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.
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.
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.
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).
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...
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.
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.
Thanks for reading.
Ashley "Monty" Montgomery