smith college

Top Five Reasons Why History Is The Best Major

1. Class is basically story time. Do you want to hear riveting tales of cross-dressing slaves that escaped in a daring journey across the U.S. or how about an apocalyptic bad Byzantine battle where half the army switch sides and the other half ran away?  or what about that time a women became king of Nigeria? Yeah I get to go to class everyday and be endless entertained by these awesome stories and even better? Its all true. 

2. It makes you a more empathetic person. Its really easy to look at people in the past and make a snap judgement about them, that they are so stupid, bad, sexist, uncultured. ect ect… But as historians we have to walk a mile in their shoes and not judge them by the standards we have today. For instance important idea that we take today like umm. universal individual rights  or personally property or not having to work everyday for our physical survival hadn’t even been invented till pretty recently. History forces you to understand why people make certain decision and why they held certain views without judging them, a skill I am happy to carry into my day to day life. 

3. It is the best study of people. There are a lot of majors that study people: physiology, sociology, gender studies but those all focus on theory. History studies what real people do when faced with real situations. And it is indeed history that sparks social scientist to do their work. The reason behind the famous Milgram Experiment was trying to figure out why good people followed Hitler during WW2. History is the ultimate social experiment and gives us the best data on why people are the way they are and do what they do 

4. You get to touch the old things. You stand around in museum. See some boring rocks and some ugly paintings but when you are a history major, all the sudden its “HOLY S#&%* THESE WEIRD LITTLE BONES CHUNKS WAS TOUCHED MOTHERF@#$*$@# SHANG DYNASTY EMPEROR!!!” All the sudden the world is a magically place where everything even mundane, ugly, old things become special and amazing because there is history there! 

5. You become very ok with change. History is the study of change over time and over all history has made me a much more chill person. Its like you see that bad stuff happens and life moves on and its ok. Empires fall, major world views shift, rulers come and go but everything turns out ok in the end and life goes on. Nothing is the end of the world. 

10 Ways to Make Your Dorm Room (almost) Instantly Homier

Whether you’re heading back to college for the fourth or very first time, try these tips to feel at home on campus:

  1. Lamps! Even in the nicest accommodations (like Smith!) the overhead lighting isn’t all that pleasant. A lamp or two (maybe one floor lamp and one bedside) softens the light in the room, and undeniably makes it homier. Pick up some thrift store lamps once you get there, especially if you’re coming from far away, that way you can ditch them at the end of the semester if you can’t store or move them easily (plus thrifted lamps are pretty cheap — I found one of my three lamps on the side of the road, the other two were willed to me).
  2. A rug can make a room feel much warmer, and I much prefer stepping onto a rug when I get out of bed over the cold floor. I’ve also had friends use a rug as a seating area on the floor, lined with throw pillows against the wall (especially good if you’re not a fan of folks sitting on your bed).
  3. Cool it on the high school friends photos. You might see photo collages that take up entire walls on Pinterest and in friends’ rooms, but a few nice photos in frames of family and friends from home can aesthetically and mentally prepare you for new friends and adventures in college.
  4. You can never have too many mugs. The bigger the better — tea, coffee, water, extracurricular beverages (you know, like milk for your cookies), cereal, fruit, yogurt, the mug is one of the most universal dishes.
  5. Extra blankets of different weights will up your cozy factor, and will come in handy when it’s fort building time. You can also fold these up to use as extra pillows for leaning against the wall/on your bed. Especially as you’re adjusting to a new house’s thermostat, a variety of blankets is nice to have as you figure out what makes you comfy.
  6. Fake flowers or plants, or real ones if you’re ambitious, add sweet bursts of color to your very neutral room. I like to keep mine in wine bottles, as it really classes up the place, and is perfect for making a get together with friends or a wine date with a friend/gal pal/boy toy more festive.
  7. Keep the blinds open during the day! If you can, arrange a mirror to reflect the light from the window (my first year my closet door, which had a mirror on the outside, was luckily directly across from a window, and it actually made a substantial difference to the feel of the room).
  8. Have some conversation starters — a favorite album artwork, a poster from a favorite trip/museum visit/concert/movie, a small statue you found in your first year room’s light box (now there’s a story), a map with markers on it (Places you’ve been? Places you want to go? Places people you love are?), a flag from your state/country/political party (I proudly fly the NWP flag and it has made me several friends), something you made or someone made for you (maybe a blanket your grandma crocheted you). Anything that a new friend can ask about and you’ll have more to say than just, “oh I thought it looked nice.” Something with a story is always great, and it’s a great way to find things in common right away. On that note, if you bring books from home, people are going to check them out when they come by your room, so make them count!
  9. A tapestry or something cloth on the wall will really warm up your white-walled room!
  10. Seasonal decor you make yourself, like paper snowflakes with your roommates when you’re ready for snow, or paper flowers for when you desperately want it to be spring — festive and a nice study break!

Truthfully, I did not apply to Barnard because it’s a women’s college – I applied in spite of it. Luckily, the school had enough positive aspects to outweigh this negative. Surrounded by only women, 24/7? Ew, no thank you. I agreed with the sentiment that, in this day and age, women’s colleges are somewhat irrelevant. If women no longer need to attend female institutions to achieve higher education, then why would they? There are hundreds of perfectly good co-ed colleges in the world! Yet in only one year at Barnard, I’ve learned my lesson: women’s colleges are not only relevant, but necessary in today’s society. I could tell you the facts – that while only 2% of women graduate from women’s colleges, these graduates comprise over 20% of our congress; that women’s college alum include the likes of Emily Dickinson, Hilary Clinton, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City, anyone?), Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters, Nancy Pelosi and hundreds of other household names – but instead I’ll explain my own experience at Barnard, and why attending a women’s college is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

One of the most overused, age-old arguments against schools like Barnard is one you’ve probably heard before (I certainly have): a community of only women is unrealistic – it’s nothing like the real world. (News flash: neither is regular college!) The logic is, “how can women successfully assimilate into the work force, where men are not just present, but dominant, if they’ve spent their days surrounded by other women?” Believe it or not, 81% of women’s college graduates reported that their college was extremely or very effective in helping prepare them for their first job, versus 65% of women who graduated from public universities. Yes, I’m surrounded by a lot of estrogen, a lot of the time. No, I don’t feel as though the lack of men is leaving me ill-prepared. Rather, I feel confident and ready to speak my mind, thanks to the simultaneously nurturing yet challenging environment. I never feel as though I’m in competition with my classmates, because I have the opportunity to speak in a free space, without feeling as though I’m being judged or criticized. Every class is an ongoing discussion between peers and professors alike. While this may be possible at co-ed universities, studies have shown that women are less likely to speak up when they are outnumbered by men. Women’s colleges teach leadership and confidence through active participation. (And believe it or not, “women’s studies” isn’t the main focus of every class – and when it is, we analyze gender roles from every side, including the male perspective!) After four years of this, you can imagine that graduates emerge empowered and ready to take their seat at the metaphorical table.

—  Sofia Lyons, HuffingtonPost
What they don’t tell you you’ll need in college (but you totally do)
  1. Tupperware
  2. A good laptop case
  3. Materials for whatever craft/hobby you enjoy
  4. A mattress heater
  5. A backpack for school AND a cute purse for going out
  6. Office supplies (like scissors, glue, tape, post it notes)
  7. Quaters
  8. A mug (or a few)
  9. Paper towels for your room
  10. A really good pair of headphones (I promise its worth the money)
  11. Copies (or originals) of all of your important documents… birth certificate, passport, social security card, bank account info
  12. Gym shoes
  13. Skype and a good webcam
  14. Extra chargers for everything
  15. A keychain/lanyard/things to carry your key and OneCard in
  16. Closet and drawer organizer
  17. A big wall calendar
  18. Device to play video games
  19. At least one fancy(ish) outfit
  20. Your favorite candy/food/thing you can only get in your home town

Synergy by Larri Cochran
Via Flickr:


Ah the Book Mill. This converted mill houses a brilliant used book store (their slogan is “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find), a delicious cafe, a hip restaurant, an art and craft gallery, and an indie music store. Out in the middle of nowhere (aka near Deerfield and Sunderland – which is where Mount Sugarloaf is, a great hike with an even better view at the top), the Book Mill is a Pioneer Valley favorite. 

The Book Mill is a lovely place to spend an afternoon, studying and drinking tea over the sound of the falls. It’s a trek from Smith (about 40 minutes by car), but it’s so worth it, even if you don’t end up picking up any books (though I bought two paperbacks for my trip for less than $3 each!). 

How to tackle a big paper (at the last minute)

Hey! So I have a 10-15 page paper due in 10 days that I haven’t started yet. So because this is a problem I am tackling right now so I thought some of this may help you as well! As I’ve mentioned on this is blog before I have ADHD and Dylexia which makes “just sit down and do it” not very helpful. So here are some tips I complied to help you (and me!!) with this problem!

1. Read for only 5-10 minutes at a time

Having dyslexia makes reading really laborious so I purposefully keep my reading time very short especially when I’m reading heavy academic literature. This makes sure I’m actually comprehending whats being written and and not just glazing over. Read for 5 minutes take a 1 minute break and then start fresh. 

2. Talk it out

Call your mom, grab a friend and tell them all about the paper the paper before you start writing. Since I’m much more of a talker and a listener than a writer or a reader, I find that having conversations about my papers and projects helps a lot more that just brainstorming on paper. Also it always helps to get other people’s opinion of what you’re doing and here their ideas and suggestions. 

3. Make ridiculously detailed outlines 

Outline everything. Everything your going to talk about. Write in al of your topic sentences put in all of your supporting quotes. Make it so writing this essay is basically like filling in the blanks. For me writing a outline and then filling it is much less intimidating that starting from a black white word doc. 

4. Collect all the quotes you are going to use in advance and type them out.

One thing that will always stall me when writing a is stopping to get and laboriously type of long quotes. I always take time before I start writing to get all my quotes together and in order so when I’m in the flow of writing I can just cut and paste

5. Color code your essay. 

Black and white text is basically the worst. It makes everything look the same and it is hard to go back and reread the essay. So while I’m writing I color code the sections. For instance all the quotes go in blue, analysis goes in pink, historical background goes in green and transition go in purple. This makes it easy to spot where things are in the essay and it also makes it easy to see if all the parts of my paper are in balance. I need to have enough analysis and keep the transitions and fluff to a minimum. It really helps in the editing of my essay. 

Course Registration

One of the things I stressed most about as a first-year was course registration. I was really confused the first time I did it, and the system seemed really complicated, but you get the hang of it really quickly. Here are some tips I wish I’d known going in:

  1. Don’t overthink it when you’re looking through the catalog. I would also highly suggest taking advantage of the open curriculum and look at classes in all different fields.
  2. For some reason, doing course registration on Google Chrome doesn’t work for some people–it didn’t for me. Make sure you at least have Firefox or Internet Explorer downloaded on your computer so you can open it up quickly even if you do choose to use Chrome–don’t be like me, who had to download Firefox during my first course registration because Chrome wasn’t working properly.
  3. When picking out classes, copy and paste the CRN into a blank notepad. What I do is minimize my web browser enough to be able to see and easily click on this notepad, so I can copy and paste faster.
  4. Put yourself on the waitlist and show up to class!!! Do NOT give up on a class if you really like it, and being waitlisted is not final. If you show up to the class the first couple of weeks and show you’re dedicated to attending, I’d say 80% of the time you can get in unless the professor really can’t allow any more people to stay in the class. 
  5. Even so, be prepared to have backup classes! Sometimes, things just don’t work out for various reasons (including not liking the class) and that’s okay, but make sure you have other classes picked out.
  6. Your first time picking out classes, you’ll be helped out by your Student Academic Advisors (SAA) and probably other members of the house as well. Don’t hesitate to ask any of them for help! 
  7. Personally, I also like to have some sort of exercise-related 1-credit or 2-credit ESS or dance class. They’re good stress relievers and fun! Of course, if you don’t want to take these classes that’s also fine.
  8. Take a deep breath. You got this! It’ll only get easier each and every time you sign up for classes. Spring semester of my first year, I had some issues with logging in and still got into all of the classes I wanted to.

Frankly, your first course registration is going to be extremely stressful. But I promise you, it will work out. The other members of your house will be there to help you every step of the way, and being waitlisted isn’t the end of the world. Good luck!