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The best thing about Smith is the community, or I might say communities. At Smith, we don't live in "dorms" we live in "houses", and each house has its own special flavor, if you will. Most everyone knows one another, and it is a very good social base, as many people will stay in the same house all four years, and there is a really good mix of people from every class year. I especially appreciated in my first year getting to know sophomores, juniors and seniors, because they knew all of the inner workings of campus and were definitely interesting people that I might not have met had the housing situation been different. I spend almost all of my free time in my house or with people from my house. If your house isn't exactly to your liking, then there are endless options in clubs, sports, and even majors that can be supportive communities. Smith is also in Northampton, one of the best college towns I've been in. There are amazing restaurants, shops, a fantastic ice cream place, an independent movie theater, a few nightclubs (which I don't really know anything about, but figure it's good to mention), and generally everything one could ask for. The food in particular is amazing, not that you'd really need to go out to eat ever because Smith food is certainly the best college food I've ever tasted. Beyond Northampton, there is just the Pioneer Valley in general, with amazing scenery, four other colleges (Amherst, UMass, Hampshire and Mt Holyoke, all of which are connected by free buses) and if you can get yourself out a little farther you never know what you might find.
Smith is pretty cool. The campus is beautiful; it was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same guy who designed Central Park in New York City. The campus is also an officially recognized botanical garden, so all of the plants on campus are incredibly well-selected and many are remarkably old and/or rare. The size is just right: small enough that you're sure to bump into friends walking around campus, but big enough that there are still new people to meet and that it is possible to avoid someone if the need arises. I spend most of my time on campus lying outside on the lawn if it's a nice day out, or in my house or the Campus Center if it's not. The one thing I would change about Smith is the Administration's strict, reactionary outlook on partying. Where under-aged drinking is involved, they are completely unrealistic and unforgiving, even if a student is forced to turn herself in to get help for a friend whose life may be in danger. This is an outrage, but despite the administrative doucheyness, we still manage to have a good time.
It's a very open environment that fosters personal growth. There are a lot of diverse people here in terms of ethnicity and who are from different regions of the world that have a lot to share about where they come from and their views on things. This is a great place to gain perspective about how complicated the world is and that there isn't always one right answer to a problem because the problem is generally multidimensional. When I tell people that I go to Smith, they are like, oh...that's nice. Most of them don't know what this place is, or if the do, they already have preconceptions about what an all-girls college is like.
Smith is my home, it is the place where I am happiest and where I belong. I love the tradition of the school, the challenging academics, and the women that I live with. The one aspect which truly makes this school special is how every single student that attends this institution cherishes Smith in very much the same way. The most powerful moment is attending convocation at the beginning of the year, and as each professor marches before us, the room bursts into excitement. I will never forget my first convocation. At first I was shocked by the nudity and freedom of expression! There were women running around celebrating their house and their community together. And then the professors entered the great JMG Hall, and the room exploded with cheers, stomping of feet, and applause. I thought to myself, "Smithies really love this college. What a wonderful place to be". We adore our professors and respect their knowledge and are forever indebted to what they can teach us. One thing that I never want to lose is the element of tradition in this school. We have a very special and very unique tradition that has celebrated women for over a century. Our house teas, our Ivy Day celebrations, our convocation, our Mountain Day, all these elements make Smith stand out as a special institution. There is a lot of college pride at Smith, though not in the way that you see at the larger universities like UNC or Duke. Our pride is not defined through our sports teams (although we are certainly are proud of them). Our pride is in our tradition, in the success of our alumni, in the brilliance of our professors, in our unity as women. I think the biggest fear among my fellow classmates and myself is that someday Smith will lose the tradition that defines it. We are a small liberal arts college which allows for an intimate relationship between students, professors, and faculty. Our small houses allow more than friendships to develop, they allow families to develop. The fact that we are a women's college makes a Smith experience unique, and allows us for atleast four years of ourlives to for a true bond of sisterhood among our peers. The Smith experience is empowering, it is supportive, and it is something to be shared with women for generations to come.
The best thing about Smith is the libraries. FOUR libraries!! You can get almost anything! I've heard that Smith has the largest library for a liberal arts college in the country. The Mortimer Rare Book Room is indescribable. I can always find journals that Smith libraries subscribe to when my friends at other colleges can't. If I could change one thing it would be the budget. Smith allocates funds for lectures and grants and expensive eco-friendly biodegradable forks (which melt when used for hot food), and we don't even have soap in the bathrooms! We have "hand sanitizer foam" because they want to conserve water. Sometimes you just need to wash your hands. There is less and less parking for students on campus every year. Dining halls often run out of what they planned on serving that night. Money is spent on all the "extra fluff" when some of the basic student comforts aren't provided.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Smith is the academics. You pay a lot of money, but you get what you pay for, a good education from a very reputable college. It does seem, however, that the school administration has been making several drastic changes to the college over the last 5 years. Several things which made the college much more of a community, for example dinning in every house, has been removed or replaced and I can't help but feel like the dynamic of the college has changed a bit from it. There is less intra house community. There have also been several incidents at the college which have fractured the Smith community. Specifically, there were several racist controversies among students as well as an incident involving the trans community at Smith. These incidents divided the Smith community into (usually) two strongly opposing sides which I would still say do not get along.
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