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Amherst Centre-my ultimate sanctuary!
Hey guys, I hope you're winding down from a great week and getting ready to chillax, because thank god it's Friday! (side note: this weekend is a Valentine's Day Weekend. Whether you are spending time with a significant other, family, friends, at the "Screw Your Roommate TAP" or anything else, this weekend will be a great chance to show some schmoozy loving to your beloveds. It doesn't have to be your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse necessarily; Valentine's should be a time to appreciate the people around you who love and care about you! )
Friday's a great day to write up a blog post (as is the weekend) because it gives me an opportunity to look back at my own week, reflect, plan and refresh for the next week. Today I want to talk about Amherst Center, my ultimate sanctuary and what keeps me going through the challenges of Amherst life.
I had a pretty tough week this week because of various projects, tests et cetera due for my courses as well as some personal issues that I had to sort out. During times like these I like to take my "time-out session" exploring and enjoying the town centre we have right in front of the college. One of the only worries I had before coming to Amherst was, what if I run out of things to do at Amherst because it's in the middle of nowhere? (I've been a city person all my life.) The answer I discovered soon after arriving was, Amherst may be tiny but it has everything you need!
From cafés to restaurants, gift stores to cinemas, the little streets of Amherst are packed with goodies. It is impossible to share all the joys, but let me share a few of my favourite spots in town.
The Black Sheep Café: DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS desserts! I think I go there at least twice a week, usually in the early mornings for my morning tea. I almost always order a carrot cake cupcake and a medium coffee, sit at one of the windowsill seats and write about silly things. (Sometimes I do homework when I feel guilty that I'm enjoying whiling away the time too much.) It is a small cafe, where all the bread, cakes and pastries are baked daily. Their coffee is pretty good too. It's a great local hangout place so you get a real variety of Amherst locals coming in, if you're into people-watching at all.
Amherst Coffee: Where I go to do actual work. The spots fill up pretty quick in the morning of people like me who want a nice, quiet place to do work and drink great coffee. The baristas there really know what they are doing. I love that they also have a wine bar section and little platter menus. It's quieter than Black Sheep and Rao's (another great café further down the road) and is very convenient for laptop users. I love that they play good jazz music in the background.
Captain Candy: I have the sweetest tooth on earth, and I simply love this place. It is full of lollies new and old, from huge lollipops to chocolate covered raisins. Their handmade chocolates and sweet pieces are very nice too. It is pretty reasonably priced as well. The colourful decoration inside and outside makes me feel happy all over.
Antonio's: The best pizza place in town. It's the best place to get a midnight snack after a night of partying and such. (They have a special Friday Night deal of $1 cheese pizza slices, yay!) Maybe it's just me, but their variety of pizzas really amaze me. I had never seen avocados and nacho pieces put on pizzas. And the size of a slice is huge! Maybe it's an American thing, but I still can't get over pizza slices that are as big as your face!
Really, I could go on with this, but there are so many endless little things that make it a blast to live in Amherst. (FRESH SIDE TEA ROLLS! I could really go on with this...) For my end of the week chillout session I am just about to head down to Antonio's for good soul food and then to pick up some groceries, people-watching and taking candids for my photography course.
Sounds like a baller wind-down Friday afternoon? Come on down and check out the little wonders yourself. :-)
Peace out and bon week-end!
This week I have witnessed the worst(best?) snow ever. I have never in my life seen snow pile up past my height. Never in my life. So this is Massachusetts saying "why hello" to my face. To my freezing and terrified Kiwirean face. My rendezvous with the Amherst snowstorms began with my roommate telling me that there was a snowstorm warning issued out to the local areas for the next few days. I didn't think much of it. How bad could snow ever be?
Oh it was bad. Never had I seen snow pelting down like rain during a flood. Never had I seen the snow-shovelling machine (is there a particular American term for this? Where I come from we have NO need for such things. Which accounts for some of the shock in my encounter with snow this week.) helplessly do one round of the road, come back, and then found that a thick fresh coat of snow had easily undone the work it struggled to do.
And never had I seen Amherst professors cancelling classes! Huzzah! While trudging out through the fearful snowstorm was possibly the most terrifying thing, getting cancellation emails from professors made my morning sleep-ins that much sweeter. So, snowstorms aren't as bad as they seem to be, huh? (Though I am NOT asking for another snowstorm. Not in a very long time.)
All in all, (after the panic and hurrah of the unofficial snow day), I must say I'm learning the most valuable lessons from this winter and this snowstorm.
1. Layer up.
2. Cover your head, your neck and your fingertips.
3. Drink warm tea and wear sleep socks.
4.Don't go out after dark. The temperature really drops to something unbearable.
5. Ditch pretty gear, wear strong weatherproof boots, how ugly they may be!
Hope you all are having a warm winter all cuddled up in winter gear and ready to go. As much as the snow has prettified our campus, I can't stop wishing for spring and summer to come. I am an August baby, after all!
Stella's Photos of the Amherst Winter
The Amherst Winter: When it was nice.
The Amherst Winter: When it was nice II
During the Great Snowstorm: Piles and piles of snow seen through window.
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!