The Ultimate Amherst Bucket List

100 things to do before you graduate

A couple years ago, alumnus Paul Rieckhoff '98 delivered a lecture to the Class of 2013 on 50 things students should do before they graduate from Amherst. This year, I found a video of his speech and copied down the list (feel free to watch it yourself here). There were many things on his list that I had already accomplished (Hot Cheese at Antonio’s, visiting Emily Dickinson’s grave, etc.), but I felt that there were many other things Amherst students should be able to say they’ve done before they graduate. So, to spare you all the trouble, I’ve asked several peers for their input, thought very hard, and at last compiled The Ultimate Amherst Bucket List of Awesome. Since you are most likely a prospective student, there are some things on this list that will take explaining, so I’ve added my comments. However, if you are a current student reading this blog, you can find a copy of this list here without any personal comments. Feel free to print it out and cross the items off as you accomplish them. 

  1. Learn how to say Amherst correctly (no H!)
  2. Take classes outside of your comfort zone/main interest
  3. Speak up in class
  4. Ask questions
  5. Go to a professor’s office hours
  6. Stay up all night with your friends
  7. Have a meaningful conversation with someone. One that changes your life.
  8. Audition for something
    Homecoming nfire at the foot of Memorial Hill
  9. Visit the Career Center
  10. Visit the Writing Center
  11. Do a TYPO (stands for Take Your Professor Out – the college pays for you to go out and have dinner with one of your professors. Really great way to get to know them personally. You can do two per semester)
  12. Write for the Student newspaper at least once
  13. Go to a Homecoming game
  14. Go to the Homecoming bonfire (there’s a big bonfire at the bottom of Memorial Hill during Homecoming weekend)
  15. Do Primal Scream during Finals week (students gather on the freshman quad at a random but very particular time, say 9:32pm, scream at the top of their lungs for as long as they can hold it, and then run away back to their studies)
  16. Snowball fight after the first snow of the year
  17. Step foot in every single building on campus
  18. Check out the Ulysses bathroom in J-chap (years ago, some students snuck into a bathroom in Johnson Chapel and graffittied the walls with lines from James Joyce's Ulysses)
  19. Check out the Dumbledore bathroom in Chapin (it's like the one in J-Chap but with a lot of Dumbledore quotes instead) (Update: there are now six painted bathrooms throughout campus -- can you find them all??)
    An Amherst theater troupe from 1885
  20. Pull a prank on your RC (or anyone else) (but mainly your RC)
  21. Play Capture the Flag on campus (in a building after hours, in the bird sanctuary, on the quad, etc.)
  22. Go on a roof (without getting caught) (sorry, Campus Po)
  23. Visit Narnia (an old abandoned building right off campus that students have nicknamed ‘Narnia’) (again, sorry Campus Po)
  24. Walk through the nature trails
  25. Go sledding on Memorial Hill (preferably on a Val tray) (not technically allowed, but…)
  26. Go camping on the First-Year quad
  27. Find the steam tunnels (...again, sorry Campus Po)
  28. Find the geocache tree in the bird sanctuary (it’s a tree with a big hole in it, which holds a large bucket in which people leave notes and drawings. It’s pretty cool.)
  29. The Zumbyes - one of our many a cappella groups
    Go ice skating in the Orr rink (you can rent out the ice skating rink when the Ice Hockey team isn’t using it)
  30. Go on a (casual) date
  31. Go to at least one (theatrical/musical/dance/etc) performance
  32. Attend an athletic event (other than your own)
  33. Attend an AAS Senate meeting (this is our Student Government. They have public meetings every Monday night)
  34. Go to an a cappella show (Zumbyes, Route 9, Blue Sox, Sabrinas, DQ, or Terras Irradient)
  35. Attend/perform in a Marsh Coffeehaus (a really chill and laid-back Open-Mic held in the ballroom of the Marsh Arts House every other Friday night. One of my favorite events on campus. We end every Coffeehaus with Wagon Wheel)
    Attend a live music concert (because we’re the second largest booking venue in New England, after Boston. Several big names come to perform here)
  36. Attend a Zu party (we have a co-op for upperclassmen in a dorm officially called the Humphries House, but nicknamed the Zu. They throw very good dance parties on every New Moon)
  37. Go to Senior Bar Night (senior tradition)
  38. Go to a TAP (stands for The Amherst Party – a big all-campus party put on by the Social Council. There’s one every month)
  39. Host a pre-frosh (pre-freshmen come and visit in October and in April, and they need student hosts to let them have a place to sleep within a dorm)
  40. Take a tour of Amherst (shameless self-promotion)
  41. Watch a sunset behind J-Chap (the steps behind Johnson Chapel have a great view of the West)
    Watch a sunrise behind the Mead (there’s a cool spot behind the Mead Art Museum that faces East)
  43. Visit Tuttle Hill (a hill where there used to be an old abandoned house. The house was moved in its entirety in 2008 to a location in town, and has since been renovated into apartments. The Tuttle Hill, however, is still open as part of the nature trails, and is now an eerie place where steps lead up to nowhere where once there stood a house)
  44. Visit the Archives & Special Collections (in A-level of Frost) (they have a lock of Emily Dickinson’s hair!!)
  45. Check out David Foster Wallace’s theses in Archives (because DFW is awesome. And his first novel, The Broom of the System, actually began as his English thesis when he was a senior in Amherst)
  46. Study at least once on every floor of Frost (it has six floors total with very different study spaces depending on your taste)
  47. Visit the Russian Library in Webster
  48. Do Major Scream on Memorial Hill
  49. Go inside the Observatory (behind the Zu) (as far as I know, only opens to the public on Saturdays at 9pm April-October, run by the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association—yeah, it’s a thing)
  50. Go inside Stearns Steeple and play the bells (an old church steeple that still holds these old bells from the 1800s. One student per year manages to get their hands on a key to the steeple in order to maintain the bells. So sometimes you’ll be walking around on the quad and hear someone playing the Imperial March from Star Wars on these 19th century bells)
  51. Go up the Johnson Chapel tower (it’s completely locked up because it’s very old and dangerous up there, but every Amherst student wants to make it there one day)
  52. Visit Emily Dickinson’s grave and write her a note (there’s a little door on the corner of the gates where people leave her notes)
  53. Walk to the bird sanctuary at night
  54. Visit the Bunker (during the '60s, the government built a safety bunker near Amherst, which the college now owns and uses as a storage space for Archives and other museum collections. They give tours to the public during Reunion Week)
  55. Visit the Mead Art Museum
  56. Visit the Yushien friendship garden (established because of our close relationship with Doshisha University in Japan)
    Campus Police with Sabrina
  57. Sit with someone you don’t know at Val (Val is our Valentine Dining Hall)
  58. Eat in every room in Val
  59. Go to Late Night Val (a couple times per semester, Val will be open from 10pm-midnight with a lot of snacks and delicious things for students to drop by and pick up)
  60. Make friends with a staff member
  61. Befriend a professor (at least one)
  62. Take a class with Sarat/Arkes (Sarat is in the Law Jurisprudence and Social Thought department, and Arkes is in the Political Science department. They have very opposing views, but are both ridiculously smart people. It’s every student’s goal to get them to argue with each other, but so far they have refused…)
  63. Have a conversation with Richard Wilbur (once Poet Laureate of the United Sates, he is an amazing and world-renowned poet that attended Amherst and now teaches here. He’s currently 91 years old, but still the nicest human being.)
    Biddy Martin (current president) and Tony Marx (our last president) strutting their moves the dance floorHave a conversation with the President of Amherst (Biddy Martin) (funny story: Biddy was only inaugurated last year, so during her first semester, my friends and I decided to bake her a pie as a welcoming present. We knocked on her door one night, thinking she’d take the pie and close the door saying she was busy, but instead she let us into her house, let us play with her puppy Oscar, and let us eat pie with her and chat for 2-3 hours. It was wonderful. We then performed Lose Yourself for her on her piano. Biddy’s preeeeeettyyyyy awesome)
  65. Have a conversation with a Campus Police officer. They’re really cool.
  66. Work during Reunion Week (you can stay on campus doing any number of jobs and get to meet a lot of cool alumni who come back for class reunions)
  67. Get to know at least one alum
  68. Attend a commencement other than your own 
  69. Learn the words to the Lord Jeffrey Amherst song (listen here
    Loading the player...

    and read along here)
  70. Spend one summer in Amherst
  71. Spend one interterm in Amherst
  72. Take the PVTA (the bus system here, which takes you anywhere you would ever want to go)
  73. Visit the Museum of Natural History(Beneski)
    Beneski Museum
  74. Visit the Emily Dickinson Museum
  75. Take a 5 college course
  76. Attend a 5 college event/party
  77. Make at least one friend from each of the 5 Colleges
  78. Make a friend from Amherst town
  79. Visit the Jones Library in Amherst town
  80. Eat at each of the following places in town at least once: Fresh Side, Antonio’s, Black Sheep, Lone Wolf, Amherst Chinese, Panda East, Bart’s.
  81. Hot cheese at Antonio’s (everyone’s favorite holiday: on Friday nights from 12-2am, the pizza shop that sells pizza by the slice, Antonio’s, will sell a slice of hot cheese pizza for ONE DOLLAR. It’s. SO. good.)
  82. Dine at the Lord Jeffrey Inn (recently renovated and beautiful)
  83. Have ice cream at Flayvor’s Cook Farm(where you get to pet the cows from whom the ice cream comes)
  84. Eat in the Route 9 Diner (preferably at midnight) (an old-style diner that is open 24/7)
  85. Have brunch at the Roadhouse (just down Route 9, they serve delicious and huuuuge portions)
  86. Order Wings from Wings Over Amherst
    Eric Carle's The Very  Hungry Caterpillar
  87. Walk around Northampton (the town where Smith is, it’s kind of like a larger version of Amherst town. A lot of really cool shops and restaurants)
  88. Visit each campus within the 5 colleges
  89. Visit the Smith Botanic Garden
  90. Go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Hampshire College (Eric Carle’s the one who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar)
  91. Go to the Quabbin reservoir
  92. Swim in Puffer’s Pond at night (a beautiful place to swim, just past UMass. It’s a summer tradition to swim there at night to cool off)
  93. Visit the Montague Bookmill (used to be a sawmill, but has been renovated into a really quaint and cozy used-bookshop. They also serve delicious food)
  94. Visit the Peace Pagoda
  95. Go fruit-picking in the Pioneer Valley (especially fun in the summer)
  96. Hike the Notch (a pretty short climb but you get a great view of the whole area)
  97. Visit Williams (and preferably steal a book, for old time’s sake) (because we need to know more about our rivals, right?)
  98. Road trip with friends (this is great advice no matter where you go to college)
  99. Steal the Sabrina (an old statue that was stolen from the college in the 1800s and started the tradition of the odd and even classes stealing her back and forth from each other and hiding her. The most recent class to steal her was 2008. It’s about time someone stole her again…)
                          Sabrina being stolen in the 1950s
The most recent Sabrina theft - here she is in her full glory in 2008 holding that week's Amherst Student newspaper