If I took a time machine back about 30 years I would recognize some very familiar faces walking the same streets of UMass that I walk today. Two of these being my own parents! Both of my parents were undergraduates at UMass Amherst in the early '90s, where they met and graduated with degrees in education and engineering.
Today, as alumni and now parents of a UMass undergrad they get to revisit and relive the memories they made all those years ago each time they visit me on campus. I was able to sit down with my parents over Thanksgiving break and talk about how they think UMass has changed over the years and what their lives are like as parents of a UMass student.
Biggest Changes at UMass
In terms of the differences between when they attended UMass and now, the major thing that they always bring up is the food. Back in the '90s UMass did not have the same #1 Dining that they do now! My mom says that when they were at UMass, “There was one choice of entree or the salad bar for dinner, and occasionally the ice cream bar when we were lucky.”
Nothing like the endless options and soft serve machine we have now! Whenever they visit we have to stop at Berk for my dad to get his favorite dish, the stir fry.
“All of the new buildings are nice, they’ve done a lot of construction since then,” my dad says. They tell me about the different buildings around campus that have been added since they attended and how beautiful they are. They bring up how jealous they are that I get to study and take classes in the newly built Integrative Learning Center.
Another difference my dad brings up is that today UMass is “academically, much more difficult to get into and more competitive, which is good to see.”
They’re both happy at the improvements academically that UMass has made over the years. But other than these differences my mom says, “Every time we visit it feels like we’re going back in time, to the same place we went and loved back then.”
Becoming Parents to a College Student
“I thought it would be a harder adjustment, but thanks to technology we can still be in touch whenever we need to be,” my mom says about me moving to UMass last fall. Texting and FaceTiming are really helpful in being able to keep in contact with each other whenever we need to or want to talk.
My dad says, “I just hoped that you would like it and enjoy the independence of living on your own.” His only concern was whether or not I would get a roommate I was compatible with because I went random, but everything worked out well and his concerns were gone as soon as he saw how happy I was at school.
“I was concerned that you may not like it because UMass wasn’t your top choice, but within a week of you being there that went away,” my mom tells me. Talking to me after just a few days being gone she could tell how happy I was, and I knew I had made the right decision.
Both of my parents were very happy with my decision to attend UMass but they never pressured me to choose the school only because they had gone there; they let me make my own decision completely. My mom says, “We didn’t want you to go 'cause we went — we just knew UMass was a great value for a great school.”
My dad adds, “It did make it easier since we were familiar with campus and campus life, we knew you would enjoy it.”
Advice to Parents
Although it can be difficult to say goodbye, college is an amazing stepping stone between being a child and an adult. “It’s a big change, and a new chapter in life, but it’s a great environment for your child to take a step toward independence with some oversight,” my mom says about having a child move to college.
My dad adds, “UMass is a good place for that because it is big, so you really have to take personal responsibility for yourself and it feels more like the real world.”
Another piece of advice for parents and incoming students my mom adds is, “They don’t need as much stuff as you think they do! When you’re shopping for dorm room stuff try to really think about whether or not they’ll use whatever it is you’re buying.” I can definitely agree with this advice — try to limit the things you bring to what you’ll really need!
Advice to Me
As I continue my time as an undergrad here at UMass my parents share some things they wish they had done, or had done more of while they were in Amherst. My mom tells me, “Explore the campus and the surrounding areas around it. Western Mass is more beautiful than you think!”
My dad also brings up, “Get involved and try new things!” My parents wish they had been more involved in activities and the campus and don’t want me to make the same mistakes they did. My dad adds that he’s happy I get to experience the hockey team being so good in the last year because some of his favorite memories come from watching basketball games back when he was a student here.