IMG_1394-1.JPG Hello Reader!

I’m glad you stumbled over to my blog!

I guess I should introduce myself, my name is Karen Blake and I am a rising junior at Amherst College. I was born and raised in Farmington Hills, Michigan but during my junior year of high school I moved to a neighboring town of Bloomfield Hills to be closer to my school. This year I declared the Sociology major, but I am also super interested in languages, and I am currently taking Spanish and Arabic. On campus, I am involved with a plethora of groups and activities including: Women’s Track and Field Team, AAS (our student government here at Amherst), I was a Resident Counselor this past year in a first year dorm, and I am a tour guide during the year.

If you really knew me you would know that I love to talk and I am a very social being, so I spend a lot of time hanging out with friends chatting or discussing the latest politics of the day (...and eating, for some reason those things just really go well together). I also love to knit! Yahh, I know very old lady of me, but it is actually super fun and a great way to relax (plus you can do it while you watch tv, and the new season of OITNB did just come out…). I am in the process of trying to make my first pair of mittens, so updates on that later!

I am super excited for all the adventures I will have this summer and I am doubly excited that I will be able to share all my shenanigans with you lovely people! If you ever have questions, comments or a good book suggestion feel free to email me at kblake17 (at) amherst.edu anytime!

Looking forward to sharing and hearing from all of you!

Keep on reading,

Karen

Why Did I Choose Amherst?

I love getting questions on my tours. Questions are an important tool for both visitors and Tour Guides, and  ensure that tours cater to the guests’ interests and concerns. Plus, they give me  something to talk about for the whole hour! So if you ever decide to visit Amherst and you are on one of my tours, be sure to ask a ton of questions!

Speaking of questions, a crowd favorite seems to be:  “Why did you choose Amherst?” I figure I might as well get that question out of the way in my first blog post.The story of how I came to Amherst is actually a bit funny, because I did not even want to apply to Amherst in the first place! As a senior I had my own ideas about where I wanted to go to school, largely influenced by what my fellow peers thought about each institution. At my uber competitive collegepreparatory high school, big-name, high-recognition schools were the only one’s deemed valid. Despite, Amherst’s recognition in the world of academia and the job market, the small liberal arts college did not seem to be on my classmate’s radar.

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My parents were drawn in by Amherst’s amazing financial aid package, one of the few schools that guarantees to meet all demonstrated financial need with grant funding rather than loans. So despite my own desires, I was still 18 years old living under my parent’s roof so Amherst was added to my college list. Additionally, my parents also insisted that I apply for Amherst’s Diversity Open House, or DIVOH program. The DIVOH program is an opportunity for seniors to visit Amherst, stay with a student host, explore the social scene, and even sit in on classes. I was accepted and I attended the September DIVOH and all of my negative feelings about Amherst were converted.

My experience at DIVOH, at risk of sounding cliche, was absolutely amazing! (For any seniors considering applying all I have to say is DO IT DO IT DO IT!) My host was a junior at the time, and she immediately made me feel at home, even entrusting me with a key to her room. Everywhere I went at Amherst, passing students would stop what they were doing and turn to me and smile saying, “Are you from DIVOH?” or “How’s DIVOH?”. Everyone seemed so genuine and even though I did not attend the school, let alone had not even started on the application (procrastination and all that, you know how it is) I began to feel at home.

Attending classes that Monday sealed the deal for me. I sat in on two classes each completely different, one a Spanish class and the other a Sociology elective. Worried that college spanish would be sooo rigorous my 7 years of middle and high school spanish would be no match I sat in on a beginning Spanish class. To my great relief, the class was actually too easy so I was able to act as a conversational partner for one of the student’s in the class. We chatted in Spanish, and after the class he invited me to head to Val (the dining hall here) to eat lunch with some of his friends. I was literally shocked! I, of course, accepted the offer and took it as an opportunity to get more of my questions about Amherst answered (they were all very good sports about being bombarded).

After attending DIVOH I knew that Amherst was the school for me. Toward the end of the trip I bought a purple Amherst sweatshirt that I wore proudly the day I got back to school. I was too excited to even care about what my classmates thought about the school. 247973_373968459344065_955197023_n.jpg

So reader, that is my challenge to you! Throughout your college search try not to get hung up on what other people say about each school. Instead take control by asking your own questions and formulating your own opinions. If you’re frank and honest with yourself you will end up at the perfect school for you. And who knows, maybe it will be here at good ol’ Amherst!

Until next time!

Karen

 

On Sundays We Have Tea Time.

This past year I was lucky enough to be the Resident Counselor for North 3rd floor. What’s a Resident Counselor you ask? Well here at Amherst each dorm comes equipped with it’s own (set of) Resident Counselor(s) who are charged with looking out for and building community among their dorm’s or floor’s. We are different from RAs in a number of aspects, but particularly in the fact that we are not disciplinary. I always describe it as being a cool older sister to my floor. They can turn to me for advice or guidance, but I’m not going to rat them out to mom or dad if they make a mistake or two along the way. Particularly, in first year dorms we help ease the transition from high school to college, pointing our residents in the right direction to secure  academic, mental health or social resources that they might need during the year. N3 couples.jpg

It’s honestly probably weird how mom-like I get when I start talking about my 16 amazing residents. (I have pictures on my phone that I have been known to whip out to prove just how cute/incredible/funny my floor was.) Honestly though, they helped to make my sophomore year, the best year I have had here at Amherst! It was incredible getting to know all of them, learning from their experiences, and laughing at all   of their crazy antics.  For me, the best part about being an RC is getting to know your residents and working to create a quazi-family unit on the floor. Here at Amherst we have a special practice known as “Tea Time”. (I can see the confusion spreading over your face as you read that, no worries, I will explain!) Let’s get one thing straight, you do not actually have to drink tea during Tea Time, however it is definitely encouraged in the colder winter months. Tea Time is an opportunity for the whole floor, or sometimes the whole dorm, to come together to hang out. It’s a time to check in with all your residents to make sure everything is going smoothly, to share stories from your week, or even to just play Cards Against Humanity (a favorite on N3!). Usually, Tea Time happens once a week, and for N3 it is usually Sundays @ 9pm. N3 Christmas.jpg

The great thing about creating these friendships and relationships with your floor and dorm, especially your first year, is that they really follow you for the rest of your college experience. It has been great to spend this summer getting to know some of my residents who also stayed on campus in new and exciting ways. I am looking forward to my return from abroad to see them all back at Amherst (I hope doned in our N3 t-shirts that we are going to make!). N3 Easter.jpg

N3 <3 5EVER

See ya next timeeee!

Karen

Learning Outside the Classroom

One of the best characteristic about Amherst students is their willingness to learn from one another. The Admission office has done a great job of recruiting students from all over the world, from different backgrounds, races, socioeconomic statuses, and lifestyles. The beauty of this diversity is that I find myself gaining a great deal of knowledge outside of the classroom by just talking to my peers. From staying up till 4am debating politics with my floormates to listening to my friend tell a story about what it was like growing up and attending school in India, the possibilities for personal growth are limitless.

If you haven’t guessed already my favorite thing about Amherst is all of the wonderful people! I have learned so much from my peers, and it has helped mold me into the person I am today. It’s actually crazy to think about how much I have changed in just two short years. One of the more obvious indicators of my personal development is my knowledge surrounding the LGBTQ community. Coming from a small private school in Michigan, this community was severely underrepresented at my high school, and I was definitely ignorant of the many complexities within the community. Luckily, here at Amherst, I was not only able to learn from the experiences of my own friends within the community, but also had access to resources like the Queer Resource Center. Despite coming to campus with a very limited understanding of the LGBTQ community, I felt welcomed to ask questions (even awkward and uncomfortable ones) and encouraged to learn about how I could support the community as an ally. Pride Photo.jpg

Here at Amherst, the LGBTQ community is extremely visible on campus. Through school-wide events, like Pride and Allies Week, as well as weekly Pride meetings held in the QRC, the community makes it clear that they are proud of their identities. Students of all identities participate in these events and it is truly amazing to see the outpouring of love and support among students during these campus events. During Pride and Allies Week the student government funds “I Support Love” T-shirts, that the whole campus wears on Friday. You have the opportunity to participate in a photo challenge, where students can pose with a white board answering the question of why they support love. I am proud to be an ally and I am even prouder that I can attend a school that strives to be a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ students.

As you probably already know, on June 26th the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. It was a momentous occasion in history that just so happened to coincide with New York City’s Pride weekend. Many Amherst students staying for the summer wanted to attend the event so I was lucky enough to bum a ride along with some friends and even one of the other interns/bloggers! (Hi Iris!) It was my first time to the city, and my first time at a Pride event outside of Amherst College.

The parade was absolutely incredible! (If you have never had the chance to go, you definitely should.) The floats are packed with people donned in extravagant outfits, colorful hair and dramatic make-up. Everywhere you look people are laughing, dancing, singing, and yelling. The support for the community among the onlookers is evident, and you truly feel connected with everyone around you. Not to mention, the cast of Orange is the New Black made an appearance! (I died! I. LITERALLY. DIED.) It was a wonderful experience that I hope will not be the last.

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Two years ago I could probably never imagine myself at an event like NYC Pride. I would not have felt able or welcome to attend an event supporting a community that I knew almost nothing about. Of course, I still have more to learn when it comes to understanding and supporting the LGBTQ community, but I can say thanks to my peers here at Amherst, I have truly come a long way. I am excited for my last two years here, with all these wonderful people! I cannot wait to see in what other areas of life I will be shaped and changed by this community.

The Small Things...

I recently had a bit of a panic attack when I realized just how little time I have left here at Amherst. Since I will be abroad this coming fall (super excited! I’m heading to Madrid, Spain) I will only have 3 semesters left until I graduate! Yes, you heard me, GRADUATE.

Of course this realization sparked an internal debate over whether or not I had been spending my precious time here at Amherst in the best way. Had I taken a class that changed my life? Sparked controversy through an article I wrote? Or found the mystical steam tunnels of the socials? I could not answer yes to all of my inquiries and I began to worry whether or not I had been wasting my time here at Amherst.

So reader, you might be wondering as a prospective student how this discussion about the end of Amherst could possibly be helpful when you have yet to even begin your own journey here in Western, MA. Someone once told me, (or well they didn’t actually tell me I just happened to read their blog, which you can read too! right here) that one of the best ways to learn about a school is to listen to its students, and one great way to do that is through commencement speeches. Commencement speeches reveal what students found to be important, notable and sometimes even really difficult about their 4 years here at Amherst.

Taking heed from this advice I listened to some commencement speeches over the weekend. I was worried that listening to the speeches would further increase my anxiety about my diminishing time, but they actually helped me realize the value in my own experiences. The commencement speech for the Class of 2015 (is incredibly funny btw, deff check it out!) centers on an all-nighter the speaker had to pull in order to finish an assigned semester long research project that she, in typical procrastinator style, had only just begun that night. Of course the experience was unpleasant and a little ridiculous at the time; she went so far as to hide out in Keefe Campus Center after hours, to insure that she would be able to have access to the free coffee available in the Multicultural Resource Center.

Looking back on her night, as she stood at the podium on her graduation day, she was able to find solace, and even pleasure, in the memory. Listening to the speech helped me to realize the importance of the small, seemingly insignificant moments of my experience here at Amherst. From the difficult small things like the all-nighters (sad to say it but you will probably have your fair share!), to the fond things like the plethora of hours spent Val sitting, and even those rare occasions where I had enough time to stare at Memorial Hill in all its majestic glory. The small things at Amherst for me are what I am going to miss most about the school when I graduate, and even this fall when I am abroad.

So to you prospective student, don’t knock the small things! When it comes to choosing a school you might think most colleges are basically the same (I mean yahh I see that they’re basically just places with classes, and teachers, and a whole lot of books). However, I push you to consider the words of the 2015 speech in your own college search. Pay attention to the small things about each college you are considering. Find the tiny details that stand out to you, for those minute aspects will be the ones that will help you pick the school that is the best fit for you.