My heart is with Christchurch.
really tough week this week
I think I've had the toughest week in the short history of my year at Amherst. Oh man, where to start?
The week was busy as always, but extra busy in that I had three creative assignments--a film essay, a short story and a photo portfolio due one after another--as well as the usual French homework, short story critiques and movie showings. Because I had a 10 hour long recording session the weekend before that I virtually had to rush through all my work till very late at night (and staying up late is one of my prime weaknesses.) Stressed for time and stressed to produce good-quality work, I worked myself up like a zombie, eating "bad" food at nighttime and drinking too much coffee. (Too much for me is really, TOO MUCH for anyone, as I am a very heavy coffee drinker.)
The academic stress I could deal with, but what was worse was that this week, my hometown Christchurch (New Zealand) experienced one of the worst earthquakes in its history. The earthquake marked a 6.3 on the ritcher scale, destroyed our famous cathedral that had withstood years of wear and tear, crushed two big buildings in the city centre (one of which was an educational institution), drove thousands out of their homes into shelters, hundreds to escape the city for good, killed (up to now, the number only increases) at least 113 people as well as causing hundreds to be reported as missing. I sat there in stupor as I watched the news on my computer; the scenes of people running from collapsing buildings, families crying in front of a disaster scene, broken roads and phone lines--my city looked like a set of a horror movie. My friend who now goes to uni in Auckland (north island of New Zealand) e-mailed me about watching all this on telly: "It looked like the world was about to end," she said.
I have been going through a painful week, watching disaster unfold in what I always remember as a peaceful, happy, almost perfect place to live. The fact that I am physically so far away from what is happening while feeling the pain and agony very strongly is also hard to bear; I feel like I should be there with all my friends and family but I can't. I am in a faraway place called Amherst and there seems to be nothing I can do to change this.
I really need a break from all this--as hard at it is, life must go on. I just have to find away to brace myself in midst of panic.
Spring Semester Begins......and A Tidbit About College Admissions # 1
I hope you are back into gear, refreshed from break and various holiday celebrations. To those suffering from the snow & cold of this year's winter (I look out the window now to find the snow furiously piling up on the already high pile of snow) I hope you are keeping warm and cozy. I've been out of touch for so long and I apologise. If I can remember correctly about last semester, it was a mad rush to get things done, finish term papers and revise essays before my flight back to Korea for the break, so I never had a chance to wrap up fall semester. After I got back I spent the next three weeks in bed recovering from a mystery sickness (I aptly named it "post first-semester-of-college syndrome") and then visiting relatives around the country. And of course, eating lots and lots of good home food. Honestly, after a month of being spoiled by my parents I almost didn't want to come back. :-)
But here I am at Amherst, most of the time walking around very dazed because of my lingering jetlag, very glad to see missed faces, slightly less glad to see the five feet snow mounds--I had never thought I would see snow piled up to my height outside of a ski field--and really happy and scared about my course selections. I basically got everything I wanted, which I'm stoked about. I am signed up for another intro English course called Film & Writing, an English seminar with visiting writer Amity Gaige called Unreliabilities, Photography I and a venture into a new language, French I. I am also going to start drum lessons as well as continuing with jazz voice lessons, which will be a blast. I guess my subjects just written out like this won't seem too intimidating at all.The courses I have chosen all require a lot of extra work outside the class so I am a little scared of the logistics of this...but I am up for the challenge anyway (yeah, yeah, I'm only a freshman so I have time to take crazy risks :p ) and will love everything that I am to learn in the four classes that I have this semester.
The second part of my posting is the first series of 'A Tidbit About College Admissions', entries I will devote to prospective Amherst students and people interested in college admissions in general. This is a very subjective but well-meaning column coming from a college freshman who went through these worries, choices and decisions only a year ago. So I hope it helps people in guiding themselves to the college of their fit and choice.
A TIDBIT ABOUT COLLEGE ADMISSIONS #1
I received an email a few weeks back asking me about transferring to Amherst. To sum up the email, this student thought that Amherst was her absolute perfect school, yet she thought that her grades and scores were too low so she was planning to attend a local community college. She was worried that she wouldn't have a good chance of transferring into Amherst in her sophomore year if she went to a less well known college such as the community college of her choice. She also mentioned that the community college did not have a letter grade system but supplied written evaluations by teachers. She wanted to know if this unusual grading system would hinder her from attending Amherst. Below is the answer that I sent her; I think these replies, especially the first part, could be helpful to not only prospective transfer students but any high school senior applying to colleges.
1) There's no such thing as a "perfect" school. For anyone. There might be good fits or bad fits, but really, no one school is going to satisfy a hundred per cent of your needs. What I'm trying to say is, (ironically, coming from an Amherst student), don't limit your option to Amherst only. Look far and broad. Be realistic and practical. Think long and hard about not only the education itself, but the environment, the surroundings, the food, the living conditions (I must admit Amherst has an awesome residential life system) and such. To be honest, no one knows how a school is going to be like until s/he gets there and experiences it for himself/herself. As for me, I was not a 100% sure I would enjoy Amherst, as I was for the most part of my life a city girl and was looking for a bigger college to attend. But when I got here, I found that I really enjoyed how intimate and personalised the interactions between professors and students were and the resources the school gave me to do what I wanted to do. I also found out that I quite liked the small town setting. Amherst has a very small "town centre", but it is packed with all the goodness you will need. See, the impression I have of Amherst stems from my own individual preferences, personality and experience, and cannot simply apply to all cases. Someone might have the opposite experience, and be dissatisfied with the learning environment and the quiet surroundings. Because you don't know what you're going to get until you actually get there, you are essentially taking a chance with whatever college you are choosing to attend. So why not be more adventurous and have many options in mind instead of being grounded in thinking that Amherst is the "perfect school"?
2) The second question is a little difficult to answer, especially because I am not an expert at this. If you want more information I suggest you contact the admissions office, but I will nevertheless give you my five cents. I really don't think the school's reputation matters. Transfers are often for students who realise partway through their education that they want something more challenging and more vigorous, and end up looking for different schools to suit their needs. The transfer students I have met at Amherst have all been from community colleges coincidentally. I think the key in admissions or transfer admissions is not the name brand of the school itself, but how you utilised what you had and made the most of the resources provided to you. So I wouldn't worry too much about that if I were you.
3) This again, I suggest you ask the admissions office. I don't think this would matter too much either, as universities and colleges are known for being flexible with different grading systems from different schools. I don't know about your particular college, but I have friends at Deep Springs, a two-year college which, along with very special admission standards and curriculum, gives no grades. I have seen graduates of DS to get into top colleges after their two years of DS education without transcripts with letter grades.
I hope these very belated answers would help you somewhat in decisions that will come in the spring. Good luck with everything and have fun w senior year!
I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving with great food, lots of sleep and family love. I am still dazed from the excess of sleep and laziness and am trying hard to adjust back into Amherst's crazy schedule. Thanksgiving in terms of our semester schedule is like a mini-break before the final lap of finals, projects, papers and concerts we must plough through before the real break. While I am lucky enough to have no final exams for my classes, I still have a handful of assignments and furthermore extra-curricular commitments to squeeze in between those things.
As a freshman, I quickly found out that the key to surviving college is essentially time management. Every single one of the items on your agenda runs a separate schedule; each of your classes will have different due-dates for assignments, slightly varying levels of difficulty or workload, and independent midterms schedules, save perhaps the more concentrated final exams period. While in high-school much of the classes and departments were integrated enough to provide me a single organised timeline I could follow, in college I found I had to construct my own timeline according to my individual schedule. Classes aren't the end of the troubles, though. There are club meetings, practices and concerts that run according to their own plans as well that need to fit into the 24-hour slot. And what about the basic necessities of food, sleep, workout sessions and the occasional parties? The list of to-dos are endless.
Surprisingly, students at Amherst become very adept jugglers. They learn to consider the million and one commitments and compile their plans into a somewhat coherent schedule they can follow; they learn to look ahead and be aware of various deadlines. They work hard to achieve their self-set goals but also give themselves time to relax and de-stress from time to time. I think this is what I love about this community. Everyone is ambitious, but they also know how to maintain a healthy balance in practice and attitude. I am learning from the Amherst lifestyle and the many examples around me to balance out my life as much as possible. Although I am slightly scared of my five concerts this week (five in seven days? crazy!), a term paper prospectus, theatre rehearsals and more, I know I will get through this and become better at it at the end of the challenges. The skills of balance and time management I find is a set of skills as useful as the academics that we are taught here, as they are so applicable in every day life and in many situations. I already can imagine myself in twenty years, adeptly juggling work, running after overexcited children, conjuring fresh-cooked dinners and managing to squeeze in some reading and writing while lying in bed. Sounds like a hectic life? I will only shrug and say, I'm from Amherst. It's no big deal.
Homecoming and more!
Sorry I have been out of touch lately. I have been in bed, recovering from a flu attack that struck me over the weekend. Time passes so fast at Amherst; I swear it was Halloween only a few days ago, and now it's already Homecoming Weekend, and then Thanksgiving the week after! Huzzah!
I am very excited for my first homecoming ever at Amherst. I haven't seen many alums walking around the campus yet, but I did spot one having breakfast at Val this morning. Soon there will be more and more of them flooding the campus (hopefully!), reminiscing of old times and enjoying the new energy that is the present Amherst. On the schedule for tonight is the Bonfire, where we gather around a huge fire on the bottom of memorial hill and get our spirits up for the game tomorrow. As part of the Bluestockings I will be singing a song to boost the spirit even higher! Lots of food, including hot drinks, apple cider, cookies and the like will be served, just like any other Amherst event. (I LOVE AMHERST EVENTS AS THEY ALWAYS FEED YOU SO WELL. BUT I AM GETTING OFF TRACK. BACK TO HOMECOMING.) I really need to win a free t-shirt at this event so I can wear it for the came tomorrow!
Tomorrow at Pratt Field, 12am, is the drumroll-worthy Amherst v Williams football game. There will be a LOT of school spirit, many many t-shirts that say "Williams college is a horrible college" (my favourite Amherst College shirt so far) and festivities around the tailgate area. I have my fingers crossed that our football team will show em who's boss--I've already got my competitive spirits up against a few high-school friends from Williams...so our victory will be a personal one as well as a school-wide one. Later that night is a choral society concert as well as the Bluesox alum-included pre-game, where we get to meet and greet our old alums from near and far. Like many other groups on campus, The Bluestockings boasts its history and the masses of supportive alumni that we can connect to. The weekend will finish with a big Homecoming TAP Party held at the TAP houses, where both students and alumni will enjoy good music, dancing, screaming wildly and fun-in-general.
After a busy week, I am more than ready to switch to an uplifting Homecoming spirit. Bring it, bring it!
First Halloween/Family Weekend at Amherst!
I simply cannot believe that it is already November! (And it's already Wednesday already...I swear it was Sunday afternoon just a while ago...) Time has whizzed past me since I first arrived here with a gigantic suitcase and jetlag in late August. I've gone through the awkward but fun orientation week, adjusted into classes and already had my first fall break. I was surprised to find myself (shopaholic and city-girl-at-heart) missing Amherst so much when I spent a night in Boston visiting a friend and then being so happy when I finally came "home" after the trip. I guess this place grows on you very rapidly. But enough sentimental rumblings. Today I want to talk a little about how the three-day Halloween weekend is done, Amherst style.
This year, halloween coincided with Family Weekend, which meant for many people balancing social life and hanging with the family. (I feel that Amherst students quickly become accustomed to juggling a million and more things into their schedule...but that's for another day) My family was/is, unfortunately a continent or a two away from Amherst so couldn't make the occasion, but I was busy enough singing in the choir and the Bluestockings that I didn't miss them toooooo much. After the friday choral society concert I set myself off with some mates to Hampshire Halloween, the biggest halloween event in the Five Colleges. (For those of you who don't know, Amherst is part of the Five Colleges consortium along with UMass, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire College. I will also talk about this at a later time.) Hampshire Halloween was crazy good, with live music, great DJing, midnight breakfasts, the night truck, and a lot of happy costumed people.
While I and many others were exhausted on Saturday night and had to lie in bed for a while, there still was quite a crowd at the unofficial Amherst halloween party at one of the dorms. I had heard from my excited and glitter-speckled friends that there were two male Tinkerbells, a banana, three Britney Spears and a whole lot more. Sunday was much of the same but better, as Tony Marx hosted a Halloween party at the Natural History Museum, and there were more costumes, craziness and fun on full display. As for myself I enjoyed a very small but sweet halloween party hosted by my RC Kaytee for our floor (Chuck Pratt attic, represent!) as it was full of cookies, apple cider and a lottttt of chocolate. Gotta love that.
Halloween doesn't disappear just because you're at college. It becomes longer, crazier and unforgettable. I can't wait till the next one already!