I mostly slept (successfully became nocturnal…no, it wasn’t on purpose), read, ate/drank (pretty much pizza and tea exclusively), wrote, and talked with my mother and other family and close friends during my winter break and Interterm. Now that this relaxing and slow break is winding to an end, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my first semester at the good ol’ Herst. In my high school, throughout our four years, everybody had to write a Reflective Essay per semester. I kind of miss that. So, ahem.
The first thing that I learned during my first semester at Amherst is that while yes, small talk can be exhausting as hell, it builds a bridge to deeper conversations. I spent most of my first two/three weeks at Amherst alone. I explored the dorms, academic and athletic buildings, and places in town. My friend quota had already been met because I had two sturdy friendships throughout middle and high school. I hadn’t worried much about making friends. It was understood that, no matter what, my best friends were only a Skype date away. Occasionally, I’d call my mother or either of my best friends to share with them my latest embarrassing or hilarious moments (so many). But I noticed pretty soon that other freshmen started settling into groups and I got nervous. After a lot of thinking, I realized that it was time to make friends on campus, and I started utilizing “small talk”. I’m glad that I did because, as you’ve noticed, Admissions does a great job of bringing brilliant people to Amherst. I quite like my new friends.
The second lesson that I learned is that it’s important to thoroughly observe and, sometimes, experience, things before coming to conclusions about them. Because of the dominant influence that alcohol has on the party scene at Amherst (speaking only from what I’ve seen first-hand), among other reasons, I immediately negatively judged the Socials after one five-second long visit during Orientation. My high school friends and I didn’t, and I still don’t, consume alcohol or do drugs recreationally. Our parties ranged from pizza and movie-thons followed by extensive critiques and painting sessions accompanied by obscure musicians like Gonjasufi, to scavenger hunts, spelling bees, karaoke sessions, and dance (read: flailing ) parties. This was my type of fun, and I didn’t want to go to the Socials. But I started seeing my group of close friends here heading down to the Socials somewhat regularly. Because of FOMO, I gave the Socials some more five-second long visits. I was surprised to find that some of the parties weren’t nearly as wild as the first one that I attended. Now, I’m less likely to completely bash the Socials as a whole.
The third lesson is pretty short. I’ve learned not only to think seventeen plus times before speaking, writing, and breathing here—but also to develop a thick skin. I genuinely appreciate and admire how vocal we all are, but sometimes it’s a little overwhelming.
Lastly, what I’ve learned in boating school is that while it’s important to focus on our identities, this should not extend to the exclusion of certain experiences. In my first article, I mentioned that it’s important for first-years to focus on developing our identities, self-esteem, and self-worth. I failed to realize that romantic relationships can help one discover themselves, grow as a person, and whatnot. All of the “don’t date during your freshman year” advice definitely has some valid points, but in the end, everyone should do what’s right for them at their own pace. Including experiences aside from dating. Let’s not limit ourselves. Okay, I promise I’m finished talking about romance (for now…after all, Valentine’s Day is around the corner).
Overall, I’d give my first semester pretty high ratings.