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Meghna Sridhar '14
Hello! My name is Meghna Sridhar, and I'm a junior and Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought major at Amherst College. As you can see from my fancy hat and coat, I'm currently across the pond, studying abroad at Oxford University in the UK. However, as I've discovered between sipping Early Grey and watching Doctor Who, there's plenty to discover about home the farther away you are from it, and so I'm going to try and blog about my experiences and relate them back to the Herst in some way. Meeting students from all over the world here, including many fellow liberal arts students from other colleges in the 'cac, I've reflected a lot on Amherst and hope I have some interesting things to share with you!
In terms of getting to know me better: I'm hugely into politics, political philosophy and political theory, and how all of that relates to and centers around the law. I love research, and I've worked as a research assistant for three professors-- I'm currently editing a manuscript for one of them, which is very exciting! Outside of that, before I left for England, I served as both senator and Judiciary Council Chair for the AAS senate, and managing editor for the newspaper. I was also president of the International Students Association (I hail from New Delhi, India) and am really interested in diversity stuff.
Meghna's Blog Posts
Education and Academic Culture
Usually, any talk of academics elicits groans across the board-- but at a place like Amherst, it's usual to find chatter about classes, majors, professors and readings swarm the corridors, especially as it inches closer to pre-registration period. In honour of that--and to procrastinate having to pick between the 20 odd classes I want to take next semester (which are all, just as luck would have it, scheduled the exact same time)--I thought I'd talk about studies this week, and how education differs at Oxford and at Amherst, and what experience I'm having with both.
In my study abroad program, one of the first warnings we're issued-- after "everybody in London is a mugger" (not quite true) and "please don't drink yourself into a coma" (cough, cough)-- is to not take studies lightly: Oxford is a place of independent, student driven learning, where dynamic thinking and close reading are valued over simple rote learning. It's a warning, that, coming from Amherst, I found quite unnecessary-- not saying that an Oxford education isn't hard, but that it espouses the very same values Amherst values. The program is organized into two weekly tutorials, where you get an hour of one-on-one time with your professor to discuss the essay you would have written over the week: so essentially, minimal class time supplemented by a lot of independent research. The thing is, as you become a sophomore or higher at Amherst, you can tailor your Amherst education to do the same thing: the semester before I left, I had 3 weekly seminars where a majority of my time I was engaged in independent research: constructing my own reading lists, chosing my own paper topics (and my own deadlines-- belated apologies to all my professors for much up the wall it drove them) and steering the class in whatever direction I liked. Frequent office hour seshes with my professors also made me unintimidated by the tutorial structure: Amherst's entire educational setup, I feel sometimes, is--or can be-- a perfect little stepping stone into graduate education, given its focus on independence and interaction with professors. In that sense, while I'm not exactly taking Oxford by the storm with my brilliant wit and intellect, I feel I've stepped into the walls of cold stone and crumbling history with enough educational support from Amherst to back me to navigate the structure and content of the Oxford education with enough poise to not look as though I don't know what I'm doing.
...atleast, I think so.
Musings, Marvellings, and cheesy, alliterative blog titles.
Pictured, left: Leland Dormitory, Amherst College-- home, before I left.
Before travelling to the UK, I've never considered study abroad a challenge--after all, as an Indian citizen, I've been doing exactly that for the past two and a half years--studying abroad at Amherst College. And yet there is something quintessentially different about the "junior year/semester abroad" dynamic--there's a sense of exploration, exhiliration, travel-fever: there's a sense of breaking from a routine. "Study abroad" entails a lot more than the two words that make it up--it's not just about studying at a desk in a place four thousand miles away from my desk back at Amherst: it's about exploring, shaking up routines, taking risks and challenges and living as though you've got only 6 months left to do so--because you do, you do only have this unique 6 month experience that will be very hard to replicate at any other stage of your life.
Pictured, right: Exam Schools, Oxford.
Given what a special experience this is, it's absolutely amazing how much Amherst tries to make the opportunity accessible to anyone.While I've heard others around me stress about credits, graduation, financial aid, costs-- I've come to become extremely grateful that my only concern with this program was being able to get into it. I've taken great pride in introducing Amherst's concept of access to fellow students here-- given that Amherst's financial aid policy regarding study abroad is that you would roughly pay the same amount if you were staying at Amherst for the semester, making the choice to study abroad or not one that can be made on purely non-financial grounds: an admirable and equitible policy amongst students. Credits work well for me as well--Amherst has a few strict poolicies regarding credit transfers, as does my major, but luckily, as a tried and tested program, IFSA-Butler at Oxford offers me no such pains.
Since I took the meticulous pain of uploading pictures, I suppose I must talk dorms--the last stepping stone out of Amherst and the first into life at a new Uni. Pictured above and left is Leland dormitory--hands down one of the coolest dorms I've lived in my entire Amherst life, and one I immensely miss right now, despite the comfortable two room double at Oxford. Leland's an example of the kooky variations in living styles Amherst offers-- a one of a kind dorm, it is apartment style, with a huge kitchen, bathroom, cupboard-under-the-stairs, Harry Potter style, and a living room. Living there right before studying abroad was a good transition into indepedence-- one feels more grown up living outside the traditional dorm setup. On next week's blog, I'll talk more about living situations, and life in general in a college campus, be it at Amherst or Oxford. Until then, see you and catch you later!