Hi! My name is Caryce Tirop, a second year student here at Amherst College. I am from Eldoret, Kenya which is a town about 6hrs west of the capital, Nairobi. It's absolutely lovely and everyone should visit! Here at Amherst, I hope to double major in French and History or Poli-sci. I have also taken classes in the English, Music, Economics and 
Psychology departments.

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On campus, I am a member of the gospel choir, the women's chorus, the African and Caribbean Students Union (ACSU), the International Students Association(ISA), the Amherst Christian Fellowship (ACF) and a Resident Counsellor in Appleton, a first year residence hall. I also love dancing with my friends, chatting...a lot, watching basketball games-we have an awesome team-and  admiring the beautiful environment at Amherst, especially in the Autumn.

I have had a fantastic time at Amherst so far and hope to share some of my awesome experiences with you through my blog. Please feel free to send me questions and suggestions at ctirop17@amherst.edu. Looking forward to hearing from you.     

Soiree Cabaret

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One of my favorites departments at Amherst is the French Department. I was not sure that I wanted to major in French when I first came here, but my first course in the department sealed the deal for me. From the delightful professors and assistants to engaging course material and events, the French Department gives you an unforgettable experience studying French at Amherst.

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One of my favorite events organized by the department is the Soiree Cabaret held once every semester. This event allows students of French to explore the language through various talents such as dancing, singing, poetry and skits. The faculty also gets involved and it’s always such a treat to hear your professor sing a classic or recite a poem, c’est toujours magnifique!  

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This semester’s Cabaret was held this past weekend at the French and Spanish House-Newport. (I think that having a French language house is an incredible thing. God knows how many times I have gotten help with my homework by just being in that house.) The TAs were in charge of organizing the event and I must say they outdid themselves. The place was well-decorated, the food was amazing and the evening’s line up was just amazing. Stayed true to the theme: French chic! Students from different classes gathered to appreciate each other’s talents and the progress that we had made throughout the semester. It was also just a night to have fun and get extra-credit! Such a clever way to get students to participate, no? 

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I am always so grateful for the student-faculty relationship here at Amherst as it enriches the learning experience enormously. I would definitely advise all present and incoming students to take a course in the French Department. It’s a worthwhile experience and I have realized that by partaking in most of the activities, I have had a taste of French Culture in a small college in Massachusetts

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I decided to dedicate this blog post to appreciate one of my favorite groups here at Amherst College: ACSU. The African and the Caribbean Students Union has been an instrumental part of my experience on campus. When I came to Amherst, I was afraid that I will not find a community that I could relate to, a community that would enrich my experience at Amherst and help me deal with the fear of loneliness and homesickness that is characteristic of studying thousands of miles away from home and trying to adjust to a new culture. However, joining ACSU assuaged my fear of not belonging and helped me find a place I could call home at Amherst.

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ACSU is home for me because it allows me to be myself. Honestly, during some of my interactions on campus, I am always conscious and constantly checking myself to ensure that I am saying the right thing and not stepping on anyone toes. It almost feels like I am following a manual on how to interact with people. But with members of ACSU I come with no filter! It’s like how I would interact with my siblings back home; the quarrels, the very loud discussions, laughter and just a deep sense of connection and identity. This is very important for me since I realize that lack of such interactions have a profound effect on my psychological and emotional well-being.

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ACSU also provides an opportunity for me to have discussions and experiences that I would probably not have anywhere else on this campus. During the weekly meetings, I get an opportunity to discuss issues concerning the motherland, the diaspora experience and remind myself of where I come from and where I am headed. I am always truly grateful for the space to have these discussions. We also organize events that allows us to show case our culture and invite other people to share in the beauty of the diverse Afro-Caribbean community. From parties where we get to dance to our music, to cultural show cases where we dress up, put on performances and eat amazing food! It’s always party time at ACSU.

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The most important thing for me though is that I have formed deep relationships with people in ACSU that will last for a lifetime. I know I can always count on them to have my back because they actually do care about my well-being. They are always willing to listen and to give sound advice on any issue.This holiday season, I could not ask for a better community to belong to!    

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Are we on top? I guess we are!

Homecoming weekend was great! I remember not enjoying my first year homecoming weekend as much since I was still very nervous about the social scene at Amherst and was still trying to find my way/place on campus. This year was different-I felt like a veteran! First of all, I was actually invested in the football game as we played against our arch-rivals, Williams College. The game was featured on ESPNU and we beat Williams 17-9 finishing the season undefeated! That I can talk about football in this manner is a miracle since last year, a time like this, I was finding hard not to refer to it as American Football. Other than the football game, I also had two experiences that made me feel proud to be an Amherst student.

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As part of homecoming Tradition, Amherst College Choral Society holds a concert to give the alumni a chance to relive their college days. This year’s homecoming was particularly special as our Glee Club is in the midst of preparing for its 150th anniversary. Therefore, to honor this moment, the alumni and current members had brunch earlier on Saturday and performed together at the concert. It was such a beautiful sight seeing the old and new faces beaming on stage and the sound… perfection! It was as if they had sang together for years. Afterwards, all the members of the choral society sang college songs that have been passed down for centuries. As I sang with the rest of the group, I knew that I had found at least one community that I belonged to and will always belong to here at Amherst.


After Saturday’s craziness it was time to go to church on Sunday morning. We had a Bi-semester service which is a service in the African American tradition started in 1994 to provide an on-campus Christian worship experience which affirms African-American religious traditions. The best thing about the service other than the soul food afterwards, is the sermon by Rev Tim Jones, an Amherst alum. Pastor Tim’s sermon not only uplifts the soul but educates the congregation. I guess you could say it’s expected as he is an Amherst Alum! One thing he said this past Sunday in connection with the Black lives Matter Campaign is that there have been students who have been here before us and have handled similar issues like the one we are dealing with right now and that we should take comfort in knowing that. (For more details about the Black Lives Matter campaign, visit the Amherst Student website.)

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It’s always good to know that you are not alone in a fight but that you have a cloud of witnesses who have been there before you and still more to come after you. This is what homecoming weekend means to me. It is about sharing a part of my life’s journey with generations before and generations to come knowing that we’ll always have our alma mater as a common thing: not just the physical space but the experience.  




So, it snowed in Boston, I have to pre-register for my spring semester courses and I adjusted my watch so that I am now eight hours behind Kenya- my home. All of these are indicators that this semester has just gone by so fast! I can hardly believe it and I definitely wasn’t ready! Anyway, regardless of this unsettling feeling, like most Amherst Students, nothing stopped me from ushering in  November in style. Halloween weekend was fantastic for various reasons. I guess for me, it was really cool to see the various ways in which students at Amherst celebrated Halloween.

Halloween is a great holiday if you like dressing up, and oh yeah, many Amherst students love dressing up! It was quite unfortunate that I couldn’t immediately recognize most of the costumes (blame it on cultural differences), but either way I could definitely appreciate the time and effort put into the process. I don’t celebrate or rather acknowledge Halloween so I didn’t really partake in the dressing up but I did do some sort of survey of what people were up to that night. Here’s what most Amherst students were up to that night.  

Fireside-fellowship: The Christian fellowship had its Friday night fellowship by the fireplace in Stearns dormitory. It was a great time of fun, fellowship and swallowship (basically sharing a meal. Never use this word in an essay!) We played telephone charades, sang some worship songs, spent time in prayer and ate delicious snacks. It was a different but absolutely amazing way to spend a Friday night.

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Trick-or-treat: The first year resident counsellors organized a trick-or-treat event on the quad.  I think we made most of our residents happy. I mean who doesn’t like candy on a cold Halloween night! This is just one of the cool things residential life does to make the students feel at home and foster a community on campus.

Hampshire Halloween: This is probably the most psyched up event of the season. It’s basically a Halloween party organized by Hampshire College that attracts students from all the five college. It is always a good opportunity to do something fun with friends and meet other students from the five colleges in an informal setting. Just imagine students dancing in halloween costumes… Quite a sight to behold!

Dorm-parties: This Halloween, Newport and Valentine dormitories were the halls to be. The members of the dormitories decided to throw Halloween themed parties that offered students an opportunity to have fun with their fellow schoolmates, dance to some pretty cool music, eat some good food and bid October goodbye!

While this “survey” might not cover every student in the school, I think it is a glimpse into Amherst’s social scene. My Friday night wandering made me appreciate the great diversity that we have in this school that can be seen even from just the way people celebrate a holiday such as Halloween.  I think it is such an assurance to know that students can find their place in a community that at first seemed quite foreign.

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Five-College Fun!

One of my favorite classes this semester is a half credit course titled “Contemporary West African Dance” taught by a wonderful professor from Smith College, Marilyn Sylla. This is one of the advantages of being part of a five college consortium; we get to have a variety of classes to choose from and awesome faculty to interact with and still enjoy being a small liberal arts college. I had never really appreciated the magnitude of this cooperation till this past Tuesday when my class danced at an annual celebration hosted by the five-college African Studies Department.

When our professor first suggested that we perform at the event, about a dozen students volunteered to dance. We were all pretty excited for the event as it was our very first public performance and of course African dishes were to be served -food is always a huge incentive. Thus I was a little bit disappointed when on that day my friend Daniella and I got to the bus stop and realized that we were the only ones from Amherst College who showed up. Luckily we met Emily, a student from UMASS in the same class. So together we journeyed on to Hampshire College, the location for the event.

Hampshire is absolutely gorgeous- beautiful green grass, amazing views and unique residential halls. As we made our way up a mini-hill to the Red Barn we shamelessly commented on and took photos of everything. We thought we had seen the best part of the evening but to our delight, there was more in store for us.

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The venue was magnificent. It was an actual barn decorated with lights and beautifully set tables. When I saw the buffet, I knew I had made the right decision! As we ate, we got to hear a little bit more about the department through the different professors who introduced themselves. I studied the list of courses offered by the department and made a vow to take a course at another college in the spring.

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After the feasting came the entertainment. We were treated to drumming and dancing of which we were a part of. By this time we were joined by three of our classmates who go to Hampshire. After the drumming, we quickly changed and performed to the delight of our professor who later told us that we rocked! It was thrilling to see everyone joining in the dance and celebrating the beauty of African Culture.

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After our performance we changed and made our way to the bus stop. We really had no clue where the bus stop was and as we waited for the bus at a random stop, we inquired from a Hampshire Student as to the true location of the bus stop. She directed us to a different bus stop and as we thanked her we saw the bus approaching. We had to run to the right bus stop. That moment, my Kenyan genes were at work. I have never run and yelled that much. The worst part is that we were actually at the right stop to begin with.

Our ride back home was uneventful but one thing we agreed on is that it is a wonderful thing to be part of the five-college consortium. I mean, Hampshire has the great scenery, UMASS has a wonderful dining hall system and Amherst has a very strategic and discernable bus stop! As Emily put it, we have the best of all worlds!

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Gospel Choir in Holyoke!

Community engagement is a big part of Amherst College and students have found various ways of interacting with the surrounding community. Some students do summer internships around the Pioneer Valley while others volunteer at different institutions throughout the academic year. Our very own Center for Community Engagement (CCE) is a great resource that helps students get involved with the community. This past weekend I got be part of this process in a pretty unique and fun way.

Last Saturday, The Amherst Gospel Choir, of which I’m a member, was invited to minister at the Daughters of the Heart of Mary convention in Holyoke which is about 45 minutes from campus. We were pretty excited for this event since it was our first for the semester and we had practiced about 5 songs under pressure.

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When we got there, we were welcomed quite warmly by the sisters. They were all older than us and had been in the ministry for a quite a while. It was beautiful to see these different generations gathered for a common goal. Our performance was good and members of our audience were definitely into it as they clapped and sang along. The highlight of the event though has to be when they called for an encore and we weren’t ready! At this point, the very organized and rehearsed gospel choir turned into an improv a Capella choir for the night, as our co-director put it! It was really cool to see everyone loosening up and just singing and dancing their hearts out.

statue I thought this photo was interesting because of the flash! You can interpret it in various ways! I am a freak for symbols! 

After what was a fantastic performance we got to chill with the sisters for a while as they told us about their missions and got to know us a little bit better. One of them even suggested that we should be on America’s got Talent! It was all very flattering and amusing. Most importantly though, I think it was a really good experience to meet this part of our community that we would have probably never met. This is one aspect of Amherst I love. The fact that it realizes the importance of the surrounding community. We would really be selfish students if we never got to know our neighbors and only lived in our comfortable Amherst bubble. This is also a form of education that teaches us different kinds of lesson from what we would get in textbooks but just as important.

And as we drove back, there was a different atmosphere in the vans. We all knew that we had touched some hearts and blessed some lives.That is the joy that comes with communal sharing which was reflected in the laughter and the conversations on our way home!