27 Nov 2010
Campus empties quickly for Thanksgiving break, many Friday, more Saturday, and the few stragglers on Sunday. (Know though, no, campus doesn’t close over Thanksgiving break, and some students, international and otherwise, spend the break at Amherst.) I was asked to stick it out with the stragglers until Sunday by Professor Bosman, for whom I work, to organize his office with him over the weekend.
But what to do, then, when normal weekend plans don’t happen for lack of students? On Friday night, a friend and I went to Amherst Brewing Company for dinner and, of course, beer (yeah, we’re 21; everywhere in town cards). Even when Amherst, the college, is empty, the town is always happening: ABC was packed and lively--I do wonder where these people come from, our town seemingly so small but always busy. It made for a refreshing Friday night, a fun bar rather than dingy dorm, great fresh-brewed beer, greasy pub food.
Saturday the office work started, and Sunday it continued, with progress made but much left to make (maybe that’ll be accomplished over interterm). While filing papers is never fun, the weekend was well worth it, and fun despite the filing: hours of office work provided time to talk with Professor Bosman about graduate school, becoming a professor, teaching, and everything else that’s becoming increasingly important to me to think about as life after Amherst looms...though still a year away--not that conversation was merely self-serving, what he’s done is incredibly interesting in its own right (from studying in Cape Town to California, to teaching in Massachusetts, and researching at the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC).
Back to Baltimore for break, where I had maybe not the typical American holiday--a dinner in the city with just my parents. And, I don’t eat turkey, vegetarian for a few years. But, it was nice (who likes those massive family gatherings anyway?), and I return to Amherst refreshed, at least a little, and I sure need to be: we’re entering the last two weeks of class, when finals papers have already been assigned, though not yet written...or planned...or considered...or anything. It’ll be busy.
A food-centric visit to the little town of Amherst surprises: sushi, Asian fusion, cheap pizza, Italian, New England regional--a lot of it organic, farm-to-table or some combination of these favorite foodie catch phrases. The French bistro Chez Albert, though, stands out among all the fare, with recipes straight from France and food straight from the local farms. Of course, we students rarely, almost never if even ever, eat at Chez Albert. But, this past Tuesday I got the chance to lunch at Chez Albert with two fellow students.
But, all this talk of food is leaving out something far more important: we had been invited to lunch at Chez Albert by Professor David Sofield--to lunch with him and Richard Wilbur. So for all the fantastic food, I can’t say I was particularly impressed, didn’t notice it I admit. Richard Wilbur is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award winner, and former US Poet Laureate (1987)...and Amherst alum class of 1942. Even with all his honors, a lunch with him, though maybe great for bragging rights, wouldn’t be that great if Wilbur weren’t a genuinely great guy--but he is. It wasn’t as if I were sitting at lunch with the country’s most celebrated living poet (I was), but as if I were sitting at lunch with a family member or old friend. He has that warmth. And Professor Sofield is the type of professor any student should want to know: he will endlessly support his students and possesses a sincere spirit. He’s, largely, why I’m an English major. After my first year here, I had largely given up on studying English, turned away by a general distaste and motivated by better grades to major in some sort of math focused major. My advisor recommended, before I give it up entirely, to meet with some Professor Sofield, who graciously gave a student he had never seen before an hour of his time to talk about what it means to study English. I study English, conversation a success.
I had a great time at lunch, and can’t, for fear my drift will be scarcely apt, really get at what it was like for a student of English, this student of English. But, I think I can get at what it means about being an Amherst student: having professors that care about you and invest in you. It’s about incredible opportunities: I was blessed with an afternoon that just wouldn’t happen anywhere else. It happens here.
Pre-registration is upon us, that time of the semester when students try to figure out what courses to take next semester. At this time of the semester, schedules are a favorite topic of discussion, and everybody always seems to have what they should be doing more figured out than you do. So what to do?
Well, the week before pre-registration officially started, the English Department Steering Committee (of which I’m a part: read my bio above) organized an English Department open house at Johnson Chapel, where faculty and students could mingle and discuss next semester’s courses over hors d’oevoures and desserts catered by the fantastic Bistro 63. The English Department is one of the largest departments here--potentially the largest (some 30 faculty members?)--but, like everything at Amherst, it’s small enough to feel friendly: students and faculty socialized. And the whole thing was pretty productive: the hundreds of students that attended over the course of the afternoon came to the open house with questions about next semester and left with answers. Informed by casual conversations with the professors themselves--that’s the best way to make decisions about which courses to take.
Though I have yet to pre-register (the deadline is a few days away), I currently plan on taking English 76 Old English and Beowulf with Professor Chickering, who is the authoritative voice on Beowulf (if you read a Beowulf translation in high school, it was probably his. Though, for this course, we’re not reading a translation, but reading the original Old English); English 42 Reading and Criticizing Novels with Professor Pritchard, to be my fourth class with this legendary Amherst professor; Latin 02 Intermediate Latin; and, potentially, German 25 Romantic Couples or English 34 Renaissance Drama. We’ll see, I’m still sort of up in the air. And that's ok, because the best part about pre-registration is the "pre" part. We have over a week after the start of the next semester to test out schedules, picking and choosing which classes to stay in and which to drop.
And a big by the way: it’s homecoming weekend. I’m sick, so I have to skip out on most of the goings-on (I’m bummed), but make sure you check out the blogs of my fellow bloggers--I’m sure they’ll have plenty of homecoming updates.
That's it for now, but I'll have another update soon.
Interested in what I've been talking about? Look up the course offerings. What would you take?
The English course offerings are here:
The benefits of living in the small yet vibrant town that is Amherst are numerous: the variety of restaurants with a table free for you, the quiet coffee shops constantly open (at least as late as our library...), an almost entire absence of traffic--and all this convenience is inconveniently suspended during family weekend, this past weekend, as our tiny town is overrun by out-of-towners, of which my parents were two.
I guess it’s apparent that I prefer our town and campus on the less chaotic side, but I don’t want to discount how fun family weekend is up here. There are innumerable events, as every organization--our a capella groups, the orchestra, the jazz band, the academic departments, the improv comedy group, sports teams, and more--seems to have something planned. My parents and I took advantage of the offerings, attending the jazz band concert Saturday during the day and the play Our Lady of 121st Street at night. Both featured friends of mine more talented than I. Both were great. One was remarkably vulgar (no, not the jazz band), to the offense of octogenarians and other old folks in the crowd. I don’t know what goes in your high school as to what they can put on stage, but my guess is that it’s not along the lines of Our Lady. Artistic censorship ends pretty suddenly, thankfully, at Amherst.
The beginning of this week comes, and I’ve, of course, not worked, another downside of family weekend. So, writing this on Tuesday, let me apologize for the brevity: I'm trying frantically to catch up on work. And, as far as what work goes, I'll fill you in with everything about my classes as it comes up.