Now that my final year at Brandeis is looming in the near future, I would like to think I have matured and learned a thing or two about being a college student and life at Brandeis. There is this weird learning curve that happens at Brandeis. You enter a school that is so passionate about social justice and a majority of the population is Jewish, even someone who comes from a Jewish Modern Orthodox background can find it slightly overwhelming at first.
Brandeis also tends to be cliquey. It isn’t like high school cliques where there is clearly a group that is more popular or they think they are the only stars in the sky. It’s subtler. The different members in the clubs spend a lot of time with each other and it is hard to enter those groups in the middle of your four years. That is one of the hardest things I experienced. If I didn’t get involved in a club my freshman year, I was stopped or it became harder to get involved my junior year. This was almost impossible to wrap my head around.
I think I found ways to overcome these learning curves and learned something about Brandeis I probably wish I had known when it was my first year. Three years later, here are some things I have learned and wish 18 year-old me had already understood.
- Try everything – I did the first step by signing up for a lot of clubs, but I didn’t follow through with most or all of them.
- You can balance school and clubs – this is the reason I wasn’t as involved – I felt like I needed to focus on adapting to college courses – you can definitely do both, so don’t let this stop you from joining them and getting involved.
- Don’t take life so seriously, it’s college: enjoy it – I took everything so seriously when I was a freshman. I wish I had been looser with how I lived life and taken more risks, both socially with meeting people and going to club meetings and academically. Getting a bad grade on one paper is not the end of everything.
- Teachers are not scary monsters – professors in college want you to succeed. They want to help and are actually very nice and most or all of them have fascinating stories. Get to know them, go to office hours and don’t hesitate to email them with a question. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
- If a relationship ends, the world is not also going to end – The fact that I got so torn up when a relationship ended seems silly now. I am just thankful I learned from the whole experience, but the months of sulking seem unnecessary.
- Don’t do something you’ll regret – in college, especially freshman year, people make a lot of bad decisions. The key is to make sure you don’t make a decision you’ll regret but if you do it, don’t regret it. Chances are, if you tell yourself that you will regret something in the morning, then you will, which makes it totally not worth it.
- Fraternity parties are not the only way to have fun – they are in fact very creepy, loud, and hot. I wish I had made more of an effort to go to the casual hangouts my friends had in their rooms. Getting all dressed up to go out is fun, but frat basements are not worth pulling out your new mini skirt and tank top. Wait until you are old enough to go out to a bar or a club.
- Apply to everything, and don’t get hurt by rejection – the only way to get involved is to actively try. Apply for the position you think you won’t get. Audition for the group you think might be a long shot. Applying for a position or auditioning for a group will always be worth your effort because they are learning experiences, each and every one of them. When you do get it, it feels wicked good.
In freshman year, I was definitely less knowledgeable, but I am thankful I was able to learn from these moments. Learning from them is the most valuable thing you can do. I think if I had known these things I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did.