Dory Farlessyost: “I Am Going to Remember All the Times I Said Yes”

Whether through backpacking in Appalachia or Spain, cooking for the community at the Zü, or making art as an act of giving, Dory Farlessyost ’24 has sustained community everywhere she has been.

Dory Farlessyost: “I Am Going to Remember All the Times I Said Yes”
Finding community outside of college boundaries has sustained Dory Farlessyost ’24 throughout her time at Amherst. Picture courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.

Widely known for her positive energy and “zest for life,” Dory Farlessyost ’24 creates community wherever she goes. As the community advisor (CA) for Humphries House (commonly known as the Zü), a programs organizer for the Class and Access Resource Center (CARC), and an integral member of the Spanish and studio art departments at Amherst, she has both a passion and a talent for bringing groups of people together. Farlessyost has found connection and meaning amid her non-traditional path through Amherst. She is overflowing with indelible advice and life philosophies.

Farlessyost will graduate as a Spanish and Practice of Art double major from Amherst, but she has often found herself abroad. She studied in Chile during the fall of her junior year and also played an integral role in Senior Lecturer Carmen Granda’s spring 2023 Camino De Santiago course, which traveled to Spain.

On a quiet Sunday morning at the Zü, I found Farlessyost washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink, laughing with her housemates as they made coffee with the house’s various coffee apparatuses. We talked in her room, sitting on a shag carpet in a room brimming with camping equipment and wall art. At the end of our conversation, I left with some of Farlessyost’s infectious optimism and joy — as well as an invitation to a Zü dinner the next week.

The Beginning

Hailing from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Farlessyost described her hometown as “a very rural, beautiful setting.” Having grown up in a household with limited resources, she continues to be sustained through her bonds to her family, especially her parents and grandparents.

“There have been so many times this semester I’ve been like, what if I just got in my car and drove home?” said Farlessyost. “And I think about my grandma and how much she wants to see my little cap and gown picture walking across the stage.”

She cites food and cooking as major forces in her upbringing, which later played a large role in her desire to move to the Zü, a co-op theme house in which students cook their own meals. Farlessyost describes cooking as the ultimate love language as it brings together quality time, acts of service, and gift-giving. “Food and community around food is huge,” she laughed. “I'm from the South.”

Farlessyost attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a prestigious public residential high school in Durham, North Carolina, and took a gap year after graduating in 2016. “I came out of there super burnt out,” said Farlessyost, so she spent most of her gap year backpacking and working in local schools.

One aspect of Amherst that attracted Farlessyost was the opportunity to travel: Amherst offers students generous financial support for traveling. But after entering as a first-year student in the fall of 2017, Farlessyost completed one year at Amherst before leaving. She cited a sense of isolation as a major factor in her decision to leave. “I fully dropped out,” recalled Farlessyost. “I didn’t think I was coming back at all.”

The Camino

The taste for adventure that led Farlessyost to Amherst remained after she left. “I had this huge realization during freshman year that the big reason I came to Amherst was to study abroad, and I was so miserable,” she said. “I was like, wait, actually, I could just go abroad. I don’t have to study; I can just go.” Shortly after leaving Amherst, Farlessyost embarked on her first adventure on the Camino De Santiago, a network of pilgrimages dating back to the beginning of the ninth century and leading to the shrine of St. James in northwestern Spain. She picked the French route, the “Camino Francés,” which is a 500-mile trek that begins at the Spain-France border.

Dory Farlessyost ’24 has walked two different routes of the Camino de Santiago. On her second, with a class, she organized impromptu picnics and shared hiking tips.

While searching for opportunities to backpack internationally, Farlessyost was drawn to the Camino because of the Spanish classes she had taken during high school and her first year at Amherst. “Spain just seemed like a very natural choice,” recalled Farlessyost. “I started to look at this trail and there’s a lot of support around it, so I took off.”

“Most people do the French route in around six weeks,” she added, “but I was there to vibe on a budget.” Farlessyost ended up spending about two months on her first hike of the Camino, encountering other travelers who she says “were also at a transitional point in their lives.” These connections helped her to regain the sense of self she felt like she had lost after that first isolating year at Amherst. “It made me figure — if not necessarily what I wanted to do — what I wanted to feel like.”

The experience of backpacking from hostel to hostel and sleeping in a new bed every night was, as Farlessyost puts it, “an opportunity to get out of my own head.” Her encounters throughout Spain helped put that first year at Amherst into perspective and reconsider how she viewed herself. “I think that throughout my travels, I have realized that my place in the world is so incredibly small. And that is a really good thing, that has saved me many, many times.”

For the remainder of her time off, Farlessyost worked as a zipline tour guide in North Carolina. “Being a guide is definitely the best version of me,” she laughed. “I’m basically just paid to hype everyone up.”

Farlessyost returned to Amherst in the fall of 2021. She moved to the Zü the following spring and made plans to study abroad for a full year in Chile. However, after spending the fall semester in the city of Valparaíso, her visa for the spring fell through and her travel plans were slashed in half. In the midst of visa turmoil, Farlessyost reached out to Senior Lecturer in Spanish Carmen Granda, who had been her instructor for both Spanish 102 and 202. “It’s a miracle that she read my email,” laughed Farlessyost, as Granda was on sabbatical at the time. “And she said, you sound like you’re in crisis.”

Later, during what Farlessyost cites as a “pivotal Zoom call,” Granda introduced to her the elective she would be teaching the following spring, Spanish 310: “Camino De Santiago.” In addition to the opportunity to return to the pilgrimage that had been so meaningful four years before, Farlessyost also had the opportunity to adjust the timing of her plane tickets, meaning she could extend the trip to Europe as long as she wanted. So, after returning to campus for the spring 2023 semester, Farlessyost embarked on her second Camino expedition with her Spanish class.

In May 2023, the Spanish 310 cohort hiked the Portuguese route of the Camino De Santiago, which they began in Vigo, Spain. “Walking 100 miles across Spain in May 2023 was a challenge,” wrote Carmen Granda in a statement to The Student. “We endured sunburns, tired feet, minor aches and pains, and loud snoring, but we persevered. In part, the class has Dory to thank. Her extensive experience hiking and positive demeanor during the ten-day trip pushed the group along.”

Farlessyost attributes much of the success of the trip to the group of students Granda selected for the class. “I got to go and hike with dear friends I made throughout the semester,” she said. Granda recalled that Farlessyost would hike with different students each day, organizing impromptu picnics and sharing hiking tips along the way.

After completing the Camino for the second time, Farlessyost spent the rest of her summer in Europe working through the program Workaway on farms in Southern Spain and then doing house maintenance for an elderly British woman. She then proceeded to “bop around different European countries” before returning to Massachusetts for the fall semester.

People and Community

Farlessyost spent her senior year at Amherst as the CA of the Zü, working alongside house president Manni Spicer Saavedra ’24. “He and I decided to go into the leadership positions together because we were kind of floundering,” said Farlessyost. “We had this really good conversation about how do we actively choose to be here? How do we put ourselves into the community and commit here?” Well-known for her pasta and roasted vegetable dinners, Farlessyost has fully committed to the community at the theme house.

“Dory’s thoughtfulness — as a CA and a friend — knows no bounds,” wrote Zü resident Anya Hardy-Mittell ’26. “There is no one better to turn to for a hug, a late night drive, a rant session, or a kitchen dance party.” Farlessyost was initially drawn to the Zü because of its values of food and community, which she saw as an antidote to the isolation she experienced during her first year at Amherst. Since her arrival, she has flourished in an environment she describes as her home, community, and “such a silly place.”

Farlessyost has also worked as a program organizer at the CARC since her sophomore year, joining a cohort of student employees that included Michelle Kha ’24, Frida Hernandez ’24, and Ashanti Adams ’24. “They’re folks that I probably wouldn't have run into,” said Farlessyost. “We run in different circles on this campus. But I am so inspired by them. And I just have so much love for them and for the ways that we've all kind of learned to facilitate together.”

In addition to being a friendly face inside the center’s walls, Farlessyost has played an instrumental role in organizing programs like the Senior Financial Literacy series and the “A Seat at the Table” event with CARC assistant director Scarlet Im ’17. She has also facilitated more casual events like “FLI Hangout: You’re S’more Than Enough,” an evening campfire with s’mores outside of Keefe Campus Center.

“Dory is always thinking about how to get students outside in nature. She’s also, like, a fire master,” said Im in an interview with The Student. She described Farlessyost as “sunshine incarnate,” adding that she is always thinking about how to connect students with the broader community.

Spanish, Art, and Food

Farlessyost has engaged with the Amherst town community through the Spanish department. For her Spanish major comprehensive requirement, she tutored an Ecuadorian woman in English as a Second Language (ESL) through the International Languages Institute of Massachusetts. Her teaching method focused on helping her student build an understanding of English through dissecting practical documents like texts from her landlord or educational forms.

“We’re still buds,” recalled Farlessyost. “She texts me when she needs help translating one of her daughter’s school things.” This experience inspired Farlessyost to think about teaching ESL to adults beyond Amherst, including in her area of North Carolina which has a growing Spanish-speaking immigrant population.

She also speaks highly of the communities she found within Spanish courses at Amherst, including “Camino De Santiago” and Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish Ludmila Ferrari’s fall 2023 class “World-Making: Art in the Times of Global War.” “Their approach to what a classroom can be is absolutely mind-blowing,” said Farlessyost. “They naturally build community within classroom spaces and make it feel like a group setting.”

Similarly, in the art department, Farlessyost has enjoyed taking studio classes with Senior Resident Artist Betsey Garand and Assistant Professor of Art Lucia Monge, studying printmaking and sculpture, respectively. She fell in love with relief printmaking, taking two semesters of classes with Garand, but was also drawn to new and unfamiliar media like sculpture. “I am not meant for 3D,” Farlessyost laughed. “It comes off the page and I get scared.”

Farlessyost's first formal exhibition, at Hampshire College, was titled “I Made This For You” and featured pieces created with a recipient in mind. Picture courtesy of Dory Farlessyost ’24.

She also studied in a Five College collaborative art class hosted by Hampshire College in fall 2023, which allowed her to participate in her first formal exhibition. Farlessyost made a series of Christmas presents for her friends and family members that were printed or embroidered or both, entitled “I Made This For You.” Despite her dissatisfaction with the class, which turned out to be mostly virtual, Farlessyost felt encouraged by connecting her artwork to the act of giving and relationships.

“A lot of times when I'm struggling to make something for an assignment, the way that my brain can enter into or access what I need to get done is by thinking, who am I going to give it to?” she said. “Like, what place is this going to find in the world?”

The Conclusion

After a college journey that has spanned seven years and three continents, Farlessyost has emerged with a very clear sense of who she is and what she wants out of life. She likens her personal philosophy to that of a man she met on the Appalachian Trail during her first gap year who went by the name of “Yes Man” because his approach to his thru-hike was to never say no.

“I think it’s helpful to think about, like, what am I going to remember five years from now,” Farlessyost explained. Her “Yes Man” experiences led her to attend a rave in a yurt in Órgiva, Spain, embark on solo adventures across the world, and build meaningful connections with her housemates at the Zü. “I am going to remember all of the times I said yes,” she said.

After Amherst, she plans to return to her job as a zipline tour guide in North Carolina. She will also continue her travels, journeying around the country to attend music festivals and friends’ weddings and to participate in craft shows. Farlessyost hopes to continue using the Spanish she has learned during her time at Amherst and is interested in working as a Spanish translator in educational and medical systems back home in rural Appalachia.

“Dory is someone who’s always so present with the people at Amherst,” said Im. “She loves the world and I’m glad she gets to go and do her thing, away from here.”

In her parting words of wisdom, Farlessyost encouraged Amherst students to remember it’s not that deep. “There are so many times that you will feel like this is a make-it-or-break-it,” Farlessyost warned, “and you will feel defeated over an assignment or a class that you aren't going to remember five years from now.” She also advised students to seek connections outdoors and in the greater community, which has sustained her throughout her time at Amherst.

“Go outside,” she said. “Go sit near water. Walk down the rail trail. Go volunteer. Go to book clubs at the Jones Library. Go to dance classes in the park. Go talk to people that aren’t Amherst. Go rent a Zip Car and drive around and scream for a little while. That will make you feel free.”