Written By Aayushi Mishra
Attending Mount Holyoke, a Women’s College
Published: January 13, 2017
Attending a women’s college has been an exceptional experience for me. Mount Holyoke College is located in South Hadley, MA and is the first women’s college in the United States. Established in 1837, it is a small private liberal arts college.
The first impression
When I drove to Mount Holyoke College for the first time in August 2014, I remember feeling slightly breathless. I had seen hundreds of images of the campus in the past year after being accepted, but I couldn’t help but stare. There was pin-drop silence except for the occasional chirps and cackles of birds and geese. I looked over to see some of the other college students and was relieved to see the same awestruck expression on their faces. No matter how many times I looked around to feel more accustomed to the magnificent view, I couldn’t stop admiring the campus.
It has been a couple of years since I first walked through the gates of Mount Holyoke, but my reaction remains the same (although it is slightly less dramatic). When I walk to my classes on cold winter mornings, I never forget to smile at the beauty that envelopes the students. Whenever I sit near one of the lakes and watch the birds, I can’t believe my luck. Often times during the warmer months, professors teach classes outdoors because not even they can help but immerse themselves in the pristine beauty of the campus. All the class buildings have their own unique look- there is Clapp Hall (founded in 1924) which is primarily a Biology, Environmental Studies, and Computer Science building. Skinner Hall (founded in 1915) is a building where History and Economics classes take place. My favorite is the Williston-Smith Library (founded 1905)- there’s something about a 7-storied building filled with books that makes me feel motivated to do my homework and close Netflix.
The student life at Mount Holyoke
When I first arrived at MHC, I felt a bit out of place. I didn’t know whether I should be overly social and make lots of friends on the first day, or to appear more reserved and only stick to a select few. Then I realized that I was going to spend the next four years at this institution, and I was going to be surrounded by these same peers, and so I decided to settle on just being myself. Almost instantly, I had made numerous friends and learned about all of their fascinating backgrounds. Mount Holyoke boasts of having 24% of its student body from international countries, which truly contributes to the school’s goal of being as much inclusive as possible.
I was assigned to two roommates, which I initially felt squeamish about. I remember thinking “One roommate would be enough, but I have to learn how to live with two people now?” However, within a couple of days I realized how amazing it was to live with two dedicated, unique, and intelligent women. The three of us had very different interests- I was passionate about joining as many debate-oriented organizations and voice my opinions, while one was trying out for the varsity squash team (she made it and is currently one of the top players!), and the other was a romance language lover. Together, we complemented each other and had a wonderful time bonding.
The dorms, of course, are breathtakingly beautiful as well. In my second year, I lived in Pearsons Hall, arguably one of the prettiest dormitory halls on campus. Some of the other top favorites are Wilder Hall and Safford Hall. Our dorm rooms are often nicknamed “Princess Dorms” because of their spaciousness and antique furnishings.
The classroom experience
Mount Holyoke’s faculty and staff are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. They encourage critical thinking, have flexible office hours, and come from impressive backgrounds. The most surprising thing is how interested they are in getting to know their students better. During the first week, many professors wanted to know about where we come from, what our prospective major is, and what we are most passionate about. I assumed that would be the end of that- however, this continued for the entire semester for most classes. Professors wanted to hear about what classes I was taking, whether I was enjoying them or not, what my midterms were about, and so on. Many wanted to know about how I was adjusting to the MHC life, too; it was like I had at least four parental figures! Because I was thousands of miles away from my family, this was very comforting to me.
Class sizes are typically very small at Mount Holyoke. In my experience, the student to professor ratio is usually 10:1. As I mentioned above, this allows professors to get to know their students on an individual basis. Most midterm papers and lab reports receive lengthy constructive feedback instead of just a grade. The professors are constantly trying to help improve students’ grade by explaining where there is room for growth and also what aspects of the student’s work is excellent.
The social life
If you’re a fan of large parties with deep house music playing, Mount Holyoke parties might not be the best fit for you. Most parties on campus are small and intimate but are nonetheless extremely fun. Mount Holyoke is part of the Five College Consortium which includes Amherst College, Smith College (another women’s college), Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In addition to taking classes at these institutions, MHC students often go to parties at Amherst or UMass which tend to be significantly larger.
MHC has over 160 organizations that students can be a part of. I joined MHC’s Model United Nations team and was selected to be a member of the collegiate traveling team. I had the opportunity to compete with other colleges at conferences and secured several awards for Mount Holyoke. In my second year, I was elected to be Class Secretary. This gave me a leadership platform which helped me grow as an individual. This year, I was elected to be Class President! This goes to show that any student can be a part of any organization that they are passionate about and can excel in the said clubs.
The many traditions of Mount Holyoke
Mount Holyoke is huge on traditions. It’s one of the reasons why I applied to MHC under the Early Decision plan- I wanted to be a part of these amazing customs. Some of my favorites include the Big/Little tradition, in which third-year students (the ‘Bigs’) are paired up with incoming first-year students (the ‘Littles’). The Bigs share their experiences and give advice to their Littles and remain friends through the years. Another favorite is Elfing, where second-year students are assigned first-year students. The sophomores decorate the first-years’ dorm doors and make gift baskets welcoming them to Mount Holyoke. In addition, all dorms serve milk and cookies (M&Cs) every school night from 9:30-10 pm for a quick study break. Yes, we are very cute. Women’s colleges in general tend to have a lot of traditions.
Mount Holyoke’s take-away
Women’s colleges provide its students with a unique experience. They encourage opinionated students to voice their thoughts, they allow critical thinkers to question theories, and they motivate all members of their community to stay connected. Women’s colleges like Mount Holyoke have a tremendously strong alumnae network which helps graduates secure jobs and form connections. MHC is also known to provide significant merit-based scholarships to international students (myself included!) which make it more affordable. Deciding to attend this college has helped shape me into a better person.
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