Alumni Spotlight: Amaya Varma
In this month’s Alumni Spotlight we are recognizing Amaya Varma. Amaya spent three years at Hershey Montessori School, completing 7th, 8th and 9th grade at our Huntsburg campus. Amaya attended Montessori schools her entire life, and it seemed like the natural next step to come to Hershey after completing 6th grade at her Montessori elementary school. She has had many family members attend or teach at boarding schools in India, so she was familiar with Montessori and boarding school education while attending school.
Amaya is from the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. She is in her final year at Portland State University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Amaya is writing her undergraduate thesis on Montessori Pedagogy and the concept of culture in the classroom. She has begun applying to master’s programs as well.
She is a huge foodie who loves to travel and plans on traveling everywhere she possibly can.
Below is our full interview with Amaya:
What did you like most about your Montessori education?
I love that it has allowed me to be the person I am today. Montessori education cultivates individual and community growth in ways that complement each other.
What is your favorite Hershey memory?
I don’t think I can just pick one! Although I loved the academic/daytime parts of Hershey, my fondest memories are BY FAR within the boarding community and the family that was built there.
- I am quite fond of my memories of roommates in 8th grade–we would laugh and not be able to stop.
- I loved when I got the rare opportunity to wake up the boys boarding floor in the mornings by ringing this obnoxiously loud cowbell and then try and dodge them the rest of the day.
- I loved when the school play was being put on and David McNees’ contagious and slightly overwhelming energy about the way somebody said a certain word sent us all into giggles. He couldn’t help but hop around onstage “projecting” in a grandiose demonstration.
- I loved the coolness of the morning air as we walked to morning barn chores and the peace you got at night after evening barn chores.
- I loved the satisfaction and the community I built as one of the consistent barn-cleaning volunteers for Friday community service. The consistency in who showed up always ensured work would get done quickly but properly so we could spend the remainder of the afternoon/evening enjoying each other’s company.
- I loved watching the students who had never seen snow before running out of bed first thing in the morning to jump outside in just shorts, no shoes, no shirt. It reminded us seasoned snow students that it was a blessing! They would quickly change their minds after a week, but their childlike excitement was not lost on onlookers.
- I loved packing and cleaning times in the boarding house. It was a time where you could bond with each other and with the houseparents specifically.
- I loved our hug lines at night where every boarder would line up to give each other a goodnight hug before heading to their respective dorms.
- There was one evening where our German students were preparing a traditional meal and I remember it was taking a while to make and all of us hungry boarding students stepped in to help.
- I enjoyed waking up in the mornings for breakfast and being met with our overly energetic yet begrudging breakfast chef Laura who if you weren’t a morning person let you know (we were all quite fond of her).
- Elizabeth Seney would take me to yoga classes occasionally when she noticed my mental health was low and honestly it helped tremendously. Some students in the boarding community are lucky enough to feel seen by staff.
- I loved our midnight feasts; we were always so loud but thought we were being so sneaky.
What is one thing about Hershey you would like others to know?
Boarding is worth it. Every experience at Hershey will be unique. There are no guarantees and boarding can be difficult at times but in my opinion, so so worth it. I cannot emphasize that more based off of my individual experience. The boarding community is small and good houseparents build an individual relationship with each student which allows you to feel part of a family. The connections formed in one year in boarding school are equivalent to years’ worth somewhere else. These connections stay with you — I still speak to my graduating class somewhat regularly in a group chat and have even visited some since becoming an alumnus. Although I chose to leave Hershey after the middle school program, I didn’t feel like it was big enough for what I needed as an individual at that time, I can confidently say it set me up to be a good person and citizen. I care about my environment and people — which is a Montessori trait that is lost on no one.
What is your favorite place to go?
Back home to my family’s farm or Barcelona, Spain.
What is your favorite thing to do?
Eat good food and be around good people.
What is your favorite book?
I don’t have just one! The last one I read and enjoyed was “Crying in H-Mart.” I am currently reading “Caste.”
Do you have a life lesson you would like to share with others?
Not a life lesson, but just an idea: It is okay to not be okay. You must treat yourself with grace and show yourself forgiveness. The power you have within yourself that comes from humble self-love is what drives your energy out into the rest of the world. If you show yourself compassion, it is inevitable that you will treat others with the truest form of compassion as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or let others know?
Thank you to all the boarders and community members who were there during my years and are seeing this. I have so much love and gratitude for every one of you. We persevered through some eventful times, and I wish you all nothing but abundance and peace.
We are extremely proud of Amaya and will continue to support her in all of her growing accomplishments. Thank you for being a part of our Hershey family and good luck as you finish your final year of undergrad!