Major: Linguistics (a major he’s created)
Before Amherst, lived in: Kansas, California, New York
Music playing at photo shoot: A variety of styles
On the idea of belonging:
I feel like belonging is associated with feeling at home, but it’s not necessarily the same. I feel like you can belong somewhere where you don’t necessarily feel at home. I feel at home and like I belong at Amherst. I don’t want it to sound like I don’t. I feel like it’s somewhere where you, I want to say, are meant to be.
Are there different layers to belonging? Yeah, there’s definitely an aspect of belonging where it’s like being a part of something. I belong to a certain political party, or I belong to this family group, or I belong to this certain racial class. But I feel like that’s more of ownership, where this group has ownership over me because I belong underneath it. I feel like actually belonging, the root of the verb, isn’t that. It’s not ownership. It’s more about being equal. So in talking about belonging at Amherst, I don’t feel like it’s that definition. It’s not like Amherst owns me. It’s not that I belong to Amherst. It’s rather I belong in Amherst.
I’m actually forming my own linguistics major as of right now. I take the actual core linguistics classes at UMass, then I take the supplementary classes here. So German, French, then maybe a “Language and Movement” dance class.
Linguistics is the study of how language is represented in the brain and how it’s expressed through words, through body motions, and how, when you form sentences, certain words select each other. Or when you form words, how the individual sounds select what comes after that, and how there’s individual rules in the brain that determine how those sounds select other sounds and words select other words. Anyway, so I take linguistics classes.
So I am from Kansas for the last 10 years, but I also lived in California and New York for five years each before that. I’ve done Midwest and both coasts. So a lot of diverse life experiences influence who I am. It’s not really anything like being from Kansas defines me, or being from the East or West Coast defines me, or being an Amherst student defines me. It’s an accumulation of a lot of different pieces that might not have really come together, but ended up happening from that.
On the experience of being photographed:
It was definitely very new, for sure. I would say it took a little while to feel less awkward. But what do you expect? Even celebrities are probably self-conscious at something like this, just because there is a camera, and you know those pictures are going to be put in front of everybody.
A friend of mine, Faith [Wen ’19], just texted me saying, “Hey, come to a photo shoot,” and so I rode over there on my RipStik. I definitely did not plan on using it at all for the photo shoot. It was just a quick way to get there that wasn’t as big and cumbersome as a bike. It worked out that the RipStik ended up being the centerpiece of the photo, though.
I like the RipStik, as opposed to skateboard, which I’ve never really been that good at anyway. You don’t have to jump up and down, pushing up against the ground to go anywhere. It’s self-propelled. So you just go from side to side and you move. It’s a lot smoother of a motion, and you have more control over where you go.
I’m from Kansas. Kansas is typically flat, but there’s a section called the Flint Hills where there’s just a bunch of rolling hills. My town is right on the edge of that, so there’s still plenty of ups and downs, and a RipStik is really great for getting from place to place. There’s still some original prairie there, and it’s beautiful. In the fall, all the different colors are just ... sometimes I could just wear it—wear all the different colors.
At the photo shoot, I was originally just moving between the backdrop and the photographer. Then she asked, “Do you know any tricks?” I can kind of do a wheelie. So we tried that. She ended up saying, “Just keep doing that over and over and over.” You asked if I felt comfortable at the photo shoot. To be completely honest: probably not completely. Not comfortable—but I did feel dizzy! I got a little bit dizzy going around in circles.