BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Beverly, MA with a graduating class of about 23 students.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: American Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m used to ride on the equestrian team but they stopped being a varsity sport so I stopped. I’m part of the Gold Key organization, [which is for tour guides]. I also serve on my house’s counsel and student government.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
My freshman year horseback riding had a big impact because it was really nice to break out of an academic space for a few hours. Gold Key has been cool too because I love the Five College atmosphere and I love that going to Smith means that I can take classes at any of the five colleges and I spend a ton of time at UMass, so I try to portray that side of Smith to prospective students and families.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s a humanities-based major, so it’s a lot of reading and writing. We don’t have many exams, and if we did it would have a lot of open-ended questions. There are no problem sets or stringent multiple-choice exams.
Is there anything you think your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
American Studies as a discipline is super interesting because it’s a mix of sociology, anthropology, history, and literature. I think Smith does a really good job of incorporating all of those aspects. If you’re interested in history and the social sciences, I think Smith is really strong in merging the two. Also, since Smith doesn’t have a lot of law classes, it’s been nice for me because I’m interested in law and I’ve been able to apply the reading and writing skills I’ve gotten from my work to law courses that I take off-campus.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
At Smith we have this thing called the “Stress Olympics”, which I think is super prevalent in academia in general. The students are competitive with each other, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. It is more people expecting a lot from themselves and each other. I think it’s more of a motivational thing where people want to do their best and motivate others. [In 2017 the Wurtele Center for Work and Life at Smith launched “Failing Well” to help combat the Stress Olympics.]
How accessible are your professors?
Really accessible. I love the professors. The professors at Smith are very flexible with office hour times and meeting spaces. I’ve had multiple professors meet me for coffee off campus and have meetings with me outside of their office hours because they wanted to be more accommodating to my schedule. I’ve had very good experiences when it comes to that.
Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I’m actually writing a paper about this right now. I think Smith definitely falls victim to being a liberal echo chamber. I’m a very liberal person politically and a lot of people at Smith are as well, so that does tend to be the dominant thought process in a lot of classrooms. But, I know some people are working to change that.
Why did you choose your combination major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose American Studies because I want to go to law school and in order to that it was important for me to understand the history of our government, the world, and how different systems work. On top of that, I think it’s important to be well-read and write properly, which I think American Studies is really strong in. I’m very happy with my choice.
How has the Five College Consortium impacted your academic experience?
It’s definitely impacted my experience. I say it all the time that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere different. The consortium has been a great way to break out of the Smith Bubble and see how different schools operate. It makes me appreciate Smith more because the Smith professors are super accessible and the academics are incredible. Also, being able to take courses at all the other five colleges has impacted me because I take two classes off campus every semester. That’s been amazing and I really feel like it’s a good way to make connections with people who don’t go to Smith and broaden your academic horizons.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Jordan House with one roommate
Sophomore: Jordan House in a single
Junior: Jordan House in a single
How do you like the house system at Smith?
Smith is super accommodating when it comes to housing and our housing is beautiful. That’s one of the other things you realize when you take classes at other colleges. I’ve never wanted to leave Jordan House. The house system places you into a house that they think you fit best in based on a questionnaire you take. Jordan is in an area where there are more people who are involved in the social scene and like to go to off-campus parties, so you can find people that way. I love where I live.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s super safe. One thing people complain about is that there’s not enough lighting at night, but I think it’s very safe. I’ve never felt unsafe walking back at 2AM or 3AM.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I spend a lot of time at UMass, so I’d say that.
Pros and Cons of being located in Northampton, MA?
1) There are so many restaurants that you never run out of things to eat.
2) It’s the epitome of an adorable college town. There are tons of random little shops and things that cater to Smith students.
3) It’s a small town so everything is accessible by walking. You’re pretty much in Northampton when you’re on Smith’s campus.
1) It’s kind of expensive.
2) There are only two bars, which can be boring after a while.
3) Parking is the absolute worst.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Smith?
I like to go out on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. That’s kind of rare for a Smith student but is definitely doable. When I go out I don’t really participate in campus parties. I do go to the bars in Northampton and I go to the bars in Amherst a lot. I take so many classes at UMass that I’ve been able to make a UMass friend group and now go to the football games and tailgates and that kind of stuff.
Are there certain things you like to do on certain nights?
Tuesday nights we go to a bar in Amherst for karaoke night which is fun and Thursday night is at a different bar in Amherst. Some people go to UMass fraternities on Friday nights and I used to do that, but I don’t do that anymore. A lot of people at Smith like to go to house parties in the Friedman Apartments on Saturday nights.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year when you were less established socially?
Freshman year I didn’t know my way around yet. As a freshman, I went to frats at UMass a lot. We have the PVTA that’s free to all the students at the Five Colleges, so I’d take that to UMass and walk to where all the frat houses are.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Smith? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Since I party off-campus, I’m 100% happy. It’s really what you make of it. If you want to go out and party, there are ways to do it. You don’t even need friends at different campuses because when I go out here I go out with one of my best friends who goes to Smith and we stick together and are social. If you’re social, you can make friends with so many different college students. You get the best of both worlds because you can go out to bars and then come back to a quieter college scene, which has been really valuable for me.
What have been some of your favorite times at Smith?
I really love our Winter Weekend. We have to formals, Winter Weekend and Spring Weekend, and they’re really small and your house gets together and decorates a room where it’s going to happen and it’s been really nice. Every house has a Winter Formal. I also really like Thursday nights off-campus.
If at all, how has the very strong LGBT community on campus influenced your experience?
I don’t think it’s really influenced my experience at all. I don’t identify with it, but I think most people who come here are strong allies because it’s a pretty liberal campus. I guess the way it’s affected my experience is Smith is just a really open place and you don’t need to feel uncomfortable in any way.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I’m lucky in that my freshman year roommate was one of my best friends from high school and we came here together. I was also lucky that two of my friends from high school went to UMass, so I met friends off-campus that way. Outside of that, I’m a pretty talkative person so I met them from being in class or going to bars. I think a lot of people at Smith are not afraid to go out and talk to you so it’s pretty easy to make friends – especially since it’s all girls so it’s like a sleepover every night.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
During the week, I’m really focused on getting work done because Smith is an academically rigorous place. I’m doing my work, but people socialize a lot during mealtime because going to dinner with all your friends is a big thing. We also have tea on Friday where your house comes together and has tea and snacks and talks. Also, everything is open to everyone so you can go meet people at your house or at other houses through that.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
100%. People mix socially no matter what.
How would you describe the student body?
Really motivated, hardworking people. Everyone is open and accepting.
How has going to a traditionally all-women’s college influenced your experience?
I was definitely nervous before going to college. The way it’s affected my experience is that going to class has been so much easier for me because I just roll out of bed and go to class, I don’t feel like I need to worry as much. I definitely am more confident and feel more able to speak up in classes. People are very supportive of each other here and everyone seems to be working towards a similar goal. I also think living in all-women’s housing is nice because our bathrooms are super clean [laughs]. In general, it’s impacted me more positively than negatively.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Smith by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Smith?
Yeah, I think they do. I know my love for Smith has increased over the years. I think going to a non-orthodox college and a traditionally all-women’s school sets up expectations in your head before you get here and is nerve-racking for most students, it definitely was for me. But, every year my love for Smith has increased.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t reached out to the alumni network because I have found all my internships myself.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
I had them review my resume once. I haven’t used it much, not because it’s not a good resource, it’s just because I haven’t used it much.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
I use Excel in a journalism class because I’ve been interviewing people and collecting answers and data and that’s how I keep myself organized.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Smith before entering as a freshman?
Smith is a pretty academically rigorous school, which isn’t a bad thing, but I wish I changed my mindset on grades a bit before coming here. People here do tend to beat themselves up over not getting a certain grade sometimes, so I wish I knew that beforehand because maybe it would have changed my mindset before getting here and that it’s not the end of the world if I’m not a 4.0 student.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I visited Smith and after my tour I hated it. I went back on a random day and walked around and ran into a student who offered to walk me around the campus and gave me the inside scoop on everything. That was really helpful for me because she answered some of the questions that you can’t ask on tours. She was real with me and I ended up applying early decision. I think just talking to students is really important because you’ll understand that you can find your niche here.
What is something that a prospective student interested in going to parties may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
I feel people have this perspective of Smith as a place where it’s hard to have fun, but that hasn’t been the case for me. I’ve had so much fun. It’s just about being social and going out and meeting people and not being afraid to take classes at UMass or Amherst College. Now that I’m 21, it’s especially easy to go out because I can go to the bars.
Reasons to attend Smith:
1) It’s a really good school academically.
2) They offer a lot of really cool classes.
3) I haven’t gone abroad yet, but the going abroad experience has been fairly easy at Smith.
4) The girls you meet here I really do think will be my friends forever, as cheesy as that sounds.
Reasons to not attend Smith:
1) It’s a lot of work and people do tend to beat themselves if they don’t do really well. People can get too caught up in that. If you don’t want to work super hard, don’t come here.