Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Montague Bookmill

The Lady Killigrew

Another Senior Week activity was my final trip to the Montague Bookmill. It was one of the first places I visited as a first year at Smith in my orientation group, and it was one of the last places I visited as a Smithie, too. It seemed appropriate.

The Bookmill is a magical place. Once a Mill, it's now a collection of restaurants and shops for used music and books. It's peaceful and beautiful and a wonderful place to relax and decompress. Most Smithies don't ever make it there. Fortunately for us, I have a car, and our schedules finally aligned the day before Senior Week started to feel more like Commencement Weekend.

Bronte and Winter

First, we grabbed some lunch at the Lady Killigrew. Everyone liked the look of the bread board with whole grain mustard, so that's what we all got (Bronte and Winter also split a brie sandwich and a salad).

Bread board at the Lady Killigrew

Brie Sandwich at the Lady Killigrew

It's simple, delicious food. I am going to have to try out the bread board at home!

Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew

We washed it all down with hard cider. Isn't Winter beautiful? Let it be known that she posed for both of those photos! She soon demanded my camera (turn about is fair play, etc.) and took a combination of amazing pictures:

Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew

And some not-so-amazing pictures (I've elected to spare you the selfies she took looking up at the underside of her chin and the blurred extreme closeups of my mouth with the wall behind me in sharp focus):

Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew

Eventually, I'd had enough.

Friends at Lady Killigrew
Friends at Lady Killigrew

We had finished our food anyway, so we headed into the book store to browse for a few hours.

Montague Bookmill

Bronte took a nap and browsed the European History section. Winter got some work done and looked for books written in Icelandic. I mostly wandered, finding a few interesting biographies of historic women. I seriously considered purchasing the book above, as well as a collection of work by the Kensington Ladies Erotica Society (mostly for the novelty value), and a few biographies of powerful historic women, but instead left with a paperback copy of Bossypants.

We drove home a few hours later and felt the therapeutic effects of the Bookmill for days afterwards. It was just the thing to prepare me for the crazy days that lay ahead.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Senior Week

Glee Senior Banquet
Glee Senior Banquet
Kayaking on Paradise Pond
I'm a little late posting this. Senior Week was a couple weeks ago. But I'm sure you'll understand, because after Senior Week comes commencement, and after commencement comes leaving college forever, and after that (in my case) comes a week at your boyfriend's school to do the whole thing over again.

I decided to use my senior week to do all the things I have been meaning to do all four years I've spent here. I ate at a few new restaurants, went drinking with a professor, kayaked with some friends on Paradise Pond, had senior banquet, played sardines in an academic building, and enjoyed a bonfire in the woods, among many other things. I have no regrets about the way it went, although I wish I'd had a little more time. I suppose that's how we all feel -- it's a magical time, that last week of college!

I left Smith over a week ago and I'm still sorting out how I feel about that. With all the emotions and uncertainty, it was easier for me to compartmentalize, focus on the task at hand, and not think too deeply about it. I drove off campus and haven't looked back. See you at the 2019 reunion!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life at Smith V: Academics

This will be the last in the Life at Smith series, but it is arguably the most important. After all, why do we go to college in the first place? Once again, the advice and insights in this post probably apply to most top liberal arts colleges, not just Smith.

Smith is one of the best colleges in the country, and it shows (for the most part) in the quality of instruction. As anywhere, there are a few duds, but I have never had a professor that I felt was either inept or an intentionally poor teacher. There are a few that lean toward the crazy side, but they always teach the most fun classes.

Surviving the academics here isn't easy. Writing well (even better, writing well quickly) is one of the skills I have been most thankful for, especially with degrees in social science and the arts. Smith writes across the curriculum, though, so even science and math majors will have papers to hand in from time to time. Almost as important for success here are reading speed and comprehension. The sheer volume of reading assignments can become quite overwhelming if allowed to accumulate.

The most important tools I have, though, are organization and prioritization. Organization is key to keeping track of what will inevitably be a busy four years. Prioritization will allow you to survive them, but it is also the trickiest skill to implement. Basically, it is important to understand the difference between work you must do, work you should do, and work you shouldn't do, and prioritize them accordingly.

I'm sure my parents and professors will be shocked and angry to hear this, but I earned a cumulative GPA well over 3.5 without doing all the homework assigned to me. There are a whole slew of factors that determined how I have divided my time over the last few years here, but some of the bigger ones include the kind of class (academic classes trump exercise and performance classes), the kind of material (I have now been assigned Plato, Aristotle, and Adam Smith multiple times; it isn't worth my time to read them all more than once if I understand their ideas), how it would be addressed in class (if the lecture will cover everything in an article, it is less important), and whether I would eventually be tested or required to write a paper on it, among others. This should not be interpreted as a pass to skip all homework and tune into Netflix. It is simply a way to make a workload that is at times insurmountable something a real student can scale. Similarly, it isn't always necessary to attend class. I can count on one hand the number of times I chose not to attend a class I could physically have gotten myself to, and although it isn't something I advise, it can be useful. Don't expect to blow off all classes and homework and get a good grade anyway, but recognize that time to sleep and preserve your sanity is also crucial to earning decent grades at college. It's about balance.

One last note about academics at Smith: we have the best professors. I've mentioned before how great it has been to form personal relationships with the people who taught me over my four years here. When I marched out of commencement on Sunday, I got hugs and high fives from most of them along the way. These are people I know will be life-long resources and friends to me as an alumna, and that is one aspect of my education that was certainly worth it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Down on the Farm

Eloise eats a Nilla Wafer
Goat wants a Nilla WaferGoat thinks it's a dog
Extremely hairy cow
One of my favorite things about Smith is the close relationships I've been able to have with some of my teachers. Some of them are close enough to invite me and other students to their houses for parties celebrating the end of the year (or in my case, the end of my time at Smith).

This year, farms were a theme. One teacher keeps her horse at home with her, along with a couple goats to keep the horse company, and some crazy dogs. Another lives behind a working co-op form and took us on a walk so he could pick up this week's haul and we could meet some beautifully hairy cows.

I love animals and worked a lot on horse farms when I was younger, but I don't get as much exposure to it these days as I would like. That's one of the many reasons I enjoy my time visiting these professors. It's also lovely to have a home-cooked meal and a some time to relax with people who feel an awful lot like family. When you go to college as far away from home as I did, you end up spending much more time with professors than with your parents or extended relatives, and the friends you make become a really integral part of your life. I wouldn't trade these relationships for anything in the world, and I count myself extremely lucky that I got to have them at all.

All photos taken with my iPhone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life at Smith IV: Food

Food at Smith is enough of a big deal to people to warrant a post of its own. Julia Child held a Smith degree, and we don't take that legacy lightly.

That isn't to say the food is great, but by college standards, it is more than usually edible. A few favorites of mine include fudge sauce, pumpkin bread, and everything they serve at Comstock-Wilder (the Asian-fusion dining hall).

There are a lot of dining halls on campus, and this has advantages and drawbacks. Advantages include the number of different options, the much cozier environment than a typical cafeteria, and close proximity to food from wherever you are on campus. Drawbacks include having to coordinate for every meal if you don't want to eat alone, the possibility of being far away from the food you want to eat, and limited hours (two each for breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch, and 90 minutes for dinner, although a couple dining halls deviate from that somewhat).

For special occasions, the staff really pull out all the stops. Brunches for family weekend and Easter are known to include lox. Julia Child Day is famous for Brie en Croute and pumpkin ravioli. Every few months we enjoy a formal meal, complete with tablecloths, candles, and special menus (for holidays, Valentines, prospie weekend, etc.). Those linens also make a special appearance at the commencement luncheon, which is historically one of the best meals I've had on campus. Here's hoping they've maintained their high standards for mine next weekend!

For understandable reasons, I don't really photograph the food in the dining halls at Smith. It just isn't all that pretty. Overall though, it's relatively healthy, usually tastes pretty good, and there are options for every dietary restriction (Kosher, Halal, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, etc.). I certainly prefer the Smith model to any other college cafeterias I've tried.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Finish Line

Grecourt Gate at Smith College

Flowers at Smith College

Golden Hour at Smith College

Golden Hour at Smith College

Golden Hour at Smith College

Golden Hour at Smith College

Golden Hour at Smith College
You must excuse my relative silence over the past couple of weeks. I was in the throes of finals and in addition to having very little time, I had very little worth blogging about. I am happy to report, however, that I appear to have finished college without any difficulties. I will find out this week exactly how I did this final semester, as well as whether I'll be graduating with honors.

In high school, the graduating seniors leave before classes are even finished, while the younger kids all have to stay until finals. In college (my college, anyway), the younger students leave and seniors get a whole week dedicated to our laziness and amusement. It's really nice, although the feeling is strange. I haven't started packing my room yet, and it's very confusing to have no classes to attend or homework to complete, but still be here.

My post from last Monday aside, I'm feeling a little more optimistic about myself and this place. Maybe lifting the pressure of finals was all I really needed. Yesterday evening, after realizing it was my last night of freedom at Smith (it's a busy week), I grabbed my camera to get some golden-hour shots. I may have mixed feelings toward the place at the moment, but Smith is and will always be my alma mater, and I know I will want to remember how it looked and felt in my last days here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Life at Smith III: Social


Social life at Smith can mean so many different things. I suppose, like any college experience, it breaks down into the people you live with and the people you play with.

There's a pretty big emphasis on community here, and the basic unit for that is your house. I discussed housing a little bit in a previous post, but I will expand on it here: because Smithies live in smaller groups, these groups are often tight-knit and unique. There are over thirty houses on campus, and each one has its own character and traditions. All the houses have weekly teas, parties for winter and spring weekends, banquets for seniors, their own governments, and students employed by Residence Life.

I chose Smith initially because the housing style appealed to me so much -- not just the idea of having a community, but the prospect of not living in a dorm. For better or for worse, I initially ended up in a house that both looked and felt a lot like typical college student housing, and had a stoic and uninvolved community to match. After a few months, I accepted that I wouldn't end up tight with the people in my house, and branched out.

By my second semester here, I found my friends, all through extra-curricular activities, namely Quidditch and Choir. We've come up with our own traditions -- celebrating Galentine's Day with Parks and Rec marathons; playing the Jane Austen Drinking Game. We don't party so much -- there isn't that great a party scene here, to be honest -- but we have lots of fun in other ways.

The biggest social occasion at Smith is meal time. I will discuss food more in a later post, but because Smith has 15 different dining halls spread around campus, it's important to make plans with the people you'd like to join for dinner. It used to be that every house had its own dining hall, and you ate pretty much exclusively with your house. Things are a little different now, but it's still an important social custom.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Uncertain

My unmade bed in black and white

Since it's a Monday, and no one likes those anyway, I figured it's probably a good time to admit that I've been depressed, anxious, and terrified about my future for months now.

Finishing college is really difficult. In the sense of being academically, tough, of course, but that isn't a concern of mine anymore. I'd have to really bomb my remaining finals not to graduate in two weeks, and I don't see that happening. I mean more in the sense of transition. Due to the amount of debt I put myself in to achieve this degree, I now face the reality of moving back in with my parents rather than broadening my horizons elsewhere. This has been my plan for years, but it still stings, especially when I consider how many of my high school friends went to school near our hometown and now live elsewhere in pursuit of careers. Michigan is one of the worst places in the country to be a young graduate.

It isn't as if there aren't bright spots. I'm getting my bachelor's degree from an amazing school, and that's something to be proud of. In the next month or so, I will be celebrating not just my own graduation, but my boyfriend's as well. I will visit family, visit new cities, and enjoy my last few gasps of college life. After that, though, it's one big question mark, and that's a terrifying thought.

I wanted to write this because it's good to have it off my chest, but also because I know I'm not the only student who feels this way. Solidarity, friends. We'll be okay.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I'm An Adult

People keep calling me an adult. I don't buy it, mostly because I still rely on other people to feed me.

(Speaking of which, dining hall, fried clams and tater tots is not an acceptable excuse for lunch.)

Nevertheless, I am taking baby steps toward adulthood, among them:
  • Calling AAA for the first time,
  • Having them place a spare tire on my car, and
  • Driving on that spare tire to the repair shop to get it fixed permanently.
  • Making an enormous lasagna in order to feed a grieving boyfriend.
  • Applying to real-life jobs.
  • Driving through Canadian and U.S. customs by myself.
  • Doing research about the best (cheap) gin, and then
  • Buying a bottle of gin.
  • Using my tax refund to pay off my credit card in full, instead of to buy shoes, as is my tradition.
  • Actually using the Swiffer instead of just wearing flipflops around my room all the time to avoid the gritty floor.
  • Painting my fingernails for Senior Ball and by some miracle not chipping it all off within 12 hours.

Not so grown-up things include:
  • Breaking down into tears at the thought of trying to adult full-time.
  • Senioritis.
  • The admittedly childish vendetta I've developed against a girl who also happens to be named Geneva.
  • Watching Scrubs all the way through for what has to be the 20th time.

So, you know, it's a work in progress.