How was your first year (at Smith)?

Lingchuan Xu ’21

A 2021 prospective art history major talks about her first year experience at Smith.

“I am more willing to get in touch with (hard) science courses when I saw so many women studying it, ” she said. Many students at Smith study sciences and this phenomenon pushed her to step out of art zone and explore the unfamiliar science area more.

Smith’s open curriculum allowed her to enjoy her studies. When taking her International Baccalaureate (IB) lessons, she felt her choices were limited. She recounted that similar to most universities, the IB requires students to take courses from each subject area.

Taking courses from each category is a lot to handle. “When people are stressed out, they only think about finishing their assigned work instead of exploring other possibilities of academics. With the bearable pressure, open curriculum system really nourishes my curiosity towards alien disciplines. On the contrary, if I am in a university (instead of a liberal arts college), the fierce competition with professional students may hinder me from trying something I haven't prepared much for.”

However, she feels “It is too rural here [at Smith].” She continued, “[you] can’t have [as] much fun as [you would] in a big city.” It seems that in the U.S., you are either in a big city or a suburban town. If you’re not in someplace like New York City or Boston, you most probably will be in a relatively more rural area.

Northampton is pretty isolated but with it, Smith has developed a special community of its own. Smith students establish extremely close relationships with each other. “I don’t feel quite real in this bubble. In contrast to having diverse voices like in large cities, less opinions are revealed here. Smith definitely suits people who enjoy academics, but not so much for those who want to delve into things other than pure academic experience.”

To her, the whole campus is “socially dead”. “From my observation, at least one third of Smithies eat alone,” which, she said, “is quite rare in other schools.” She pointed out that while spreading out the dining halls indeed saves time, it also hinders interactions between students. “Without the concentration of dining services, meeting up with your friends for meals becomes harder. Also, Smith doesn’t provide an environment active enough for us to socialize with strangers. So we end up staying with ourselves. ”

She cited the housing system as another example, “It is great that each house tries hard to create a close community. But if people are not interested in hanging out with their houses, they either hang out with their friends, or keep to themselves. Since getting together with your friends is really hard, as proved with the dining system, you end up by yourself. ” She finished her analysis by ending with: “the dining should be more delicious. When students have heavy workload, it’s depressing to come back to food that is bad."