This week marks the exact middle of the semester. It is the time of year when the weather starts to get colder, the sun goes down earlier and midterms start to flood students’ calendars. With this, the energy on campus starts to shift: there is no longer the warm glow of the summer fresh in our minds, nor events like the Students Activities Fair or Orientation to inspire enthusiasm for the new year. Instead, we start to settle into the daily routines that feel most comfortable: surrounding ourselves with the same friends, studying in familiar places and steadily ceasing to attend club meetings that we once thought we’d attend. Especially on a small and rural campus like Amherst, it is easy to rely on practices and habits that we know best or we find ourselves in.
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. Students’ tendencies to retreat to the familiar will only increase as we approach the middle of the school year; the spring semester, which has a much less dramatic and optimistic beginning than its predecessor, will further discourage our community from approaching campus life in invigorating ways.
The Editorial Board believes that it is important to challenge the growing weariness and even skepticism that will inevitably sprout on campus during these colder months. We encourage students to push themselves and their peers to constantly re-make Amherst for themselves. This experience will manifest differently for each individual. For some, it is about reaching out to classmates and getting to know them, or finally taking the initiative to join a club, or venturing to town to try a new cafe. There is no universal solution for the mid-semester staleness, but rather a multitude of possibilities that we can each craft for ourselves.
Furthermore, we encourage students to question the patterns that they fall into. All too often, it is easy for us to go through the motions of going to class, eating, studying, going to practice and then back to our rooms. What becomes lost in this routine are the ways in which we may think critically about why we do the things we do. College is about the experience of Amherst, but more importantly, it is also about how we grow in relation to the school. As important as going to Homecoming or studying in Frost might be, it is equally important to reflect on how these experiences help us grow and look for new experiences that result in meaningful change during our time here. We suggest keeping track of an internal life, as students walk through the day-to-day mechanisms of our college lives; some tactics include keeping a journal, speaking to friends or reaching out to resources like the Counseling Center.
Resisting the mundaneness of Amherst life is not only fun and meaningful, but also critical for our mental health. As students progress through the year, many will be faced with mental health challenges, like Seasonal Affective Disorder and anxiety and depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85 percent of college students “reported to feel overwhelmed by everything they had to do, at some point within the past year.” Close to 40 percent felt that anxiety was a top presenting concern among their peers. It is no question that these issues also touch the lives of students at Amherst. Mental health is difficult and confusing to navigate, but the Editorial Board believes that it is important to uplift and check in with each other as it becomes harder to maintain mental health in the coming months.