OPINION

Unsolicited Advice: Making the Most of Amherst This Fall


By Lisa Zheutlin '21, | Oct. 31, 2018 | 148-8

It’s the time on campus, a little over halfway through the fall semester, when the general vibe on campus is generally stressful and negative. On the rainy days, it seems like we’re just waiting for winter to come so that we can really feel justified in our complaints. But, as I sit outside on a rare, sunny day, I want to non-facetiously spread some positive vibes and give advice about how to generally improve your (and hopefully, in the process, my own) outlook on Amherst at this point in the semester.


Sit on the Adirondack Chairs on the First-Year Quad
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Once those chairs are taken away for the winter, there is no more pretending that there might be hospitable weather outside. I’m pretty sure the acorns have stopped aggressively falling from the trees, plus the quad leaves have finally started turning autumnal colors! Bundle up and try to forget the impending winter for a little bit before the chairs are gone for what seems like the rest of the year.


Take Advantage of the Wellness and Fitness Classes
These classes are super underrated, and they are free. Every day, Monday through Friday, there are at least two wellness/fitness classes offered around campus. I am a huge fan of the barre classes on Monday and Friday with Professor Ruxandra Paul, but there’s also yoga and Zumba depending on your mood. Equipment is provided, the classes are usually around an hour, and, as someone who does not identify as an athlete, it’s usually less intimidating to go to one of these than it is to go into the weight room at the gym and pretend to know how to use the machines.


Go to a Mr. Gad’s Show
Mr. Gad’s House of Improv is the best (and only) improv group on campus. This piece of advice is a bit of a shameless plug because I am in Gad’s. But, to be fair, before I even considered auditioning for the group, I went to every show. Gad’s shows are such a nice break (only one hour!) from the monotonous Monday workload. Who doesn’t love feeling second-hand discomfort while watching a group of college improvisors embarrass themselves on stage? But actually, you’ll probably laugh more during this hour than you would if you stayed in Frost working on that essay (hopefully).


Read the Amherst College Daily Mail
This might be a little incriminating, but I read (skim) the Daily Mail every morning. It’s nice to stay up to date on what’s happening each day around campus, and for such a small school, it is continually surprising to see how many different speakers and events are open to the community. I remember going to so many speakers as a first year, and I think the Daily Mail is a helpful reminder that we should continue making an active effort to attend such events every so often — there is more to Amherst than just getting our work done. Plus, there’s usually free snacks (cheese plates!) at these events to supplement our Valentine Dining Hall intake.


Val Sit
Speaking of our beloved dining hall, it’s important to take time to Val sit, also known as sitting in Val (shocker!) for an extended amount of time, with your friends. I frequently find myself just treating a meal in Val as just another part of my overly-scheduled day, leaving after I finish my meal. But Val sits, especially in the front room, are genuinely my favorite time to catch up with friends and, of course, people-watch. The comfortable chairs in the front room are a great place to see people as they swipe through while also looking outside to Val Quad in the most non-stalkerish way possible.


Go to the Counseling Center
If you haven’t been to the Counseling Center yet this semester, try to make an appointment. I am such a firm believer that everyone would benefit from talking to someone about their mental health, even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness. It is actually so cool that we can get free counseling sessions while at Amherst. There are obviously valid complaints surrounding the Counseling Center, and by promoting my overwhelmingly positive experience with it, I am in no way trying to undermine those who have had negative experiences. But, especially at this point in the semester when times are stressful, use this resource if you haven’t already.


Take Your Professor or Staff Out (TYPO/TYSO)
Since we’ve passed the halfway point in all of our classes, it’s time to try to form those relationships with professors that might not have been made yet. When visiting Amherst, tour guides always promote the fact that Amherst will literally pay you to go out in town and eat a meal with your professor. Plus, you can bring up to six other people in your class to join in the meal with you. If you haven’t already done this for one of your classes, organize it! Another underrated program is TYSO, which means you can take any staff member at Amherst out to dinner, as well. I did a TYPO both semesters last year, and I definitely want to take advantage of TYSO to foster relationships with staff who aren’t my professors and might not be as regularly appreciated.


Use the Bike Share Program
The Office of Environmental Sustainability has a bike share program that allows you to “rent” a bike for free for 24 hours. Like the beloved quad chairs, this program disappears during the winter, so it’s time to take advantage of it before we collectively freeze. Also, the Norwottuck Rail Trail (the bike trail behind the tennis courts), is super beautiful right now, so take a break while there are still leaves on the trees and bike around for a bit. Last year, I also biked to Flayvors at Cook Farm, which is a manageable ride off the bike trail.


Try Out a New Study Space
If you’re tired of always working in the same spot in Frost Library, try out some less popular study spaces on campus. Beneski Earth Sciences and the Mead Art Museum are really nice places to go and do work while also feeling “cultured.” The religious studies department lounge in Chapin and the library in the Amherst Center for Russian Culture (in Webster) are also underrated spots.


Overall, I just think it’s important to remain positive about our time here at Amherst because it really is so limited. My first year at Amherst went by so quickly, and it might sound crazy, but I’m already thinking about how I will feel as a senior when there is so little time left. So, in the most non-cliche way possible, try to take advantage of the different opportunities and programming that Amherst provides and to enjoy nature before tundra season arrives.