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This Monday marked the final day of tutoring for Girls, Inc. for the semester. The Saturday before, we had our biggest event for which we have been preparing for the past month and a half. Around thirty of the young girls that we have tutored and come to know during these past months visited the campus. It was a wonderful event for all of us involved and having the chance to see the girls getting incredibly excited to see where we go to school was great.
Upon arriving to the campus, the girls embarked on the timeless project of building gingerbread houses. There was a lot of candy and icing everywhere! There was a wide variation of types of houses and buildings they created. Some resembled castles, some resembled the classic gingerbread house model, and others resembled structures built to house all of the candy they could grab. They were all creative and unique and there was no candy left by the time they finished. After building gingerbread houses, we all made beaded bracelets and necklaces. Of course, by the end of this project, there were beads everywhere, but everyone enjoyed making our own colorful jewelry to decorate ourselves with.
Later, a member of the DACASC (a really talented dance and step performance group) taught a dance piece he had choreographed for the girls. Many of them caught onto the dance steps a lot quicker than the tutors did. Afterwards, another group came to show us their break dancing skills, which the girls also really enjoyed. After the dance team left, many of the girls took time to try out their own moves. After working up a bit of a sweat, we all went to the cafeteria to eat. The girls definitely became even more overwhelmed when they discovered the machine that produces a practically unlimited amount of ice cream. Sitting among the girls at lunch also provided us with an opportunity to get to know some of the girls better who we may not have worked with individually throughout the semester.
The day was a complete success and great way to end the semester. I will definitely miss a lot of the girls next semester while I am away in Spain, but I am excited to see them next fall and all the progress they will have made.
Returning from to campus after Thanksgiving break, I do not find myself as refreshed as a student should be after having spent a week at home amongst friends and family. I did enjoy Thanksgiving break- the food, seeing my family, sleeping in, etc. However, my “vacation” was still largely devoted to worrying about trying to make some headway on projects and research papers that would be due at the end of the semester. Once I stepped foot on campus, the reality of all this work hit me. This is not a pleasant feeling. This being my fifth time ending a semester here, I thought I would be used to this feeling- the rush of preparing for finals period academically, emotionally, and phycologically. At the beginning of the week, however, I felt as if I were entering finals period for the first time.
Thankfully, at the end of this week, I am feeling a little more sure about how to go about getting through this final stretch successfully. Spending some considerable time with some of my professors has had a lot to do it. Along with the other members of my group from one class in which we were working on a project, I met with the professor to discuss the ideas for the web page we were to create. I was very nervous at the end of the meeting (technology is not for forte). However, we made arrangements to meet with our professor in the late afternoon the next day. We ended up spending over three hours in our professor’s office going over our web page design as well as our drafts that were to be posted within our page. Eventually our professor got hungry and even ordered pizza for all of us. I actually had a lot of fun hanging out in my professor’s office, getting a lot of useful suggestions and advice. Moreover, it was nice getting to know my professor better and leaving her office late that evening, I felt considerably less nervous about the class in general. The next day, I did “TYPO” (Take Your Profesor Out) as a part of another smaller group from a different class. We took our professor out to Panda East. We all had an amazing time and ordered a lot of food. Our professor is brilliant and incredibly hilarious and we got to ask him a lot of questions about Amherst, our class, and just about anything we were interested in.
Spending time with my professors does a lot to ease the pain of finals period. At the least, getting some “face time” with my professors humanizes the often brutal process of spending immeasurable hours surrounded by books, notes, and computer screens to produce countless pages of work that my professors will thoroughly critique. Moreover, each of my professors this semester have been very encouraging and meeting with them to discuss projects and papers can help in giving me the final push to continue working. In short, finals period is never the end of the world, although it may feel that way when you’re looking at your “to-do” list three weeks before you can go home. During this time, it can be very helpful to see professors as people who want to see you finish the semester well just as much as you do.
As each year goes by, homecoming weekend becomes increasingly meaningful. Freshman year, homecoming meant that there were just a lot of new, older and unfamiliar faces walking around campus- total strangers. This year, throughout the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised at almost every corner of campus to see the faces of the people who I remember seeing, talking to, and hanging out with through the course of my freshman and sophomore year. Saturday morning, before the big game, I had brunch with two brothers (twins) that I used to sit with at Val frequently during my freshman year when they were seniors. This was one of the many highlights of my weekend. We remembered all of the jokes that had us laughing loudly in the middle of the cafeteria two years ago. It was almost a surreal moment, sitting with my two friends who I had not seen in two years, hearing about their Wall Street jobs and their various on-goings since Amherst. I realized how quickly this time has gone by and how soon it would be before I would also be returning to campus as an alumnus, recognizing the faces of underclassmen.
One of the major events of the weekend took place on Saturday evening: Harlem Renaissance. Harlem Renaissance is an annual event hosted by the Black Student Union and a highly anticipated event. It is held in celebration of the cultural and intellectual achievements of the original Harlem Renaissance. Students from all years volunteer to participate in the event as performers. Each year, the performances range from themed monologues, recitations of famous poems and “spoken word”, dancing, singing, to original musical compositions. Professors and other members of the faculty and staff also attend the event as well. Everyone gets really dressed up, so half of the fun is also getting to see all of my friends in their best evening dresses and suits. The performances this year were phenomenal!
Sunday afternoon, I sang as a member of the gospel choir during the Bi-Semester church service. Several alumni, some of whom also sang in the gospel choir, were in attendance. The service was awesome! There was a lot of energy and it was truly amazing to see how much the service has developed and grown since my freshman year. The gospel choir’s numbers have significantly increased as well and we now have a band of our own, thanks to the many talents of several of our members. I was very proud of my two friends who have directed the gospel choir since the end of freshman year. I was also very excited to see my best friend attend the service to see me sing. Many of my other close friends were also at Bi-Semester this afternoon and it was really another wonderful time of gathering together and supporting each other.
Unfortunately, not a lot of homework was accomplished over the past two and a half days so Sunday night meant that there was a lot of catching up to do…
A little less than a month ago, I received news that I had been accepted into my first choice study abroad program in Seville, Spain. Upon receiving the good news, I was immediately overjoyed at the fact that I would actually be studying abroad next semester. I visited Seville, which is located in the southern region of Andalucía, when I was in the eighth grade. I was only in the city for about two and a half days but I always remember it as being a warm and beautiful city with plenty to explore. Of course, I was only fourteen so I wasn’t really allowed to do too much exploring independent of the group of classmates and teachers I was with. Nevertheless, I still had an incredible time there. I have always wanted to return and fully acquaint myself with the culture of the city and the region. For me, having the chance to return to Seville was literally a dream come true.
Last weekend I had had the opportunity to talk to another student who had recently been to Spain. A mutual friend of ours had mentioned about week ago that she had studied abroad in Seville over the summer so when I ran into her, I asked her if she would mind meeting up to talk about her experiences abroad. Although it was clear that we both are attempting to manage heavy workloads and hectic schedules, she was more than willing to make time, even if only for an hour, to chat about Spain, Seville, and answer any questions I had.
We met up at the Raos’ coffee shop in town and after the short hour we had, I was even more excited about studying in Seville next semester. Apparently, there isn’t much for me to worry about so long as I make sure to stay on top of all of the forms and paperwork I need to fill out and turn in before then. I think I finally realized how quickly the time is passing by and how soon I will be packing up my belongings here at Amherst and trying to pick and choose what to bring with me to Spain (consistent with much of the other advice I have received so far was her warning to not bring too many clothes and unnecessary items and to pack flat shoes for lots of walking). I had not even been quite sure of the questions I wanted to ask when I arrived at Raos, but the more she described her experience in Seville, the more I wanted to know. She was able to describe to me in depth her (and other students’ whom she met) process of becoming accustomed to various aspects of life in Seville ranging from Spanish food and local weather to classes and nightlife. By the end of the hour, I felt much surer of myself and my ability to “survive” abroad. She was even able to refer me to another close friend of hers who also studied abroad in Spain last semester who might also be able to answer any other questions that might come up later.
Of course, I am definitely nervous about the idea of having to adapt to a foreign environment and new customs, studying and living with complete strangers. But this is undoubtedly part of the thrill as well. I am eager to see what awaits me in Seville. I am sure that much of my experience will be very different from how I remembered it from my first visit at age fourteen (I hope so!). Most of all, I am looking forward to facing the challenge of being forced to speak almost only Spanish and truly own my independence in order to create the type of experience I want to have there.
Last Thursday I enjoyed the most exciting class of my semester so far. I am currently taking Critical Debate in Black Studies, where we study topics that have historically continued to spark reoccurring debates within the field of black studies. As we learn about these various issues we read the opposing opinions of critical thinkers in the field. Each class, we thoroughly dissect the arguments we have read. A major focus of learning the art and process of debating has consisted of learning to identify the various components of any good argument from the main claims and the grounds on which those claims are based, to the warrant and qualifiers. Having always been interested in the process of debate but never having the opportunity to study it formally, I was very excited when the class had its first debate. The first debate, which was on reparations, turned out to be very difficult for the class. I think we were all very confused with the procedure the professor had laid out for us. It was difficult for the class, split into two sides, to take turns making claims, providing further evidence, and listening and responding to the opposing team. To say the least, it was rather chaotic.
Last Thursday we had our third in-class debate, which focused on the notion of emphasizing the ethnic paradigm as the main framework for studying race relations in America. The class had been split into three teams (one team was assign to “referee” the debate). Wednesday, our teams met to develop our arguments, trying to come up with a claim that would catch our opponents off guard. Our professor even returned to campus at ten o’clock at night, as he has done before every in class debate, and stayed past mid-night to help the two teams development their arguments. My team worked together until past one o’clock in the morning on our position. We were pleased with what we had come up with and anxious to see what the other side would produce the next morning.
From the beginning of the debate, I could tell that this one was different from the previous two debates. Both sides seemed much more focused and knowledgeable about their arguments. The professor did not have to intervene nearly as much. Given the time limitations of the class, the debate was incredibly successful. It seemed clear that a resolution would have been reached if we had been allowed more time to continue the debate. Nevertheless, we achieved our primary goal of presenting well founded arguments and really listening, responding and challenging our opponents. At the end of the class, everyone was really excited. Everyone could feel that we had finally gotten the hang of the in-class debates. This marked one of the most remarkable moments of my academic career at Amherst. Walking out of the class, I felt invigorated. What I had experienced was not just a typical everyday class, but a truly incredible and fun class debate where everyone played an important role in creating this learning experience. Although we were split into opposing sides, we had worked together to push ourselves further as a class.