1. Attend a hockey game
Hockey games are exciting and going to one gives you an excuse to buy a new UMass t-shirt. It’s fun to exhibit your school spirit and to start a fan section with your new friends. And, since many of the home games are on Fridays at 7 p.m., you’ll already be with your friends and ready to go out for the night.
2. Go to Northampton
Northampton, Mass. is only a short bus ride away from campus. Known for its cool counterculture, Northampton has a lot of great shopping, food, music, and arts. The eccentric atmosphere provides a change of scenery for students. And, going into town teaches a UMass Amherst freshman how to use the bus system (which is free!).
Some places to visit in Northampton:
- Faces- it’s a tourist trap, but you have to go. It’s so much fun to get lost in this store. There are two levels and it’s full of apparel, toys, dorm décor, cool posters, funny t-shirts, and more.
- Urban Outfitters- yes. It’s true. And this Urban Outfitters always seems to have more sale items than any other Urban Outfitters I’ve been to. Great for birthday presents, dorm décor, or simply shopping withdrawals.
- Thornes Marketplace- another tourist trap must-see. It’s fun to walk around in here with friends. There are lots of little shops, some much more expensive than others.
- Spoleto Restaurant- great Italian food. Best Chicken Parmesan!
- Fitzwilly’s- good restaurant to take your parents when they visit on Parents’ Weekend. Awesome burgers!
- Pearl Street Nightclub- always has fun concerts with affordable ticket prices.
3. Buy tickets to an electronic concert
Whether at the on-campus venue, the Mullins Center, or at one of the venues in Northampton, go to an electronic concert! These concerts are big at UMass and they’re fun to go to, even if you don’t know the music very well. There is a lot of dancing and people tend to wear neon, which makes pictures look really cool. Even if you hate it and feel deaf the next day, I think every UMass Amherst freshman should experience one of these concerts at least once.
There are four main dining halls on campus- Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire, and Berkshire. Berkshire and Hampshire are located in the Southwest Residential Area, which is the part of campus that is most city-like and known for its loud and fun atmosphere. Franklin is located in the Central Residential Area, which is quieter, and Worcester is located in the Northeast Residential Area, which is near all of the engineering buildings. Berkshire is known as the best dining hall on campus and has won many awards. Each dining hall has different kinds of people and different foods, so in order to get the full UMass experience, freshmen should try all of them. There are also other places to eat on campus that require “YCMP” swipes, which are different, and depending on your meal plan, you get a certain number of swipes to use each semester. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood for dining hall food, so when that happens, my friends and I will walk or take the bus into Amherst center where the food options are endless. You can also order in pizza, wings, subs, and more, straight to your dorm.
5. Halloween at UMass
Halloween, or “Halloweekend,” at UMass is a lot of fun because it basically lasts for a week, which means you need a variety of costumes! On Halloween of my freshman year there was a snowstorm and it was so bad that we couldn’t leave the dorms. Everyone on my floor made the best of it, and even though the electricity went out, we all dressed up and had a lot of fun. There is a costume store at the nearby mall during the fall and it’s fun to go there and pick out matching costumes with friends.
6. Bond with your floor
Obviously, you’re not going to become friends with everyone on your floor but it’s still good to have a friendly relationship with them. You’re going to be sharing everything with these people over the next several months, so maintaining ties is good. It’s also nice to be friends with your neighbors when you need to borrow something quick whether it’s cream for your coffee one morning you’re running late for class, a printer if you realize you’re out of ink twenty minutes before a paper is due, or cowgirl boots for a last-minute addition to your costume for a theme party. Being close with people on your floor at UMass makes a big school smaller. I lived in Emerson, which is a low-rise dorm in the Southwest Residential Area, and one of the smallest dorms on campus. Even though I go to a school with over 20,000 students, I knew almost everyone who lived in my building last year, and it was comforting to be involved in such a small, close-knit community. A lot of the friends I made on my floor last year I still see around campus and it’s nice to be reminded of how amazing my freshman year was.
7. Take a class with friends
Sign up for one of the general education classes with some friends who live in your building. Not only is it fun to walk to class together, but you also have a live-in study group.
8. Join a RAP
Another awesome opportunity that UMass offers is a “Residential Academic Program,” or RAP. I joined a RAP freshman year and it was one of the best decisions I made. Mine was called “Exploring the Sciences,” and it meant that everybody who joined would live on the same floor and take a class together. The class was in our building. So every Tuesday and Thursday morning, we would roll out of bed and go downstairs to the classroom. People would show up in their slippers!
9. Take advantage of weather spring semester
The weather in Western Massachusetts is not ideal. So when winter finally ends and it gets nice out in the spring, you should take advantage of it. After being cooped up inside all winter it’s a nice change of pace to be able to go outside and kick a soccer ball around or lay out on the grass to soak in some much needed rays.
10. Join a club
Joining a club is an awesome idea because you are given the opportunity to make friends outside of the dorms and classrooms. You can meet people based on your own interests. It’s also good to have a change of scenery every once in a while. Last year I joined the UMass Dance Club and ended up becoming treasurer of the club! I’ve met so many amazing dancers and it has been a great experience.