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Before You Come to Hampshire

Living in the Pioneer Valley

Hampshire College is located in western Massachusetts in Hampshire County. This area is also known as the Pioneer Valley. Major geographical features include the Connecticut River, which runs roughly through the middle of the county and several mountain ranges including Mt. Holyoke, Mt. Tom, and Mt. Toby. Hampshire County is made up of 23 towns, including Amherst, Hadley, and Northampton, the towns closest to Hampshire College. Today Hampshire County embraces many types of communities, from rural towns to a small city, and many people, from college students to farmers to suburbanites who may commute an hour or more each way to work. All contribute to the diversity of this area.

With five colleges and three college towns, the Pioneer Valley is an exciting, vibrant place to be. Among the five colleges, lectures, poetry readings, movies, and social events are commonplace. Within the consortium, there are nearly 200 student activities; Hampshire has about 80 student groups each year. In the Pioneer Valley, there are some 63 book stores, 30 museums, 19 art galleries, 21 theatre stages, 35 concert venues, 12 dance clubs, and 220 bike trails. We promise you won't go hungry, as there are 69 pizza places, 19 coffee houses, 18 bakeries, 18 delis, 14 health food stores, and 68 restaurants that deliver.

About Amherst

The town of Amherst, founded in 1703, is located in the Connecticut Valley in Hampshire County. It was named for Lord Jeffery Amherst, a British general in the French and Indian War. It has maintained its small town atmosphere even as it has evolved from its earliest beginnings as a college community to a major educational and employment center of 35,228. The town, which is about 100 miles west of Boston, measures 27 square miles and has a thriving central business district with a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bookstores.

Five College Consortium

Hampshire was founded as an innovative institution within a consortium setting. The Five College Consortium ( is one of the oldest and most successful consortia in the country. It provides an extraordinarily rich set of academic and cultural resources, as it connects the Valley's 30,000 undergraduate students. Its academic structure encourages use of the vast curriculum, faculty, and library resources offered by Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts. Each year more than 6,000 courses are available to students in the Five College system at no extra charge; a convenient free bus system provides transportation among the campuses. 

Weather and Clothing

Since the weather during the academic year varies from 80 F (27 C) to 0 F (-18 C), it is a good idea to bring clothes that you can layer. Winters in Massachusetts can be long and cold and with lots of snow. If possible, you may want to pack with you sweaters, a heavy jacket or coat, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots. Iif you are coming from a warm weather climate, however, and winter clothes are not readily available, it may be wise to budget some extra money and purchase your winter items here. There are a number of local stores that offer low-cost winter clothing. Additionally, the Cultural Center has a Winter Closet with available winter coats, gloves, sweaters and scarves that international students can have/borrow. Overall, you should pack what will be most comfortable and warm for you.

What to Bring

In general, we advise you to pack lightly and bring with you as little as possible. Before coming, we recommend that you consult your airline's checked luggage and carry-on baggage policies as these are changing regularly and depend on the air carrier. Most items can be purchased here in the U.S., and we will plan a shopping trip for you to pick up essential items shortly after your arrival. Linens (sheets and towels) will be provided in the International Scholar Mod. We do recommend, if you have one, that you bring a laptop as computers are not provided in the Mod. Internet service is available in the Mod.

Travel Information

Please see Planes, Trains, and Buses for general information about traveling to Hampshire College and the Pioneer Valley.


Stay In Touch
With The Global Education Office (GEO)
Snail Mail
Global Education Office
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002