Forging Your Own Path
Issue   |   Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:18

There are these well-trodden paths that a typical Amherst student follows. Try to avoid them. Don’t go through life like you do on the path to Val from your dorm — mindlessly following pre-determined trails. Amherst can feel like a funneling system, one that takes our passions and dreams and sucks them into a hole where we feel a need to do what others are doing. After college, most people will end up in New York, San Francisco or Boston in fields like finance or medicine. Instead of passively following this path, think carefully about the road you take. Explore and expand the possibilities of your time here at Amherst. Doing so will not only result in personal enrichment, but will also be useful in addressing multifaceted global issues that are in need of innovation, fresh ideas and various perspectives. The rapidly growing science of artificial intelligence is bound to eliminate jobs and demand new ones, some that are probably yet to be conceived. By immersing ourselves in the plurality of activities, disciplines and possibilities at Amherst, we prepare for the spontaneity of the future.

We embrace the liberal arts education mantra of exposing ourselves to different ways of thinking. Yet, this doesn’t seem to always apply to how we take on the world outside of academics. We stay close to our select friends and groups without straying far. We comfortably adopt a certain role—athlete or math major. How often will we be talking to people outside of our social standing or our normal spheres? Will we reevaluate the assumptions we grew up with by exposing ourselves to uncomfortable situations? We must be able to learn in different settings, cultures and dynamics if we are to tackle the complex issues of our world. As conflicts become more global and changes happen more rapidly, we need more people to not just take a stance but mediate between two different point of views.

You can do this by taking advantage of what Amherst has to offer and customizing your own Amherst experience so that you don’t feel stuck on a certain path. Believe that the Amherst experience can positively transform you, or at least figure out why it doesn’t. Avoid a sense of entitlement towards the college because Amherst staff, faculty and alumni invest in us students. In 2015, the amount the college spent on each student excluding financial aid was $95,600 — more than full tuition. If you feel like you’re wasting your time at Amherst, creatively utilize the resources available. Start a new club, talk to professors about how the class material intersects with your interests or get funding from AAS to do something you, and possibly others, would enjoy.

Come out of Amherst with a clear understanding of why you live the life you do and what you want to change along the way. It’s okay to not know what exactly you want in five or 10 years, but don’t fight the feeling of being lost by narrowing your path — instead, think of it as a time to expand your possibilities. An Amherst education should entail an opening of doors to different frontiers of discovery and growth, so go on and explore.