mukilteo, Washington. Sitting next to me were four of my good friends from college that decided to join me in this season of Thanksgiving. It was the first time visiting Seattle for all of them: One was from South Korea, one from California, one from Papua New Guinea, and one from Chicago. A small sliver of the world sat next to me as our plane took off, and I was already starting to map out the week, strategically analyzing what would be the most efficient way of showing Seattle to my friends.

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I don't think this phrase only applies in a romantic setting. When I saw my mom and my dad at the airport waiting to pick me and my friends up, a rush of emotion welled up in me. We are independent college students bravely thrown with the freedom of making our own decisions and doing "adult" things, but when I saw my dad in our Toyota Highlander from afar, I realized I'm still a kid that has a lot of growing up to do. And there's nothing wrong about that.

When we arrived home, our house seemed convivially congested, thanks to the four friends who journeyed all the way to the other corner of the United States with me. The highlight of our stay was undoubtedly our venture into Downtown Seattle.

Wrapping up Sophomore Year

I still remember when I first arrived at Amherst as a wide-eyed, way-too-eager first-year student. It’s crazy to think that in less than a week, I will be finished with my last final and close the curtain to my sophomore year at Amherst College. It’s a testament to the malleable quality of time, and how this arduously long year seemed to have passed by in a blink of an eye.

The transition from your first-year to your second-year at Amherst may cause a severe imbalance in your academic and social life. Speaking from my personal experience, I can barely recognize my freshman self compared to who I have become now. I have become less temperamental, calmer, and not as quick to judgment as I was before. I learned to focus on school more than socializing, prioritize sleep over staying up, and keep in contact with professors I have taken classes with previously.

Now that everything is coming to a rapid close, I think there are definitely couple things I have learned in my past two years of attending Amherst College. The school has changed the way I look at the world, the way I recognize institutional oppression on certain groups of people, and most importantly, the way I look at myself as a student at Amherst College and as a person stuck in a limbo between my Korean and American identity. Taking classes such as “The Immigrant City,” participating in both Korean and Asian Student Association, and performing jazz music with my jazz combo helped me immensely in forging my identity at this college.

Specifically in terms of my sophomore year, here are some things I am going to miss the most:

1) Hosting a formal with my floormates at Garman Dormitory

2) Walking back from Frost Library at 1AM and being greeted by my roommate who is drifting in and out of sleep

3) Taking professors out to dinner (thank you TYPO)

4) Sleeping

5) Doing research on a topic that interested me (Chinese-Americans living in Holyoke)

6) Skipping Val and randomly going to town to eat

7) Going on random excursions to Williams College to see my friends there (are they my friends though if they go to Williams?)

8) Getting through Sophomore year

To any prospective students reading the blog, I want you to know that college goes by fast so savor every moment of it. It’s the only time one can truly expand one’s intellectual horizon by meeting people from all over the world and forge long-lasting friendships in the process.

On the Sit-In, the World, and Solidarity

On November 12, 2015, a group of students gathered in Frost Library at 1PM to sit in for those suffering from racial marginalization at the University of Missouri and Yale. What was originally scheduled to last an hour blew up to became a campus-wide movement, providing a platform for students to speak up and address the flaw in administrative decisions that are very much present at Amherst College.

I walked into Frost Library around 4PM on Friday, expecting to see maybe a few students sticking around after the designated time slot of the sit-in. However, what I witnessed surprised me: sea of students was gathered around the lobby of the first floor, discussing about their personal experiences as a person of color (POC) at Amherst. It was emotionally cathartic to say the least. Undeniably, so much hurt and pain were palpable in that area, and I was overcome with the cohesive unity of the student body. For the first time while I’ve been at Amherst, students convened in a space where dialogues of racial justice, immigrant marginalization, and lack of representation in faculties were welcomed and encouraged. I stood amidst the group of people in that space, acknowledging the history being made in that particular moment.

It’s doubly hard focusing on such an impactful movement happening on our campus while so many unspeakable tragedies are rampant around the world. Terrorist attacks in Paris, twin bombing in Beirut, school shooting in Kenya, earthquake warning in Japan… my heart is heavy today for what our world has become, and my head hangs low because it seems like we are trapped inside this framework of tragedy and sorrow.

As students at Amherst unite to show solidarity for the racial marginalization going on across the country and as student bodies collaborate to put forth several appeals for the college to meet, we also have to stand in solidarity and faith for the world. My wish is that what’s happening in Frost Library right now serves as a beacon of hope, that in this time of hardship, we, the students at Amherst College, are coalescing to fight for what is right.

Even as I am composing this post, things are changing, and I can say with clarity that things are changing for the better. For the first time since I’ve been at this college, I am witnessing a sense of unity among the Asian students at Amherst at an unprecedented level. Solidarity in unity seems to be the most powerful catalyst in inciting a change within an institution, and I am grateful to have been playing a role in the pivotal moment of Amherst College history.

Update: As of today, November 15, 2015, the sit-in at Frost Library came to a close. In the past four days of the sit-in, there were more changes in the school than I could have possibly imagined. I wish for this momentum to propel us through the school year and ultimately have every voice be heard on this campus.

 

 

On Perpetuity

As the sixth week of my sophomore year comes to a drastic close, I realized the constancy in the amount of workload assigned by professors on a given day. But despite the hectic schedule, I deem these moments of action to be the moments where I can truly feel my conscience navigating through the labyrinthine college path.

Labyrinthine it may be, college seems to hold a certain degree of perpetuity in the past and in the present. Last year, I changed my focus of studies from concentrating on pre-medical studies to optimistically declaring my academic focus as “Undecided” (though I am planning on declaring math and history). This radical academic transformation of mine was certainly met with skepticism and backlash from people around me, including some from my friends and family. Despite my reorientation of academic goals, I am perpetually learning and perpetually curious about the topics that intrigue me and enthrall me.

One criticism I received from my friend was that by ditching the pre-medicine route and opting for a study in humanities and mathematics, I was “copping out” from the intolerable weight put on pre-med students. But after taking classes in modern Japanese history and global environmental history this semester, I cannot reinforce how utterly and horrendously wrong this preconception is. When one notices that the grass is greener on the other side, it may also be the case that the observed grass may actually be the same shade of green as the one he or she is stepping on. It would be hypocritical of me to deny the fact that I, too, saw the grass of humanities to be greener than the grass of laboratories and sciences. However, as I slowly start examining the grass of humanities up close and personal through the telescope of an ex-pre-med student, I am realizing the breadth of intellectual vigor humanities can offer. History is a topic of much speculation and vigilance, as one needs to keep up-to-date with the current event as well as preserve the heritage of the past and construct a framework for the future based on these heritages.

I am excited to engage in the study of history, and although it requires extensive reading and annotation, I am genuinely challenged and piqued by the text. When I tell people I am studying math and history at college, they look at me as if I am academically confused or pragmatically unsound. Some of their prejudice makes sense; after all, there is a striking dichotomy between my areas of academic focus. But the inquiry into two definitively different studies makes my academic career all the more exciting, and as I have mentioned before, I am studying math and history under the perpetuity of intellectual curiosity that is laden underneath the subjects. Be it physics, biology, psychology, or math, there will always be a thirst for learning, questions, and conjectures. Perpetually changing, yet perpetually constant. Isn’t this how the world became the way it is now?

 

On feeling inadequate at times

Students at Amherst come from diversely different backgrounds. We have students from Egypt, South Korea, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Nepal, and more. We have students who attended charter schools, public schools, private schools, international schools, and magnet schools. We have students who are the first to attend college in their families and students whose great-great-grandfather went to Amherst. The diversity at Amherst is limitless, and I'm sure the more I pick apart the student body, the more differences I am bound to find.

But regardless of where everybody came from, we were all accomplished students in high school to some degree or another. I still remember my freshmen orientation last year when the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, Katharine Fretwell, listed the empirical statistics of students who were entering college in my class. Many were valedictorians at their respective high schools, one was an internationally ranked table tennis player, and couple students were already published authors.

So, when these valedictorians, authors, table tennis experts, accomplished athletes, and musicians all come together to a small liberal arts school in Western Massachusetts, you will be pushed out of your comfort zone to a place that has been uncharted prior to your arrival at Amherst. Simply speaking, there will be a time when you experience failure and inadequacy. I got less than 50% on my first-ever chemistry quiz I took at Amherst. And for someone who easily navigated through high school academics and received high scores on majority of the tests, I was devastated by the paltry numerical value assigned to my chemistry test score.

I think it's taken me my entire first year to take a step back and realize just how incubated I have become in this academic environment. Before I go on, I wouldn't categorize Amherst as being a competitive environment; rather, it's a place where (at least for me) everybody seems to be doing everything on campus. But we have to realize that this sort of internal strife incurs because of how academically reputable Amherst is compared to other colleges.

We were all big fishes in high school, but once we entered college, we realize that all the other fishes are just as big as yourself. So, inevitably, there will come a time where we feel inadequate in college compared to who we were before college. But I think that's the reason why we deliberately choose to attend college: to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone and embrace what college and life can offer to us.

I think once I got used to this mindset, I converted my feelings of inadequacy to opportunities for growth and self-introspection. I came to college planning to take pre-med requirement classes, but I am now a mathematics and history double major (so completely unrelated to my previous plan). Because I allowed myself to reflect on what I enjoy and because Amherst provides the liberty for students to pursue their interest, I feel like I've come out of my freshmen year as a more wholesome person.

So, if you are reading my post, keep in mind that feeling inadequate at college is completely normal - in fact, even welcomed. The question is what you do with that feeling of inadequacy. 

Homecoming and other thoughts

Homecoming is a busy time for everyone. Alumni are coming back on campus to relive their glory days as a once-fearless student of Amherst College, football players are revving up to give their best performance on Pratt Field (now Lehrman Stadium), and current students of the college are reveling in the joy of apple cider, tailgating, and numerous other shenanigans available to them at their disposal.

Being a member of the glee club and a jazz combo, I sang the Star Spangled Banner with the choral society for the football game, played couple tunes with the jazz combo for the alumni, and performed for the Homecoming Choral Society concert. I guess what I want to say is that everybody seemed to be busy in some extent or another during Homecoming.

But does this mean that we have to make ourselves busy during Homecoming in order to feel like we are doing something that's with the current? This notion seems to be a common trend at not just Amherst, but in other schools as well. The relationship between how busy we are and our well-being should not be compromised as a way for us to feel like we fit in with the culture of the college. 

What I mean by this is simply the idea of stepping back once in a while and examining our surroundings for a little bit instead of constantly being immersed in it. I was at the Homecoming Football game today, and it would be a lie to say that I did not have fun (believe me, homecoming is one of the most looked-forward-to events for the entire campus). I greeted friends who came to see the game, crashed a couple tailgating events that I was not invited to, and took unhealthy amount of pictures with people that I did not even know (the picture I have posted on this blog is of people that I know, by the way).

IMG_0595.JPG

Me , Chico, and Steve before the Choral Society Concert

 

Once I have unleashed all the contained "fun" out of my system, I headed back to my room to continue my thoughts onto this blog post. When I told my friends that I was heading back to the dorm, they looked at me as if I told them I was dropping out of college. And there is nothing wrong with taking a break from all the festivities to sit back and relax! The perennial symptom known as "fear of missing out" may feel dreadful to everyone, but once you realize that everyone has this irrational "fear" to some extent, you can find solace in that realization itself. Everyone feels left behind in this fast-paced, unrelenting society, and that is completely fine.

I categorize myself as an extroverted introvert, which means that as much as I enjoy being with people and partaking in social activities, I desperately need my alone time as well. Being with people at the Homecoming game was fun, but I needed this time by myself to feel alleviated from the nonstop motion of people after people. Through my blog post, I hope I can provide a sliver of the reality of college life; it's going to be fast-paced, dynamic, progressive, and even stressful at times. When you feel like you are in these moments, take a step back and relax. You will find these moments of relaxation to be even more fruitful in times of hectic schedule.