When choosing a college sight unseen, finding community is key

When I finally saw my dorm in real life, stood outside and looked around, I was happy — incredibly happy.

Trying to choose the place you’ll call home for the next four years as a high school senior is hard enough. Choosing it sight unseen feels nearly impossible. Still, that’s what Saachi Khandpur did. 

Originally from New Delhi, India, the psychology and politics major knew she wanted to attend college in the United States if possible, but she also knew her final choice would likely have to be made based on photos, phone calls and video chats. “I was worried about moving to a new country as an international student,” she said. “Finding a campus where I’d get support academically and socially was important to me.” She remembers the first time she visited campus. “It was move-in day of my freshman year, and I was really scared,” she recalled. “When I came to campus, I remember seeing buildings that I’d only seen on maps and in photos, but when I finally saw my dorm in real life, stood outside and looked around, I was happy — incredibly happy.”

Khandpur’s fears about moving to a new country for college inspired her to help other students facing the same challenges. She got involved with Mount Holyoke’s admissions office, hoping to help international students find their place at the College. “I love getting the opportunity to talk to potential students who haven’t been able to visit campus. I try to share everything I wish people would have done for me when I was trying to make my final decision.” 

Finding community has been paramount to Khandpur’s success. There were times when course loads became difficult, and Khandpur was unsure about her future career path. During these times, her community was key. Whether it came in the form of professors connecting her to postgraduate opportunities, friends she maintained throughout her four years or her academic advisor, the community of support and care Mount Holyoke has created across its campus made her confident in her decision to stay at the College.

“It’s a small campus, so most students know each other. There’s a comfort in that,” she said. “You become so close to other students that even acquaintances from your dorm are willing to grab food for you from the dining hall or support you in other small ways. It’s really those brief moments of kindness that made me feel like I was truly part of a special community.”

Upon graduating in May, Khandpur plans to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she will work toward her degree in politics and human rights. Her research will explore political and sexual violence. She credits her professors both with helping her understand how her love for psychology and politics could come together and with fostering a culture of academic exploration, which has helped normalize not always knowing the right answer. 

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned while here is that it’s okay not to know the answer or what’s next,” she said. “Whether it’s in class or a work setting, my professors have taught me that it’s okay not to know everything and to be honest about it. It’s been refreshing to be in a nonjudgmental space and have the opportunity to learn and find solutions along the way.” 

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