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Hi guys! My name's Ashley Montgomery but I also go by Monty. I'm a senior from this tiny town outside of Atlanta, Georgia--it's called Union City, and it's a definite "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" place. Even though I'm majoring in English, the open curriculum allows me to frequently indulge in my Film and Media Studies habit. In addition to running my own blog, I host a superhero talk show on the College's radio station, WAMH, co-produce AC News (the College's broadcast news club), and write for various student publications on campus, such as The Amherst Student newspaper and The Element (science magazine).

It's my last year here and I'm a bit sad to leave just yet. So when I'm not working at Frost Library or doing any of the above, I can be found scouring the Pioneer Valley area for man-on-the-street interviews (for WAMH or AC News), reading bad Young Adult novels, re-watching every superhero movie known to man, or chilling with friends, all of whom are classmates who come from all over the country. Here's hoping to making this year count! Feel free to email me at ammontgomery16@amherst.edu! (Note: there are 2 consecutive m's after the "a")

My Last Post: Freshmen 15+ (Advice from an Amherst Senior to You)

It's weird being able to be with my friends, fully in the moment, without homework or work on my mind. By this time next week, we'll be graduates of Amherst College and I'm not sure when I'll see them again so this week is all about them.

This is also my last blog post. The second I got this position, I knew what my last post would be--some advice for incoming students and students who want to make the most of their time here. I'm pretty tame when it comes to the stereotypical college experience but, for the most part, I've enjoyed my time here.

 

1 Take at least one five-college class. Trust me, the small campus is usually a good thing but sometimes you just need a break. Each of the five colleges has their own unique classroom atmosphere and it's such a different point of view (I've taken a class at each except Smith). My advice for picking one? It should either be helpful towards your major or career goals, a topic you find interesting, or one that won't eat up tons of time.

Hampshire Class

 

2 Explore by yourself. Don't be a hermit but don't be afraid to be alone in a new place, even as a freshman. It'll build confidence and even give you a chance to catch your breath. And on that note...

 

3 Find a secret study spot. Okay, so I kinda stole this from Cal Newport, but it's still good advice. Find a place to use when you really need to buckle down that's not in your dorm or the libraries. Amherst has tons of tucked away spots in the academic buildings all over campus and even some places in town are a good idea.

 

4 Try a job or extracurricular that you'd never considered before. I like listing all of the various positions or jobs my friends and I have held during our time here--builder of T-Pain's stage, after school tutor, research assistant, cartoonist for school paper, psych study participant, etc.--because at the very least, it's a fun story to tell, and at the most, it's something that could shape your outlook towards life.

Last WAMH Radio Show

 

5 Apply for awards and prizes. I'm always surprised by how many of my fellow classmates don't know about the prizes the College has, especially within their major! Don't be afraid to apply to them--you've got nothing to lose!

 

6 Go on field trips. If you decide to take a Geology course here, you won't have a choice in the matter. But everyone else: if a class offers a field trip, plan for it in advance and try to go! For one Shakespeare course, the students got to experience a production of Nevermore in New York City. For one of my film courses, we spent the entire day at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Museum in Boston. One of my classmates spent his Spring Break volunteering in South America.

Chicago

 

7 Do or don't study abroad; it's up to you. Tons of juniors here study abroad and come back feeling relaxed and inspired. Then there are students like me, who decide to stay back for a variety of reasons such as needing to work, wanting to lead a club, staying closer to home, etc. Either way, it'll be peaceful. Trust me.

 

8 Watch the sunrise. If you've visited the College, you'll know of Memorial Hill and the Holyoke mountain range just beyond it. With construction finally ending this summer, you'll be able to see it, and it truly is a beautiful sight.

 

9 Take a class outside of your major. The beauty of the open curriculum is that you finally have the opportunity to become well-rounded while staying true to your interests. So although I'm an English major, I'm still interested in science and math, so I take one of those courses every year as well as a film course. This tactic is actually how I ended up an English major (I was originally a science major and took an outside elective in English).

Film Thesis Presentation

 

10 Go to the Career Center. Go every year. They're actually helpful and brilliant in helping you job search, tailor your online presence, and just keeping you informed of new findings about your interests (whether it's volunteering, programs, special guests to campus, etc.).

 

11 Explore with your friends. There's nothing wrong with taking trips all over with friends, especially if you're going a tad outside of the Connecticut River Valley area...

Spring

 

12 Learn how to use the library. Again, one of the greatest legacies I leave is being responsible for getting our Marvel movie collection. Did you know you can request materials (books, magazines, articles, comic books, DVDs, etc.) from the other four colleges? From other libraries in the country? Or even ask the library to buy them? Yep.

Captain America DVDs

 

13 Give yourself something to look forward to. It's not all sunshine and rainbows here, so have something you can count on. For me, it's French Toast Stick day in Val. For another friend of mine, it's Lemonade by Giggles during the annual Spring Carnival. To each their own.

 

14 Talk with people. At the College, in the five-college area, in the airport or bus station--if someone strikes up a friendly conversation and they're not a pickpocket or axe-murder, talk back. You'll probably enjoy yourself. You may not, but at the very least you'll have a fun story to tell later. You'll find tons of duds that may not mesh with your personality but I guarantee you'll sift and discover a few gems as well.

 

15 Come out of college better than how you came in. You're here to learn, not just in the classroom, but all over (why else would over 90% of us live on campus?) so learn and be open-minded. Also, don't be surprised when your definition of open-minded becomes more open as well.

 

That's all I have for you guys. I wish I could impart more knowledge. Oooh, wait!

 

Visit every five college campus.

The best comic book stores, restaurants, and vintage shopping nearby are in Northampton.

Yes, you can get a public library card at the library in town if you're a student (and I highly recommend doing so).

Yes, there are co-ed floors but no, you don't have to live on them.

The Q-Center (Moss Quantitative Center) is valuable resource for STEM tutoring and free printing.

The QRC (Queer Resource Center) a valuable place for queer, questioning, and allied folks with great snacks and free printing.

The campus is tiny; you'll recognize everyone and feel comforted by that. You'll never want to leave.

The campus is tiny; you'll recognize everyone and feel suffocated by that. There are tons of areas to go to for free nearby.

Remember it's cheaper to lose your ID than your key, but try not to lose either.

Don't panic about Room Draw; if you're terribly unhappy with your room, there are official ways to request a move.

There's tons of free pizza at new meetings of the year; go to them and bring tupperware.

Tupperware is your friend.

Invest in a good pair of: snow boots, supportive sneakers, rain boots, and dress shoes.

You will get lost; it's inevitable, don't worry about it.

 

Is that it? I think so. I hope so.  This post seems too long but also unending. I suppose what I'm trying to say is everything is going to be fine (I'm saying this to you guys as well as to myself). College is a time of transition, joy, pain, sleep, insomnia, and pizza (even if you're lactose intolerant, like me). There's no ideal experience or stereotypical experience; it's unimaginable, but try to find some comfort in that--that your future could be better than you ever dreamed of--instead of fear. Hold on that, and you'll be alright.

 

Trust me.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Sincerely,

Ashley "Monty" Montgomery

 

Happy Free Comic Book Day

Happy Free Comic Book Day! One of my favorite parts about being this Valley area is that there's always some event going on. For instance, this past Saturday was both Free Comic Book Day and Pride Day. Where I'm from, there are no comic book stores nearby, and if there were, I'm pretty sure my mom wouldn't take me.

 

Here, on the other hand, there are two comic book stores in Northampton (on basically the same street if you can believe it). For those of you who don't know, Northampton is where Smith College is located, which means the area is accessible for free by bus for Five College students.

 

It was a superhero-packed weekend for me. As I head into more and more last's of my undergraduate career, I find myself appreciating certain things I grew fond of during freshmen year, like my friends, the free bus routes, and the freedom of deciding my own schedule.

 

On Friday morning, I went to see Captain America: Civil War. The closest mainstream movie theater is in Hadley in between Wal Mart and Target and about twenty minutes away by bus. But there's also an indie theater in the Amherst Town Center (one of my Screenwriting professor's films was shown there last year) as well as small but still mainstream movie theater in South Hadley near Mt. Holyoke College (about thirty minutes away by bus).

 

After the film, I headed back to campus to work on a final paper. Friday was actually the last day of classes but because I only had classes on Monday, Tuesday, and  Thursday, I was already done by then.

 

In the afternoon was Senior Assembly. Senior Assembly is this annual event where Prizes are awarded to certain seniors, there are speeches, and the Professors attend in their caps and gowns. Seniors also attend in their caps and gowns. Although it was pouring rain, Johnson Chapel was still packed with the graduating seniors.

Senior Assembly

(Courtesy of Amherst College Instagram)

 

The next day was Free Comic Book Day. It's been rainy here so my friend offered to drive me to both comic book stores in Northampton. The first was Newbury Comics, which, admittedly has a small selection of comics but is great for all things geek and fandom--Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, etc. I got a few free comics from there as well as few of my favorite Marvel Bobbleheads. I honestly couldn't resist.

Free Comic Book Day

(Captain America was a gift but at least now he has friends and comics to surround him!)

 

The next stop was Modern Myths. This store is for hard-core comic book fans and even has nights of cosplay, Dungeons and Dragons playing, and comic book artist support group sessions.

 

Not too long after we got back to campus, I hosted my last Superhero Show on WAMH. It was all about Captain America: Civil War, a non-spoiler review.

Last WAMH Radio Show

(Inside WAMH DJ Booth for the last time)

 

It was a difficult good-bye for me. But one experience made it worth it:

 

After the show, I was working behind the desk at the library, when a student came to check out a book. As I scanned his ID and book, he looked down at my Spider-Man sweatshirt then asked, "Wait. Don't you host the Superhero Show on WAMH?" I nodded, stunned. "I've tuned in a couple times; it's pretty cool." I was shocked.

 

 It's honestly hard to tell how many people are listening. As a first-time job applier, long-time blogger and life-time middle child, I'm used to shouting into void, but sometimes, it's certainly nice to hear someone shout back. What a fitting way to end my last full class week at Amherst, my last radio show on WAMH, my last Captain America movie.

A Pretend FAMS Major

I'm often mistaken for a Film and Media Studies (FAMS) major here--by acquaintances, professors, even my adviser, as well as, once by the Admissions Office:

A Pretend FAMS Major

 

I can't complain about this too much because the film department here is pretty amazing (whether you want to do production or theory, you're sure to get the attention you need) and quite frankly, I brought this on myself. I mean, I do take tons of film courses (I'm in one right now and working on my final project due this week). So even though I'm not an actual FAMS major and it's not my minor (we don't do minors here at the 'Hearst), I do enjoy the benefits of indulging my film habit (thank goodness for the open curriculum). I really can have it all!

 

For instance, this year there was only one film production thesis. A disclaimer: the film and media studies majors are a small group. In my graduating class of 367 people, there are about 7 FAMS majors. Only about five did theses, and only one of those was production (the rest were theory or in one case, a screenplay). The reason for this is because the FAMS department as a major is kinda new--not as new as our Statistics major (which started within the past two or three years) but still pretty new, in that it used to only be a five-college certificate program and mainly for film theory. Things have changed a lot.

The film thesis this year was kind of like a documentary except more "poetic."

Connected

 

It's called Connected. It was created by my classmate Meghan McDonough, who has the nerve to not only be ridiculously talented with a camera and editing software but also hands-down, one of the most genuine and kindest souls I've ever befriended in my entire life. 

She's been slaving over the project for, at least, the past year, and it's evolved so much. For those of you who are considering the production path in Film and Media Studies or a production thesis, I think it's good to note that it's okay if your initial idea changes during the year of your thesis.

Meghan's, for example, was originally about spoken word poetry in the Connecticut Valley area but when she started to see similarities between a poet here and a musician in Argentina, Meghan's thesis evolved to explore these connections between spoken word and music, even if they're in different languages. As a whole, Meghan said, she wanted to use film to explore these connections as a way of connecting film to the art forms of poety and music, too.

 

Meghan's thesis premiered on Friday night along with another senior thesis documentary (this one was in the Art and Art History department). Both were under the advising of Prof. Adam Levine (yes, that is his real name; no, he's not that Adam Levine; yes, he's heard that joke a million times), who's in the Art and Art History department as well as the production head of the Film and Media Studies department. He's a pretty busy guy right now (like I said, the Film and Media Studies department is pretty small, so they're working on hiring more full-time professors), but very attentive and sincerely interested in his students' welfare as artists and people. 

I took my first film class with Prof. Levine during my sophomore year.  And I'm in my third film production course with him and Meghan now. Even though I'm not a FAMS major, Prof. Levine's courses had definitely shown me all the different ways we communicate and that visual media are not the ones that impact us the most. The first FAMS course I took, in a way, led me to the fascination I have with audio now--something I didn't even know could exist on its own.

Penultimate Week of Classes = Impending Graduation

It's surreal to me that I have two weeks of classes left. Granted, my high school friends who went to different colleges are actually done by now, but they actually started the semester at the beginning of January so here's the real winner here? (Actually, it's no competition; we're all winners, okay?) The scary part is that many of the people I went to high school have graduated college in the past few weeks and in a few short weeks (That's unbelievable! Weeks?! Not Months or years, but weeks), I will have too.

I know some of you reading this blog probably recognize that feeling because you may be graduating high school or other secondary school program. Weird, isn't it?

I don't remember feeling this during high school senior year. I was pretty subdued about it all. Probably because I knew where I was going (Amherst College) and what I was doing (Neuroscience [Present Me laughs]) and that I felt prepared for this next step.

 Now, however, I'm sure about the last part, but not necessarily the first two. This is giving me mixed feelings about graduation. On one hand, I know in my heart of hearts that it's time to go; it's time to move on. I've only spent four years here but certain all-nighters and midterm weeks make it feel much longer. I'm ready to move on.

 But just because I'm ready, doesn't mean I'm excited. Because on the other hand, I'll actually miss this place. I've had some pretty enjoyable experiences here and the people--my goodness, my friends, my professors, my supervisors--are some of the most amazing people I've met. The rest of my life is going to have to work overtime to top my life so far.

 But I digress. I'm sure I'll become even more nostalgic by the time I write my last blog post, so let's not waste it all here.

 Instead I'll tell you of the moments when realization hit the hardest, the realization that this impactful and strange time in my life is actually ending.

 

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were the Graduation Fair--a time when seniors pick up information about Career Center resources after graduation, alumni and senior gift advice, even buy class rings or find out what to do with our school email address when we no longer go this school. It's also where we pick up our caps and gowns for graduation.

It's a bit cheesy, but my entire friend group coordinated to pick up our caps and gowns at the same time.

 

Friday was the Pindar dinner. Pindar is a special dinner with classmates you may not be familiar with over fancy food the College pays for and in fancy clothes you wear (the College is nice enough to provide resources for students who may not have said threads on hand). That night was particularly special because it's the last one for this school year and most of the attendees were students who'd never attended a Pindar dinner and this was one of their last chances to do so (so mostly seniors).

After Pindar (Excuse the messy room!)

(After Pindar; excuse the messy room!)

 I felt like a real adult, getting dressed up, eating fancy halibut, and having discussions with people I'd seen but didn't really know.  It also scared me how easy it was to fall into the role. Would adulthood, life after graduation, be that easy?

 

I hope so. Luckily, I at least have a bit of time before I find out.

What's Happening Here: City Streets

As I type this, I am behind the circulation desk at Frost Library. There are two paper plates of tamales and kebobs, chocolate-covered churros and a crepe, respectively, waiting for me in the back room at the end of my shift. Which is in how long again? Sigh, one more hour.

What I'm waiting on the most (and as a result, slightly panicking about) is lemonade. By Giggles.

 

Odd statement, I know, but hear me out.

 

Giggles is a lemonade catering company (who knew such a thing exists?) and the College usually pays for their services for their big festivals/carnivals. It's, hands down, the best lemonade I've ever had and comes in a variety of flavors--mango peach, lime, blue raspberry, pina colada, strawberry--all made fresh and right in front of you.  At every event with Giggles, the line is the longest.

 

As a senior, this is possibly my last event with Giggles (even if my friends joke, they'll hire the catering company for their weddings) and I can't go.

 

City Streets is an annual festival with booths of food from around the world as well as our local favorites of s'mores, fried dough, kettle corn, and lemonade. I'm not sure how, but every single year, I've pretty much missed it--either doing a walk-by for lemonade before rushing off to do homework or simply being too exhausted to leave my room that day.

 

Wait. Hold that thought…

 

 

I love my friends. My lemonade has arrived. Let me take a picture before I drink it all.

 

Anyway, this year, I was planning to go. Not only for Giggles but also as graduation draws closer and closer (my friends and I took our senior yearbook photos today), each event seemed like  another "last." We're all handling it in different ways--by avoiding events like this altogether or pursuing them as a friendship group with even more earnest.

 

I sometimes straddle the middle-ground. Like today. I couldn't go to City Streets because I have work. (Why else would I be behind the desk?) But a good thing about Amherst is how close my classmates are with one another. During my two-hour shift, I've been brought food at least three times, two of which were unprompted!

 

The only thing stopping me from devouring them all right now is the fact that it's unprofessional to eat behind the desk. Imagine if you went to a department store or library and the clerk was chowing down. Decorum, people, decorum.

 

But I digress.

Milestone: Not a Thesis, but Thank You

(So one last post about my audio documentary and I promise that'll be it.)

 

If you all read my last post, I talked about the excerpt of an audio documentary I presented. Well, guess who has two thumbs and finally debuted the project she's been working on for a year and a half?

 

This girl! (Not Natasha Romanoff, I'm talking about me)

 

Audio Documentary Flyer (Designed by Hadley Dorn)

 

The past week has been busy and full of milestones, and not just for me either. April is when tons of theses are due.

 

 This past Friday (April 8th), my friends' who were writing theses in Black Studies, Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, and English, were spent this week as well. I especially felt for my friend who was writing her creative writing thesis in English since it's a novella. To creatively come up with something good and take in the consideration of your thesis adviser can be frustrating.

 

While they worked on the finishing touches to their theses and finding binders for the hefty papers, I worked on my independent project.  My project was funded by the James Charlton Knox Prize for English (one of the perks of being an English major is the nice list of prizes you can apply for in the Spring). Since last Friday (when I presented at Amherst Explorations), I've been featured on the College's social media discussing my project, put up flyers advertising the event, and promoted like mad (I've never been good at talking about stuff I've made so this was a huge step for me). I also spent a lot of late nights audio editing in Seeley Mudd. I was surprised that people knew about my documentary, even congratulating me on my "thesis."

 

On Amherst College's Periscope

 

Side note: It's not a thesis--all of the work I've been doing has been in addition to my full course load (whereas a thesis counts as a class) and despite working just as hard other thesis writers, I won't be receiving honors during graduation (that's the only way to get honors here). On the bright side though, I haven't been as stressed about weekly professor critiques and deadlines (although I definitely had them, I wasn't as stressed about them because it wasn't for a grade). I also had a lot more freedom in how I got to do my project--I mean, an audio documentary? Unheard of! I hope, one day, if one of you decides to do an audio documentary as a thesis or independent project, there'll be more resources here on how to do so successfully. But I digress. "Not a thesis, but thank you."

 

The day before I broadcasted, another milestone was completed: I paid off my balance to the College's comptroller. Even though my financial aid covers quite a bit of my fees and all of my tuition, I still have to pay some out of pocket every month, but now I'm done. It's such a freely feeling! My balance is at zero! (Trust me, this is a big deal.)

 

That same day, my friends were celebrating the end of their theses. They had turned them into the Registrar and either disappeared for the rest of the day to the mall or got ready with renewed exuberance for that evening's African and Caribbean Student Union (ACSU) Wave Your Flag event (it's definitely evolved since freshmen year, when the group was founded, from a party to a formal dinner and show). 

 

The next day, I put the finishing touches on the last part of my audio documentary  (I still can't believe I have created a full audio documentary, with three parts and everything!) in the early afternoon. But I mostly spent the day relaxing a bit before my WAMH radio show  with some French toast sticks and Avatar: The Last Airbender reruns on DVD, which was how I spent every Saturday morning during freshmen year. 

 

There are so many "lasts" events I'm experiencing during my last month and a half even though I can so clearly remember the first. Senior year's finally ending. I'm almost done. Nostalgia was hitting me hard this weekend.

 

Anyway, at 7pm, I began my special broadcast of What Does a Superhero Sound Like?: Audio Analysis of Gender, Media, and Technology and by 8pm, with the studio microphone shut off, I sat down. I didn't feel the relief that my thesis friends expressed; I actually felt a little sad...because something I'd been working on for such a long time--something I'd enjoyed working on for such a long time--was over. Is this what graduation will feel like? I guess I'll see in a month. (But I really hope it doesn't.)

 

You can listen to the audio documentary here: https://soundcloud.com/ammonty/sets/what-does-a-superhero-sound-like-audio-analysis-of-gender-media-and-technology

 

More details about the history of the project here: https://superherosounds.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/did-you-catch-the-broadcast-of-what-does-a-superhero-sound-like/

 

 

 

What's Happening Here: Amherst Explorations

So remember the audio documentary project I mentioned a while back? It's still a thing. Even though my documentary is an independent project, I still have to independently set deadlines for myself.

So although I had finished my research, organized my radio field reporting and even recorded the voiceover for said documentary, I hadn't actually edited it all together yet. And you're probably thinking, How long could it take to edit an audio documentary together? What, an hour? Maybe? It's not like you're working with video because then that'd take like two hours for like a full-length--Let me stop you right there, if that's what you're thinking.

If there is any change I can bring into the world, at this point in my life, I hope it's this:

Audio and/or Video Editing, when done well, takes a long time.

Let me repeat that: Audio and/or video editing, when done well, takes a long time.

Don't diminish an audio or video editor's work by saying, "Oh, you have to turn in a five-minute video clip? So that'll take about twenty minutes, then we can hang."

But I digress.

Anyway, the deadline I'd set for myself was April 1st (No, I'm not kidding) because that was the day of Amherst Explorations.

Amherst Explorations

Amherst Explorations is an annual showcase of student research and creative work. If you're doing a film production thesis or creative writing thesis, you'll probably have a screening or reading opportunity to present your work. If you've done a extracurricular science project, your research poster will be hung up for years around Merrill Science Center after a presentation fair at the beginning of the year.

But if you're doing an independent project or thesis in any other major/department? You may not have many other opportunities to publicly discuss it. Hence, Amherst Explorations.

There are different types of presentations, organized by the hour.  For instance, at the top and end of my hour were two ten-minute performances, and during the hour were four five-minute lightning talks (quick presentations) followed by a five-minute Q&A with the audience.

After  Q&A occurred,  I introduced the excerpt of my audio documentary. I was ridiculously nervous (as I always am, presenting my own work).

The week leading up to this point had been really busy.

On Sunday night, I had planned to edit my documentary after my work shift but helped out a friend instead. The next day, even though it's a pretty busy day for me (I either have work or class from 9 am to 11pm), I thought I could get some editing in there.  Unfortunately, an emergency for another friend, kept me from making it.

 Tuesday is when I finally buckled down. After class, I  went to dinner, then went to the Computer Science and Math Building, Seeley Mudd (or SMUDD as we call it) and worked on the audio computers there.

 I stayed in SMUDD until 3am on Wednesday, mixing on Audacity.  My excerpt was due for the showcase by noon.

 Thursday is a busy class day for me but I still got in some practice for my short introduction.

Amherst Explorations Introduction

(In dis/honor of my topic, yes, I am wearing a Men of Marvel t-shirt)

 On Friday, I presented my piece, stating that it was funded by an English Prize I'd won, that it's an analysis of media and feminism theory in the superhero genre, and most importantly, it's supposed to stand alone as audio, but for the sake of presentation, there are some visual images thrown in.

Black Widow Shield Perfect Image for my Project (Photo Credit) 

I was surprised by how much people enjoyed it, even asking me when the full audio documentary would be released (April 8, 2016 on my radio show).

You can listen to the excerpt here!

The full audio documentary will be broadcast on my radio show, The Superhero Show, on wamhradio.com on Saturday, April 8, 2016 and find more details about the project at superherosounds.wordpress.com.

Breaks of Spring Past and Present

One way to tell when Spring hits is by the abundance of tours around campus. For us at the College, Spring Break has been over for at least a week now, but many of the people visiting now (and in the coming weeks) are on theirs. Since it's my last year, I actually don't mind our Spring Break being at the beginning of March. I have to admit, though, it definitely threw me off seeing snow during Spring Break of my first year here (hey, I grew up in Georgia, remember? Definitely not proud of them right now, but I digress). 

My first two Spring breaks were spent on-campus. (Check out Andrew's blog for all the perks of staying on-campus during Spring Break.) Unlike Thanksgiving Break, a lot more people stay on-campus, so I mostly hung out with one of my friends and my roommate. When I wasn't doing that, I was shadowing my Chemical Biology professor and one of his thesis students in the lab. While I'm sure the end result of the experiments was fascinating, the repetitive process wasn't for me. The experience was one of the first signs that the research science life I'd initially hoped for, wasn't for me. It snowed that Thursday. 

During sophomore year, my friends and I lived off-campus in Mayo-Smith dorm--a beautiful, renovated frat house. That year, only one friend stayed during Break. At night, we'd binge watch early episodes of Teen Wolf while eating peanut butter oreos (Parent Trap-style). It's one of my favorite college memories.

As for me, since we're so close to the UMass Amherst campus (literally 1 mile away), I got some extra hours in at my New England Public Radio internship. I walked twenty minutes there-and-back is the buses weren't running. (New England Public Radio moved to Springfield the next year so I'm glad I had the opportunity when five-college students were encouraged to apply.)

Junior year was the first time I didn't stay at school during Spring Break but I did still do something school-related. Shameless plug for the Career Center here: Just as they'd notified me of the public radio internship the year prior, they let me know of another opportunity. "Chicago Trek for Careers in Media & Communications" sponsored a trip for twelve Amherst students to meet advertising, marketing, and journalism alumni in Chicago for an entire week.

I'm a little bummed that no pictures from the Trek appeared in the Amherst Magazine , so here are a few of my favorite highlights from the trip:

The Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ) (where This American Life started)

Chicago Public Radio

The Bean (that was just for fun)

Bean

the Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

So far, that was the only year it was offere, but The Innovation Trek (to places like Google) and the Non-profit and Government Trek (in Washington, D.C.) have been offered at least twice.

This year, my friends and I went to the Dominican Republic. It was supposed to be a sort of last hurray "When-are-we-going-to-see-each-other-after-graduation? Never!" trip for my entire friend group but only three of us ended up going. It was a challenging trip for me since I was the only one who couldn't speak Spanish and because we didn't have wifi for the week. 

Poolside

We still had tons of fun though, exploring outside the resort, swimming at the beach, chilling at the pool, etc. Even though tons of seniors stay on-campus during Spring Break (usually to work on their theses or study for comprehensive exams), for me, it was a welcome break from Amherst to get away. 

The weird thing is, it wasn't until I got back to school that I realized the short amount of time I have left here.

Flashback Friday

One of the best parts about going to school is the Campus Activities Board/ Student Activities. Amherst is a tiny school, which some people could think is cause for concern, but I think it makes more of our theme parties enjoyable. Sure, you do have your packed parties and socials, but for me, a person who likes her breathing room and a laid-back, youthful atmosphere (read: basically, I'm a child), it's nice to know there's an alternative.

Take last weekend, for instance. It was one of the most enjoyable nights of my life. All week, my friends and I had been seeing posters for a school-sponsored event called Flashback Friday.

Flashback Friday

Not only did it boast throwback covers by the College's cover band (The Winter Parking Band) but also an air hockey table and a jumbo-sized Operation game.

Of my immediate friend group here (six people, including myself), I think only two of us took it seriously. That weekend, two friends went home. Another decided to wash her hair that night. One went to a conference at Harvard! I mean, where are their priorities? An event that offers Yoo-Hoo, cupcakes, Capri Suns, and candy bracelets, and you're just going to let it slide by??? (Also, I honestly had nothing better to do...rather, I made sure I had nothing better to do just so I could go.)

The friend that did go with me was as excited as I was. She's an international student, a fact I always forget because she always knows '90s and 2000s television references. (Of course she always reminds me when she rants about the American school system, patriarchy, or politics. Don't even get her started on the primary elections so far!)

Anyway, we had a great time, she and I. We strolled right by other parties on our way to the Powerhouse. There, we stocked up on bracelets, pixie sticks, chocolate-covered strawberries (her favorite), rice crispy treats (my favorite), macaroni cheese bites for our friend who poorly chose to wash her hair that night, and Capri Suns for all of us.

Wearing neon glowsticks, we jammed to the band a bit while waiting our turn for air hockey (she won; 4-1, but no surprise there). The place wasn't too packed, with a steady flow of people throughout the night--my kind of event.

It also set the tone for the rest of the night. Later at the dorm, feasting on strawberries and juice pouches, we had a lon overdue Captain America movie marathon. We stayed up until six am. And although my friend was surprised she enjoyed both movies, we both regretted staying up so late the next day.

Crazy college times, huh? For me anyway. I like having an alternative in addition to the usual undergraduate fun.

Full Circle of Senior Thesis Plays

(Disclaimer: I am not a Theater and Dance major so I don't know too much about the major or courses. I have friends who major in it and/or have taken tons of courses within the major. That said, if you are interested in the Theater and Dance major, courses or productions, email me and one of my friends will get back to you. You can check the Theater and Dance department site but don't be afraid to email. Sometimes advice from a real, live human is more beneficial than the most detailed webpage.)

 

At Amherst, a good portion of plays are either directed by faculty or directed by students. These students are typically senior Theater and Dance majors who are leading these productions as part of their thesis.

The senior thesis productions are always interesting. 

The first one I went to was during freshmen year. It was a play entitled YES!, written and directed by then-senior, Reilly Horan '13. 

Part of the reason my friends and I went to see it was because of Reilly herself. A humorous and kind red-head, Reilly was also head of the Random Acts of Kindness club, a member of the improv group on campus (GADS) and the women's softball team, and was her class's speaker for Commencement. As a freshmen, there are always those well-known seniors you look up to and Reilly was definitely one of them.

Another part of the reason we went to YES!? My friend literally helped build the set. Her work-study job that year was in the Theater and Dance department shop. Reilly's play was of the experimental nature (with movable floors and special attention to the lights). Even though it exhausted her, my friend needed to see the fruits of her labor.

YES! is a bit difficult to describe because I don't see it as linear. I think of it as universal discoveries of the self with moments of Reilly's life as reference points. My favorite scenes are when Reilly (yes, she acts as her herself in addition to writing it and directing it) talked to her "younger" self (played by the shorter, equally hilarious Kate Sisk '14).

 

I suppose it's full circle seeing another senior thesis play, but during my senior year (or is that just me having a senior moment and calling it nostalgia?). If any of you are familiar with the play Trojan Women then you would appreciate the play I saw last week.

A classmate of mine, Maria Elena Marione '16, adapted and directed a re-imagining of it as her senior thesis. A friend of mine (incidentally, the same one who worked in the Shop and ushered with me) and I are friends with one of the cast members, Darienne Madlala '16, who was making her acting debut.

Twine: After Troy consists of an ensemble cast of four women. Now that I think about it, this play is hard to summarize as well. For one, the audience is lterally on-stage with the cast throughout the entirety of the play. Not only that, the cast directly interacts with the audience as well. It's the most interactive play I've ever been to.

In terms of media, I was highly impressed since the play explores all the ways stories have survived, particularly how women have survived tragedy and will continue to do so.

 

Serendipity with Val Menu

When I visited Amherst College as a high school senior, one of the things that stuck out to me were the upperclassmen meal plans. At Amherst, for the most part, there are two main meal plans you can pick from after freshmen year: one with breakfast and one without.

Before you start thinking, “It’s absolutely ridiculous for someone to opt of breakfast!” you should know that all of my friends except for one are on that meal plan. In exchange for breakfast, they get money allotted for our other cafes on campus. (I’m hearing quite a buzz about an Iced Chai Tea)

Plus, remember that college isn’t like high school. Some of my classmates don’t have their first classes until ten am and most of them aren’t breakfast people to begin with (I don’t get that; breakfast food is the best) but I digress.

Needless to say, I am not one of those people. I love breakfast—pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, smoothies, orange juice—you name it. I’m not exactly a morning person per se (I can wake up early but I can’t hold a conversation until about an hour later) but putting a plate of hashbrowns in front of me is a step in the right direction.

That said, my favorite food is French toast sticks. They were a delicacy for me growing up because every time my mom would buy them, I’d eat the entire box, so they were bought sparingly. French toast sticks don’t grow on trees, you know.

At Amherst, French toast sticks are served about twice a month. When I’m feeling particularly lazy or down, they’re the only thing that can get me out of bed. Usually.

Last Friday, I thought it was French toast stick day. Could’ve sworn it was French toast stick day. So when I dragged myself out of bed around nine am on my day off and read the menu at Val, I was surprised to see no French toast sticks under Friday. I saw them under Saturday, but not Friday.

I got the dates mixed up.

But since I was already at Val, I must as well stay, right?

I stepped into the front room after swiping my card and saw…Omelet Bar? With no line? Is it a Christmas Miracle?

Omelet Bar is relatively new (within the past few years or so) and almost never advertised. Three Val chefs make personalized omelets with your choice of vegetable, meat, and cheese.

I decided to treat myself.

After getting an omelet with cheddar, bell peppers, and ham, I made a smoothie with orange juice, bananas, frozen strawberries, mangoes and peaches. After that, I toasted a bagel and spread Nutella on it (Okay, I brought the Nutella with me, for good reason too).

Omelet, Bagel, and Smoothie

 I ate and caught up on reading then bragged to my friends who aren't on the meal plan about the awesome Omelet Bar they missed.

They didn’t seem too beat up about it since their meal plan works best for their schedules and appetites. I suppose it all depends on your preference? They can have their chai tea if I can keep my impromptu Omelet Bar.

Last Add/Drop

Happy New Year! (or if you think February makes 2016 old, Happy Belated Groundhog Day).

Unlike many colleges, we've just finished our second week of spring semester (most schools are finishing their first month) and what a doozy it was. For me, at least.

Let me explain. The first week and a half of each semester is known as "Add/Drop" or Shopping Week. During this time, you're already registered (for the most part) for classes you picked the semester before but you can "add" or "drop" new courses into your schedules at this time without penalty.

During fall semester, one of the courses I signed up for was an Audio Production course at Hampshire College. Shortly before Spring semester, I found out that I had been rejected on account of too many people already being enrolled.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal to me because

a) It doesn't happen that often and
b) I could easily find other enjoyable courses elsewhere

but in this case, I panicked slightly because

c) I love audio and 
d) have never formally taken an audio course before, plus
e) I'm a second-semester senior so this is my last shot!

So, after asking the professor to add me to the waiting list (note: I was NOT at the top of it), I went to the first class, hoping that some of the people enrolled would not be present. Never have I ever attended a first day of class where every single registered student shows up. Guess what day the Universe pitched that no-hitter?

Not only did every Hampshire student registered for the course attend the first day, but also at least ten to fifteen others (Hampshire or not) students were there, eager to get their face in the professor's head.

Since the Audio class was on Monday, I went to a different five-college class on Wednesday: Catalan II. You guys remember the Elementary Catalan class I took at UMass last semester? Same professor, same classmates. The content is ridiculously enjoyable and the professor is as well.

On the first day back, since he knew he would have the same students, he brought us each a figurine from Barcelona (where he's from). They're caganers and yes, they're exactly what you think they are. Poopers.


By the time Friday rolled around, I accepted my fate. I turned in my registration form for Catalan, ate French toast sticks for breakfast, and was about start my Catalan review homework when I received an email from the Hampshire professor. 

Space has opened in the class? I have a spot if I want it? Please let her know by the end of the day?

I sat there for a moment, looking a bit like this:

Spongebob Waiting at Diner (Photo Source)




Would I really choose a class that had rejected me twice just because it's in my area of interest and intended career path over a course that has a professor who had been nothing but kind to me? It's senior year, for crying out loud. What kind of person will I become?

...

One Hour Later (Photo Source)


I Would Love to Enroll in Audio

Clearly, I'm an awful person. Here's to my last Add/Drop though; it was nothing short of eventful, that's for sure.

Winter Break Nostalgia: Applications and Anxiety

As the end of fall semester approaches and winter holidays are in full swing, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.

1) Because I'm a senior. It doesn't take much incentive. We get nostalgic from the sight of a paper bag floating in the wind (apparently, so does Katy Perry). 

2) Winter holidays is one of my favorite times of the year since I finally get to spend time with family.

3) I'm writing this post from home.

Is it weird that an Amherst Blogger post is not being written from Amherst, but instead Atlanta? Probably. 

Amherst, Mass. has always felt like such a different world to my quiet, suburban home in Union City, Georgia. 

The transition is especially jarring every time I come home for break and the climate is so much warmer, and the air is less tense (less stress-induced finals vibe, more the scent of sweet tea and baked turkey legs), and my room is almost like a time capsule.

Whenever I leave for school, my mom and brother always find things to take from my room and messily put back (shoes, crayons, you name it), but for the most part, my room stays intact.

The posters of bands I loved in middle school haven't fallen (Paramore and Jonas Brothers, in case you were wondering) along with my world map with red-stamped markers of the places I've been.

My bulletin board that holds a ribbon for some high school competition, the one AP Chemistry packet I did well on, my Freshmen Checklist from Amherst, and even my calendar from my senior year of high school--a 12-month card stock that has each day x-ed out until May 18, 2012--the date of my graduation.

So what was I feeling, not as a senior in college, but as a senior in high school during winter break? Relief. Fun. And as application deadlines for colleges and universities approached, some panic.

To those of you freaking out right now, don't. (Easier said than done, I know.)

Story time!

During my last year of high school, shortly after Christmas, my older brother and I left our mom's home in Georgia to go visit our dad and other family in Germany. It was snowy and amazing.

We visited Amsterdam for a few days then returned to Germany on Dec. 31st. We counted down, ate our 12 grapes, and after (legally) lighting some fireworks in the driveway with the neighbors, I finally sat down at the kitchen table to work on some supplemental essays that had a Jan. 1st deadline.

Keep in mind, these deadlines were U.S. EDT deadlines and Germany is 6 hours ahead. 

I worked quickly while my family made fun of my procrastination and celebrated the new year. Fortunately, these supplemental essays were the only parts of my applications I needed to complete and I already had some idea of what I wanted to write about. While I certainly don't recommend procrastinating to six hours before a deadline, I did get the task done. 

One of these essays was for my dream school, Emory University, and the other was for a small liberal-arts college I was sure I wouldn't get accepted into, Amherst College.

Nearly three months later, I found out I was accepted to both. And look where I ended up!

I say all that to say, don't worry. You may not get accepted to every school you apply to. You may end up changing majors or careers. You may hyperventilate any time someone asks what you want to do with your life. (Hint: I've been all of the above, and sometimes still am!)

 

It seems quite terrifying not to have everything planned out, I know, but you have to trust me on this: Even if life turns out differently than how you planned it, your life could be even better than you ever expected!

And if you still don't take my word for it, just look at Paris Geller from Gilmore Girls. She didn't get into Harvard but she still had one of the best college experiences of all time (seriously--Editor-in-chief of The Yale Daily News, double major of pre-law and pre-med, accepted into great law schools and med schools across the country, etc. etc.).

Paris's Words to Live By

(Paris's Words to Live By; Source)

In fact, here's some homework for the holidays: Watch Gilmore Girls. (I firmly believe everyone should watch more Gilmore Girls, except season 7. We don't talk about season 7).

I also know that, as a senior, junior, or whatever level in secondary schooling, you guys are in, you probably really don't want to hear this right now (I sure didn't!). So if all of the above has fallen on deaf ears, I sincerely hope you get into some fantastic schools, that you rest this break and consume massive amounts of your preferred medium, whether that means television, radio, print books, Kindle, or comics.

Happy Holidays! Have a restful winter break! Don't freak out!

What's Happening Here: End of Fall Semester

As I begin this post, I can already tell it's going to be one of my shorter ones. It's almost finals week at Amherst and we all are pretty busy preparing. Of course, the end of the semester also means it's almost Winter Holidays (unless you're Jewish because Hanukkah has already begun. Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers!).

Since my last post last week, here's what been happening at Amherst:

Our men's soccer team won their first national title:

Men's Soccer

(Men's Soccer via Matthew Hicks/MSH Photography)

Since the game was in Kansas City, Missouri, I didn't go, but as soon as news of the win broke, the College had parties the next day, suppling huge amounts of pizza in the gyms and the library.

Then, we all went through our last full week of classes, with the library becoming progressively more and more crowded. (Seriously, on Friday, there were still three study groups conversing as the lights shut off at closing.)

On Friday, (the last Friday of classes for the semester) my Climate Change professor was very excited. A few students from another class were experiencing the climate change conference in Paris, France. The students had been gone for ten whole days and watched the deliberations and agreements made regarding the world's next steps for tackling climate change.

COP21

(Students at COP21)

Saturday was a bit interesting. Every year, shortly before winter break, groups of students who live in the Socials (the dorms on campus that are comprised of only suites) like to throw these huge Christmas sweater ragers. These parties are usually the source of stress for the Amherst College Police Department (ACPD), and since the Socials will be torn down this summer, the ACPD expected this year to be particularly rowdy.

As a precaution, the College sponsored two separate events for the same night as an alternative to the Socials' parties. One involved dancing, gingerbread house making, and hot cocoa (FROST Fest). The other was also dancing, free food from a food truck, and a trivia night with prizes (Winter Meltdown).

Seeing as one of the prizes for trivia night was a light saber, I'm severely disappointed that I spent nearly three hours waiting for a taco from the food truck instead of playing. I don't blame the food truck workers for wait; some people seriously cut in line. 

Cantina Food Truck

Even in college, you can't get away from cutsies. 

And here we are today. Although I am officially finished with my UMass courses (my final projects were a food showcase for Catalan class and a performance for my Acting class), I still have stuff to do for my Amherst courses...including a final exam for my Climate Change class tomorrow so I should probably hit the books.

Plus, after that, I've got to get ready to go home! I'm pretty excited seeing as I haven't been back since September.

So, yes, it's a pretty busy time here, so if we (the Amherst College bloggers, etc.) seem a bit slower to answer than usual, we have a good excuse this time!

P.S. If you want to get caught up on the happenings during this semester, be sure to read the other blogs. For example, Jenna does a great job of summarizing the #Uprising, and Krista is probably the most active socially.