It’s common wisdom among college graduates and seniors who think they know better that if you don’t study abroad, you’ll regret it. “Are you going to study abroad?” is a common question among Amherst sophomores and juniors. If the answer is yes, no one thinks twice. But if a student decides to stay at Amherst for both semesters, he’s consistently told that it’s the wrong decision, that he’ll regret losing an opportunity he’ll never have again. While studying abroad is certainly a fantastic opportunity, so is each of our semesters at Amherst.

“What do you want to major in?” is a ubiquitous question among first-years during their first few months at Amherst. It’s one of those classic orientation conversation starters, like “Where are you from?” and “What dorm are you in?” The responses to the major question are always varied, but it’s striking how often they come in twos — whether it’s history and economics, Spanish and math or LJST and religion.

Aside from making sure we remembered our manners, Tomi Williams, in his welcome letter to students coming to campus, reminded us to be mindful. In Williams’ words, “When you begin to get a bit tired of the inevitable redundancy of welcome back exchanges, remember how fortunate you are to be a part of community that cares enough to ask and to actually listen.” He has a good point. We at Amherst are incredibly fortunate to belong to a community that has the resources to help those who feel lost or out of place during their time in college.

Welcome to Amherst! We know it can be a difficult task to navigate a new set of surroundings, so we have compiled a brief list of tips for you that will hopefully make your transition smoother.

Amherst is often called apolitical. Unlike our counterparts at Wesleyan, Middlebury or Swarthmore, Amherst students are seen as far too busy with academics to engage with the world outside the Pioneer Valley. Our heads are in the clouds discussing Socrates in our “Friendship” seminar while students across the country collectively organize to fight against oppressive power structures and modern-day challenges to liberal ideals of equality.

In a recently released video by the Social Project Work Group, “Jess,” a fictional first-year student having trouble finding her place at Amherst, finds a diverse group of friends in the “Coolidge Club.” Social clubs have generally been presented as a panacea for students facing the challenge of finding themselves and their place at college. The promise of instantaneous friends and an inclusive environment without the classic “fraternity problems” seems too good to be true. That’s because it is. In fact, social clubs have the potential to further divide an already fractured community.

Think of any college movie you’ve ever seen. Buying into the classic collegiate stereotypes, the protagonists probably get drunk at a big football game, cheer for their mascot at the track meet or attend an underground a capella battle. Before stepping on campus, most future Amherst students probably imagined they would frequently support their classmates, neighbors and close friends at events, performances or sports games. They most likely imagined they’d spend their weekends wrapping themselves in purple apparel and screaming “Go Amherst!” until their voices turned hoarse.

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