Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, did not sound like the most exciting place to spend four years to 18-year-old me, who was hungry for adventure and excitement.
But, four years after drinking my first coffee in Thirsty Mind Coffee & Wine Bar moments before my interview for admission, Mount Holyoke has become home. Many places on campus — the Dickinson House, the library’s atrium and Info Commons — have become as comfortable to me as the kitchen table in my childhood home.
However, when reflecting back on some of my fondest memories throughout my time at Mount Holyoke, many of these took place beyond the gates. A large part of the Mount Holyoke experience is taking advantage of all that the Pioneer Valley — the beautiful region where Mount Holyoke is situated — has to offer.
When I started looking at colleges during my junior year of high school, my plan was pretty straightforward: Escape the New England bubble that I had grown up in. So, I did. I applied early decision to a university in Texas, got my acceptance letter and off I went.
Confession time: I’ve never actually finished NaNoWriMo. Short for National Novel Writing Month, it’s an annual writing project where you try to write 50,000 words over the month of November. It’s a time of intense deadlines, excitement and no small amount of stress. But the end product can leave an author with a completed draft of a new book — or at least the beginning of one. Plenty of well-known books, such as “The Night Circus” and “Cinder,” had their origins in this month of intense writing.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo during middle school, but I didn’t attempt it until my sophomore year of high school. I was spurred on by the idea for the book that would eventually become “Twelve Dead Princesses,” my retelling of the gothic fairy tale that was published in 2019. I was determined to give it a try and get a big chunk of the book done by the end of the month. But this was November 2016, and we all know what happened then. The presidential election, combined with plenty of other things in my already busy life, meant that although I didn’t end the month with nothing, I fell somewhat short of my goal of 50,000 words.
Olivia Vejcik, 2020 class board president, gave a compelling speech during the 2019 Convocation. Amid all the noise, color, heat and excitement, one particular remark struck a chord with me. She said, “Resist any pressure you may feel to fit in.”*
What? Perplexed, I spun around to my friend and genuinely asked, “How do you fit in at Mount Holyoke?” I don’t know how one can; I don’t know how one can’t. And this paradox is what makes the College so fantastically right for so many students.
Anpa’o Locke ’21 submitted one of the winning essays of the College’s 2019 Hortense Parker Celebration. The celebration honors the legacy of Hortense Parker — class of 1883 and the College’s first known student of color — and all students of color, past and present. Locke’s essay is presented here with her permission.
Q: When you leave the gates of Mount Holyoke College, what do you hope to leave behind? What will your legacy be?
It’s summer and the sun is starting to set. The prairie is alive. I can hear the wind, softly blowing. The crickets talk to each other, telling each relative nearby to get ready. The rez dogs bark in the distance, in excitement. The ceremony is about to start.