When we think about universities and Massachusetts, most people correlate it with the larger Boston area, often forgetting the fact that Massachusetts exceeds Boston. Maybe its because there are so many universities in that area. So in this article, I would like to give a little insight of a “hidden treasure” called University of Massachusetts Amherst.
UMass Amherst is located at the heart of a small beautiful town called Amherst, about 2 hours west from Boston. Continuously ranked as the top public university in the country, UMass Amherst offers a full range of undergraduate, masters, and doctorate programs. Each year, around 28,000 students enrolled to the university, and there are approximately 250,000 alumni living around the world. This year, UMass Amherst was ranked at the top 100 best colleges in the nation by US News. Moreover, individual departments/programs in the university were also ranked at the top of its respective categories for instance, the food science program was ranked #1 in the nation, the computer science program was ranked at the top 25, the school of management was included among the top 50, the engineering program among top 100, and so on.
Sitting on nearly 1,450 acres of land in Western Massachusetts, UMass Amherst has seven residential areas, two apartment complexes, four libraries, three gyms, as well as academic buildings and offices. The 26-floors main library, W.E.B Dubois library, is the tallest library in the United States, houses an extensive collection of journals, books, and other databases. In recent years, UMass Amherst has undergone construction for new buildings and renovation of the old ones. For example, the new gym building, which overlooks the field, is very modern and sleek. Last fall, a new residential building for the commonwealth honors college and one academic building were opened recently. So some of the facilities are considered pretty new.
UMass Amherst is a part of the five college consortium in Western Massachusetts, which consists of UMass Amherst and four private liberal arts schools: Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. , Basically, the five college consortium is a family of five schools that allow students from any of the schools to get access to library databases, educational resources and facilities, open cross classes registration, and activities of the other schools. Moreover, inter-campus buses are also provided for free so that students can have better access to other campuses. UMass Amherst is huge, but through the five college consortium, UMass Amherst students have the option to experience smaller liberal arts colleges too.
Living in Amherst
I grew up in a big city, and have always lived in a big city before moving to Amherst. So yes, initially I had my doubts about going to UMass Amherst. But once I visited the campus and the food science department, I fell in love with it.
At UMass Amherst, freshman students are required to live on-campus, but will have the option to move out of campus from the second year onwards. Each of the seven residential areas on campus has a unique set of characteristics, culture, and for some, academic learning programs. For those who want to live off campus, there are a handful of housing options such as apartment complexes, rooms, or even houses for rent. Most of the major apartment complexes provide convenient public transportation access to UMass Amherst.
Amherst has been ranked as one of the best college town in the nation. It is a small town, but there are always things to do. The downtown offers variety of restaurants, bookstores, bars, coffee shops, etc. During a nice warm day, it is really nice to just walk around the downtown. They have benches for people to sit and enjoy some pizza or ice cream in the outdoors. For people who enjoy outdoors activities, Amherst and the surrounding area have beautiful hiking trails and bike trails; there is a river nearby for kayaking, and there are also mountains for skiing in the winter. Other than that, the university itself has a lot of events and activities you can get involved in. You can join clubs on campus, go to one of the gym classes, attend sports game and cheer for UMass, attend a concert in the Mullins Center, go ice-skating in the winter, and more.
Apart from Amherst, there are neighboring towns around that you can visit as well. Downtown Northampton is a bit larger than Amherst downtown and has a rather artsy feeling. There are several cute little stores, lots of restaurants and bars, as well as some small concert halls too (mostly for indie music). If you feel like going shopping to a bigger mall, Holyoke Mall is the place to go. I believe that it is the biggest mall around the area. And when in time to do grocery, you can go to Hadley for Stop and Shop, Big Y, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joes. The best part is, there are buses that go directly from campus to all these neighboring towns. Boston is about 90 miles to the west (2 hours) and New York City is about 170 miles southwest (3.5 hours).
Bottom line, you will have lots of options to spend your day outside of class and your study in Amherst.
Photo by Juwina Wijaya