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Elizabeth Lefever '16
Hey everyone - Welcome to my blog! My name is Elizabeth Lefever and I'm a sophomore from the New York City area. I'm doubling majoring in Computer Science and Asian Languages and Civilizations with a concentration in Japanese language and culture. My activities at Amherst have included the Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team, the Knitting Club (Much Ado About Knitting), the Computer Science Club, and tutoring through a program called Girls Inc., an outreach initiative in the nearby town of Holyoke. In addition to writing as a student blogger, I also work in the Admissions Office as both a Tour Guide and a Diversity Intern. I enjoy solving puzzles, getting down in Zumba classes, eating, painting, and taking power naps. My favorite pizza at Antonio's is Pesto Tortellini, I'm double jointed in all my fingers, and I smile in my sleep.
I also love to talk about Amherst, so don't hesitate to reach out! I'd love to hear from you, whether it's comments, questions, concerns, thoughts, ponderings, or anything else. Shoot me an email any time at email@example.com. Hopefully you'll come to love this place as much as I do.
Student Spotlight: Keiana James
February 20, 2014
Keiana is from Brooklyn (Coney Island specifically) and is double majoring in French and Political Science, with a certificate in International Relations. In addition to our 38 majors, we also have about 15 Five College Certificate Programs, ranging from Ethnomusicology to Logic to Culture, Health, and Science. As a sophomore, Keiana does a great job of pursuing her academic interests outside of class and is hoping to study abroad next year.
Keiana is involved in our two most popular dance groups on campus: DASAC and Amherst Dance. Amherst Dance is geared towards dancers at all levels; everyone is welcome, whether they’ve never danced in their life or had years of classical training. Their shows are always a fun mix of different levels and styles. At their fall show, there was everything from a tap number choreographed to Treasure by Bruno Mars, to intense modern pieces. DASAC, which stands for Dance And Step at Amherst College, is more selective. Their shows are always high energy and packed. After watching a DASAC show, you leave with a strong desire to learn how to dance, while simultaneously knowing you’ll never be that flawless.
In addition to her political interests and passion for dance, Keiana is involved with Girls Inc., a mentor-based initiative in a nearby community. In the Holyoke chapter, Girls Inc. matches up Amherst College students with young girls to tutor. The cool thing about this program is that you work with the same girl every week, giving you the opportunity to really get to know her and to have the greatest impact. This year, Keiana became a Shift Coordinator, taking on a leadership role. Amherst’s involvement with Girls Inc. is run through the CCE, the Center for Community Engagement, which I would say is one of the most active resource centers on campus.
I can say from experience that Keiana is also a top-notch roommate and always fun to be around. Some of her hobbies include crocheting, drawing and painting, and watching Disney movies. Keiana’s another great example of a well-rounded Amherst student.
Student Spotlight: Patrick DeVivo
February 13, 2014
Every post I’ve written so far has been about my own personal experiences. But Amherst is full of so many diverse and interesting students that I thought I’d take a break from writing about myself, and introduce some other members of the Amherst community.
This is Patrick. He’s a sophomore double majoring in Physics and Computer Science from New York City. Half-Vietnamese and half-Italian, Patrick embodies the racial diversity at Amherst. But I’d say that his diversity of interests and experiences is just as important. Patrick is a member of the Crew Team, Electronics Club, and Computer Science Club, all while working as a Physics TA. He also spends much of his time on different programming projects, such as developing websites. (A cool example of this is fluttr.io.) The Electronics Club is currently working on an app to monitor the traffic in Val, our dining hall on campus. Last semester they built a high-altitude balloon that will be launched this spring.
Crew is one of the most active club teams on campus. Together the men and women’s teams have about 60 people and they practice six times a week. In the fall and spring the Crew Team regularly attend regattas, and in between there’s some serious winter training. They’re also involved in community service efforts in the surrounding area.
Patrick's interests are far reaching. He played saxophone for about ten years, built a rubik's cube-solving robot, and is a pretty creative cook. He also loves spending time outside and was a FOOT trip leader this past fall. FOOT stands for First-year Outdoor Orientation Trip, where upper classmen lead hiking, canoeing, or rockclimbing excursions for incoming first-years. I think Patrick is a great example of a well-rounded Amherst student.
Getting Back at It
January 29, 2014
It’s been an eventful two months since my last entry. I survived finals week, celebrated holidays, knit a hat, went on vacation with my family, applied to some study abroad programs, returned to campus, saw Frozen, and began classes. Now it’s time to get back at it.
Looking forward for this semester, there’s a lot I’m excited for – including a spring break tournament in Georgia for the Frisbee team and a Women in Computer Science Conference at Harvard. But there’s also a lot of planning to be done. The next month will consist of a myriad of applications, as I try to figure out study abroad options and my summer plans.
The study abroad process has proved to be a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, but also more exciting. And the Study Abroad Office has been amazing. After attending a few meetings and presentations last semester, I went online and searched through the database of pre-approved programs. I was amazed to find how comprehensive it was. I easily found seven programs I wanted to apply to, all of them in Japan. They range from full emersion at Nanzan University in Nagoya, to living in a monastery with Buddhist monks in Kyoto. There are an unbelievable amount of possibilities and, as long as I can get through the applications, I’ll hopefully be in Japan this time next year.
Admittedly, I’m not quite as on top of my summer plans. Most of my time has been focused on study abroad shenanigans and I’ve been pretty singularly focused. Starting this week though, I’ll begin looking through the Career Center’s database(another amazing resource) for summer internships and opportunities. Last summer I had an amazing internship at a Brooklyn-based company called BioLite. I focused on marketing, and learned an incredible amount. So, I’m excited to see what might be in store for this summer.
At the moment, I’m mostly preparing for the upcoming year, so this is a time filled with potential. But at the same time, current aspects of my life are also going well. I’ve only had a few classes so far, but they all seem great. I’m particularly excited for Artificial Intelligence and Japan on Screen. Up until this point, I’ve been taking a lot of introductory or general courses and, while I’ve enjoyed those as well, I’m excited to delve a little deeper into specific subjects. And it’s always great to return to campus and be able to partake in all the events that are always going on. It’s good to be back.
The Holiday Season at Amherst
December 9, 2013
The holiday season is the bomb. Thanksgiving was delicious (anyone else have Turducken?), Christmas carols are on the radio, Thanksgivukkah happened for the first time since 1918, we had our first snowfall here at Amherst, and I’ve already participated in two Secret Santas.
Note: I did not take this picture and there is not (yet) this much snow. I found it by googling “Amherst College snow.” But that is Amherst and it is a legit snowball fight, so I figured it was okay.
The winter can be a stressful time, what with everyone getting colds and the ever-looming presence of finals. But if you can take a step back from all that, it’s also a time full of celebration. Christmas lights are everywhere. People are running around buying presents for family and friends. And most importantly, everyone is wearing those awful and wonderful holiday sweaters.
Did anyone participate in Coke Zero’s sweater competition? It was among the greatest things ever. You designed your own sweater, and if you were voted into the top 100, then they’d make it for you! My friend Ashley ’16 did it and created that last sweater… and she won! So now Coke is making her that sweater. Too great.
There are also a lot of exciting things that happen at Amherst at the end of the semester. Different performance groups have shows (like Amherst Dance and various A Capella groups), clubs run themed events (like making ginger bread houses in the dining hall), and even the Admissions Office had a holiday party. Yesterday, the Diversity Interns and some of the Deans of Admissions gathered, exchanged gifts, and ate mountains on mountains of food. All of it was home cooked and wonderful, and I immediately fell asleep when I got back home to my dorm.
And there’s still so much to look forward to. First and foremost, the Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug is coming out this week. But in terms of my Amherst life, there’s a lot happening as well. Over winter break and interterm I’ll be applying to study abroad programs, I’ve picked my classes for next semester and they sound dope, and more snow is on the way, meaning that we’ll all be taking trays from the dining hall and sledding down Memorial Hill. It's going to be great.
November 20, 2013
This year I joined the Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team, and it's been great. I'm not sure why, but the Frisbee teams at Amherst have a Donnie Darko theme, a movie that I admittedly have never seen but hear great things about. That means that our name is Sparkle Motion (or SpaMo for short) and our mascot is this terrifying bunny:
Don't let the mascot deceive you - the team is full of great people. I had friends in High School who played Ultimate but, having never done it myself, I was entirely new to the whole culture of Frisbee. I've played various sports in my life, and there's nothing quite like it. A good example of this difference is the fact that there are no referees on the field; all fouls are called and deliberated on by players. That means the level of accountability and integrity is unmatched.
Frisbee also has a number of fun traditions. Some teams go all out in "flair," which leads to some of the greatest outfits you'll ever see. I don't know how people manage to play in footie pajamas or a tutu/tiara combination, but I'm always impressed when they do. I also thought I'd seen enthusiasm before, but nothing compares to the cheers that happen on the field. Arguably one of my favorites is where we sing the chorus to Milkshake (a musical masterpiece) at the top of our lungs... Maybe it doesn't quite qualify as a cheer, but it definitely pumps you up.
SpaMo is a club team here. At Amherst we have athletics at three different levels: varsity, club, and intramural. As a club team, we fall in the middle of that spectrum. We practice about three times a week and go to tournaments fairly regularly. This is some of the team after playing in a Mean Girls-themed tournament at Wellesley College.
Being on a team definitely has a great social aspect. We have tons of team dinners, team parties, and just general team shenanigans. Participating in various clubs and activities is an important part of being an active member of the community. I've gotten to meet some very cool people this year, and I couldn't be happier that I joined.
The Classes I've Taken
November 11, 2013
This week, I thought I'd provide an example of what an Amherst student's course schedule might look like. So, here are the classes that I've taken. I've included the title, a blurb on what it's about, and the department. If you'd like to explore all the classes you can take at Amherst, I'd recommend checking out the course scheduler. It shows you what's been offered when, along with a course description and the professor.
I wrote about the open curriculum last week, and you can definitely see its effect in the classes I've taken. I'm planning on double majoring and I'll finish Sophomore year about halfway through the requirements for both of my majors. But at the same time, I've been able to explore tons of different departments. You can also see specialization happen; I start by taking mostly introductory courses, to finding what I've really loved, and then delving in. If you have any questions about any of these classes (or others!) don't hesitate to reach out. As always, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into some of the intellectual possibilities here.
Fall 2012 - Freshman Year
Introduction to the Japanese Language: As the name suggests, an introductory Japanese language class. Japanese
Genocide: My first year seminar, and interdisciplinary course that looks at genocide from political, historical, and psychological viewpoints. First Year Seminar
Introductory Chemistry: An intro level chem class with both lecture, discussion, and lab components. Chemistry
Science Fiction, Narrative, and Identity: An analytic exploration of Science Fiction films and novels in the context of religion and philosophy. Religion
Sprint 2013 - Freshman Year
Introduction to Computer Science I: The first of two introductory CompSci courses, taught in java. Computer Science
Beyond Basic Japanese: A continuation of introductory Japanese language. Japanese
An Introduction to Economics: A basic Economics course that covers the essentials of both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Economics
Painting II: An advanced level painting course with a focus on independent projects and painting from life. Art and the History of Art
Fall 2013 - Sophomore Year
Microeconomics: A core class that goes in depth to different Micro theories with real world applications. Economics
Introduction to Computer Science II: The second of two introductory CompSci courses, taught in java and python. Computer Science
Communicating in Sophisticated Japanese: The first class in second-year language. Japanese
Introduction to Psychology: Basic level Psych course, lecture-style with aspects of participating in and conducting research. Psychology
Spring 2014 - Sophomore Year
Note: These are the classes that I've pre-registered for. That means I've signed up and will most likely take them. However, there's a time period here called Add/Drop, where you get to shop classes and play around with your schedule. So, who knows! I'll have the chance to explore and finalize my schedule at the beginning of next semseter.
Data Structures and Algorithms I: The first of two core classes, focus on theoretical understanding and gaining advanced programming experience. Computer Science
Experience with Authentic Japanese Materials: Next level Japanese langauge course, focus shifts from learning from textbooks to beginning to study actual Japanese materials. Japanese
Artificial Intelligence: Explores the ideas/techniques behind computers behaving intelligently. Other topics are based off student interest and can include game playing, speech recognition, and probabilistic reasoning. Computer Science
Japan on Screen: An interdisciplinary course providing an in depth cultural study of Japan and Japanese media. Asian Languagues and Civilizations / Film and Media Studies
Majors and the Open Curriculum
November 3, 2013
As a sophomore, I'm beginning the exciting process of figuring out what I want to do with my life. One of the first steps is choosing what I want to major in and, after much exploration, I've decided on double majoring in Computer Science and Asian Languages and Civilizations. Wahooo!
Your major is a big commitment. Obviously it's not the final word on what you'll do in life, but it does start laying down the foundations of where you might go. It's not a decision you want to make lightly. Because of Amherst's open curriculum, I'll finish sophomore year having taken courses in 10 different departments. I've been able to experience a wide range of fields (everything from Chemistry to Art to Economics to Religion) so I'm able to make a well-informed decision. For those of you who don't know, Amherst's open curriculum means that there are no core distribution requirements. The only classes you have to take at Amherst are your first year seminar and those that fulfill your major requirements. No student will ever be forced to take anything they don't want to; you study what you want to study.
That has a huge effect on the academic culture here. For one thing, it means that every student in a class wants to be there, resulting in more engaged students and more lively class discussions. It also means that you have greater flexibility. If you want to switch your major late, you can do so. Double majoring and studying abroad (both things I want to do) becomes a possibility. There's enough time to try new things so you don't ever feel rushed or trapped into a major. The open curriculum is testimony to Amherst's ideals; I've found that Amherst is a school that very much wants you to have an experience that is both valuable and entirely your own.
You don't have to declare your major until the end of your sophomore year, but this past week I decided to get a head start. On Friday, I declared one of my majors! The process turned out to be fairly straightforward. I filled out the major declaration form, met with my advisor for her approval, met with the department chair, and then handed my form to the registrar's office. And now I've officially declared the Asian Languages and Civilizations major.
When you declare, you get a new advisor within the department of your major. What's better is that you get to pick your own advisor. However, I don't yet know many professors so when I met with the chair I told him as much. I asked if he had any recommendations, or if there was a way to indicate a preference for a professor affiliated with the Japanese department, as that's where my concentration will be. He looked down at the form and said, "Well, why don't we put my name down?" It was a warm and open offer, and was given with no hesitation. This is definitely testimony to what professors at Amherst are like. They are all unbelievably intelligent and experienced, but also genuinely nice and entirely committed to their students. The whole experience of declaring my first major was extremely positive, and I'm excited for the next steps. I'll be declaring Computer Science next semester. Amherst offers 37 different majors and I'm happy to have found what works for me.
October 28, 2013
This weekend was our 52nd Diversity Open House! The Diversity Open House, or DIVOH for short, brings prospective students from all around the country to visit Amherst. The students who attend are some of the most diverse out there, whether they reperesent diversity through race & ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, or diversity of thought & experience.
I attended DIVOH as a senior in high school and absolutely loved my weekend. It gave me the opportunity to really experience Amherst and that was huge for my decision-making process. I ended up applying early decision, was lucky enough that everything worked out, and now I'm here! As a Diversity Intern, I got to experience the weekend in a new way, doing everything from early-stage planning to working the actual weekend. After both attending and running it, DIVOH definitely holds a special place in my heart. Here's some of the highlights from this weekend.
The Diversity Interns and some of the Deans of Admissions gathered in the morning to set up and prepare for the day. After an early morning Starbucks run, everyone gathered and we decorated, finalized everything, and made sure we were all set for the students to arrive.
This time we finished early and somehow doube dutch started. Things got wild. Unfortunately, double dutch may be the thing I am worst at in life. These before and after shots are approximately the saddest things I've ever seen.
Then the students arrived! The rest of the afternoon was spent doing things like getting to know some of the DIVOH attendees, grilling food, and leading tours. In the evening we had some activities planned, including a showcase where we brought in some of the performance groups on campus, such as student organizations involved in a capella, martial arts, and improv. Afterwards, the Diversity Interns put on our own show and provided a chance for the prospective students to ask candid quesitons.
Sunday was a busy day for the attendees, full of meetings with the Deans of Admissions, talking to professors, attending workshops, experiencing various aspects of Amherst life, etc. My favorite part of the day (and a lot of the prospective students' as well) was definitely the fall festival. Last year, Biddy (our President) started a tradition of having a celebration for each season. The fall festival included everything from pumpkin carving, to lobster rolls, to costume competitions, to performances. Seeing the whole Amherst community come together is always fantastic and times like these are among my favorite.
My next favorite part of the day was definitely in the evening when the Diversity Interns ran a Karaoke and Game Night. The students got to showcase their awesome talent and there were some intense games of Bananagrams and Cranium going on. It was definitely a fun and relaxing way to spend Sunday night, and a great way to end the weekend.
In the morning we all ate breakfast together and then the students had the opportunity to attend classes and get a feel for the academics at Amherst. By mid-afternoon, DIVOH drew to a close and it was time to say goodbye. All in all, I think the 2013 October DIVOH was a huge success. I had a blast and heard great things from the students who attended. Now they're back home and handling the always stressfull college process, but all I can hope is that they're a little better off from their time here.
October 16, 2013
Wednesdays are an unappreciated day. We typically view them as "hump day," the roadblock in the middle of the week that, if you can make it through, bring you closer to the long anticipated weekend. Wednesdays have it rough. So, in honor of today, I thought I'd detail out what a standard Wednesday might look like for me. (Spoiler alert: By the end of this year, you'll know more than you'll ever need to know about my life.)
Typically I set my alarm for 9:00, press snooze a couple hundred times, and then wake up closer to 10:00. If I have enough time after my quick morning routine, I'll drive over to the dining hall for breakfast. (Note: You're not allowed to have a car Freshman year, but after that you're free to bring whatever vehicles you'd like.) We have one dining hall on campus and that's Valentine Dining Hall, better known as Val. In the mornings, I like to make a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich; I grab an english muffin and whatever ingredients I feel like for the day, and bring them over to the panini press for a gourmet finish.
My first class is Japanese Discussion at 11:00. Different departments have different class types - everything from lectures, to discussions, to labs - and for Japanese, we have both discussion and class meetings twice a week. During discussion sessions, three students meet with the professor. You practice new material, refresh old structures, and get used to hearing and speaking the language. It's unbelievably helpful and since it's a personalized session taught by the instructor (rather than a TA) you learn an astonishing amount.
After Japanese, I usually hit up Grab-N-Go for lunch. Grab-N-Go is a new lunch alternative that Amherst implemented last year. Instead of going to Val, you can stop by Keefe Campus Center and pick up a meal to go. Today at Grab-N-Go I got a Roast Beef Sandwich with 3-Pepper Colby & Sundried Tomato Spread on Ciabatta. It was delicious. I also got two sides of Cheez-Its (my guilty pleasure in life) and carrots & hummus.
Next is Computer Science at 1:00. We're currently working in Java, and today we discussed topics like extending classes and creating abstract methods. Wednesdays and Fridays are fairly light as I only have two classes. But after Computer Science ends, I work in the Admissions Office from 2:30 to 4:30 as a Diversity Intern. At the moment, that means preparing for DIVOH, the Diversity Open House that happens in September and October. It's in two weeks so we're putting the finishing touches on preparation.
After work I have Ultimate Frisbee practice. The Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team is named Sparkle Motion, which comes from Donnie Darko, a movie I admittedly haven't seen but hope to soon. It's one of the club teams here at Amherst and I have to say that I love it. We practice on average three times a week and go to tournaments regularly. In my biased opinion, it's full of some of the greatest girls on campus. After practice we always have team dinner at Val. The menu for tonight looks delicious, but I'll be making a beeline for tortellini from the pasta bar. (It comes maybe once every two weeks, and it's always my favorite. Tortellini day = best day.)
And then it's time to both be productive and play. Usually on Wednesday nights, some friends and I will have study sessions for Microeconomics, where we'll ask each other any questions we have and work through the current problem set. If I have time, I might watch a movie with my roommate, do a puzzle (which makes me almost as happy as tortellini), or bake cookies in my dorm's kitchen - Who knows! Oftentimes on weekdays there'll be campus events. On a random Thursday a few weeks ago, Dan Brown (who graduated from Amherst in '86) came and presented "An Evening of Codes, Symbols and Secrets." Keefe Campus Center often hosts "Relaxation Nights," where you can do anything from get a massage to pig out at the chocolate fountain.
If one thing is true of Amherst, it's that you'll never be bored here.