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Dear Class of 2008: Take Our Advice

Graduating Seniors Tell You What You Need to Know

By Jennifer Jennings '04

When I lugged my first boxes through the Lamont House door on that muggy, gray Saturday in September 2000, four years full of opportunities, decisions, friendships, triumphs, heartbreaks and lessons were in my future. During my first weeks and months at Smith, I wished that someone would hold my hand and share some of the secret shortcuts for negotiating the Smith paths -- which seemed always to curve, instead of leading directly to a destination.

Four recent graduates, who experienced Smith through a variety of paths, agreed to offer some advice to the class of 2008.

A studio art and French double major from Great Neck, New York, Lisa Anchin was active in Hillel, serving on the board during her sophomore and senior years. She was president of Morrow House during 2003-04. Elizabeth Cowan, a biology major from Wheaton, Illinois, was a member of the equestrian team for three years, president of Lamont House in 2003-04 and chaired the Rec Council for her last three semesters. Susan Strom lived in three houses during her time at Smith: Lamont, Dawes and the Friedman Apartments. She was house coordinator at Dawes House. Strom was an engineering major who also participated in many dance productions during her four years at Smith. Elizabeth Leidel is from Lake Oswego, Oregon. A philosophy major, she was active on the debate team and became involved with the Student Government Association during her first year at Smith, finally serving the student body as SGA president in 2003-04.

If you were to start at Smith again, what do you wish you had known?

Anchin: I wish that someone had told me not to worry so much. Smith is an incredible place and one where you are sure to find friends and support.
Liedel: I wish that I had joined as many organizations as I wanted to in my first year and not been so afraid of being so busy and worried less about getting schoolwork done and more about connecting to the Smith community.
Cowan: Although Smith is rife with opportunities, you still have to go after them: be assertive, take initiative and talk to professors about research opportunities.
Strom: The college takes the Honor Code seriously.
Anchin: Don't try to make long-term plans, just let things happen. I came to Smith expecting to major in English, but wound up as an art/French double major. Set goals for yourself, but also leave yourself room to explore.

What is essential for Smithies to do while they are here?

Strom: Go to at least one crazy Hampshire College event!
Liedel: Go to Amherst football games and parties at the other five colleges.
Cowan and Anchin: Get ice cream at Herrels.
Anchin: In terms of classes, don't forget that Smith is strong in all academic areas. Don't hesitate to leave your comfort zones. If you consider yourself a science person, take an art class. If you think of yourself as humanities based, take a math class. The classes that I took in what I considered my weakest subjects were some of the best classes that I've taken at Smith.
Strom: Everyone should meet Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life.

What should Smithies bring with them to campus, material or immaterial?

Strom: Window dressings, spiritual guidance and a fabulous set of party clothes and willingness to wear them even if it is 20 degrees out, at least once.
Anchin: An open mind, an accepting attitude and a willingness to learn, not only from professors but from everyone else on campus, as well -- from your roommate to your best friend to the wonderful person who makes your eggs in the morning to the administrators.
Liedel: Fun sheets.
Cowan: A stuffed animal or fluffy pillow -- it's great to have something to hug.
Liedel: A hammer and a pair of scissors, the first couple seasons of "Queer as Folk" on DVD, and a sense of excitement.
Anchin: Warm stuff for the winter and a fan for the beginning and end of the year.
Cowan: Flip-flops for the shower.
Liedel: The knowledge that you can change Smith.

What advice do you have for first-year students?

Strom: Don't let finding that social niche stop you from exploring other opportunities.
Liedel: Take classes because of the professor, not necessarily because of the content. There is a far greater likelihood that a professor will change your life than a book.
Cowan: Do not hesitate to demand more from your house community, whether your interest is in helping the earth, having fun or anything else. First-years bring a fresh perspective with them and can come up with things that haven't been done before.
Liedel: Get really involved and connected to the campus. Smith has a lot to offer, capitalize on that.
Cowan: Don't be afraid to take a mental holiday for a night -- watch bad TV, go to bed early, watch movies. Your work will get done; don't sacrifice your mental sanity for your work.
Anchin: College will be the best four years of your life, but they are also going to be the fastest, so live life to the fullest, enjoy all that it has to offer and just focus on being at Smith.…Smith is special. There is no place like it in the world.

The Stuff of College Life

The New York Times recently asked college students around the country, including some Smith students, to recommend the latest must-have items for entering students. Here's a sampling of favorite essentials on the Smith campus:

Stefanie Renaud '06, psychology and history, Easthampton, Massachusetts: "Nalgene water bottle (made of hard plastic and colorful). Some sort of cloth bag that indicates your interests, favorite bands or causes. Skirts, the homier looking, the better."

Jie Zheng '05, engineering, Muncie, Indiana: "A Franz Ferdinand CD. Scarves (colorful or with bold print). Vintage-inspired long, fitted winter coat. Punk-ish bomber jacket, vintage brooches and band or political pins. Solid-color flats. As for hairstyles, a bob with closely cropped bangs or long, shaggy, layered hair."

Molly Laas '04, comparative literature, Bettendorf, Idaho: "iPod (Apple's pocket-size music player that can store up to 10,000 songs). A collection of hats, the more outlandish, the better; you never know when a situation might require ridiculous headgear. Also colorful sneakers, denim jackets, messenger bags."

Sara Zeiser '06, medieval studies, Tiverton, Rhode Island: "Smith gear (sweatshirts, shorts, etc.). Carabiners for keys. Poster of male actors or musicians. Hiking and sporting gear. Political buttons, patches, stickers. Knitting needles. Ani DiFranco and Indigo Girls CDs. Mohawks. Ugg boots. iPods/ Walkmans (music players). Plants for your room. Paper lanterns."



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