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New year, all clear

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Opinions


It feels like just last week that we were saying the long, heartfelt goodbyes to friends, using up all of our remaining points at the C-Store (even though there was nothing left to buy) and dumping out all of our old binders—reminders from semesters past. But in reality, three and a half months have passed since then, and we now find ourselves back at Brandeis ready for yet another roller-coaster year.

For some of us, it’s been a tremendously long summer, a summer that couldn’t have gone by any more slowly. For others of us, the summer went by so quickly that it feels like we never left. But the majority of us were crossing out the days left on our calendars until we returned back to Brandeis.

As we walk around campus and encounter all the familiar faces from last year, the most popular exchange is “How was your summer?” “Good! Yours?” “Good!” And we answer the questions this way, not because our summers really were all that good, but because it would be far too difficult to go into detail about each and every one of our unique summer experiences within the confines of a casual conversation.

Our summers were just too eventful for that. Whether we campaigned for a local politician or worked at a summer camp, three and a half months is a long time, and to say our summers were uneventful is simply inaccurate.

As a sophomore, this past summer was my first summer as a college student. And I have to say it has been nothing like my high school summer vacations. Maybe it’s because I didn’t spend my vacation splitting my time between Xbox 360 and summer reading at the library. Or maybe it’s because as a college student we have nearly four months of summer vacation, which is much more time than we had in high school.

All this free time presents lots of opportunities; we can choose to spend our time however we like. And while many of us were slaves to the Internet and social media, a great deal of us chose to pursue more practical endeavors. Some of us became involved with internship programs that we were sorry to see end. Others of us traveled across the world and encountered a completely different way of life. Many of us caught up with old friends and made new ones. And of course there are those overachievers who spent the summer taking classes for additional credits, or getting their textbooks two months early to prepare for the semester, or even going so far as to take practice LSATs, even though they’re only going into their sophomore year (that’s Brandeis students for you).

The rest of us were glued to a bean bag chair watching old movies on NetFlix, only getting up to go to the bathroom or work (that was me).

The point is that we have all chosen to spend our time in different ways this summer and we have all been productive in our own ways. While I did not travel the globe providing medical care for citizens of underdeveloped countries like some of my friends, I still made valuable use of my time over the summer. I taught my sister how to drive (although drive is a very loose term), became smitten with Twitter, tried and failed to mathematically solve the lottery, and encountered my fair share of celebrity look-alikes, among many other things. But regardless of how all of us spent our summers, we are back at Brandeis again and for the next nine months, this will be our home.

But for all the first-year students, their summers have been slightly more stressful. The packing, the preparation, the nerves … it’s a wonder they made it here in one piece! And after all the doubts, uncertainties, and times they wondered what it would be like to be in college, to live on their own and to be an adult—they’re here, fully immersed in their first year of college, experiencing all of Brandeis’ amenities for the first time.

Learning … doing a lot of learning. Learning not only about how to be independent in a college setting but how to fit into the Brandeis community, learning how to navigate the campus without a road map, learning which places to eat at and which places to avoid, learning how to use the Red Line and the Green Line and all the different colored lines to get into Boston, learning where the best study spots are in the library, learning the fastest routes to class, learning how to do laundry (one of my friends still doesn’t know how to do his own laundry!), learning not to sign up for too many clubs at the Activity Fair (otherwise risk flooding your inbox with messages about the Cheese Club)—and for the Californians, learning how to adjust to New England weather.

For most of us, it’s been a rather eventful past few weeks; between the earthquakes, the hurricanes, and Justin Bieber receiving a VMA, East Coast residents have had a lot of traumatizing events to deal with of late. Nevertheless, summer is over and a new year has begun. It’s a new year—a clean slate. Returning students have the opportunity to start fresh and to learn from their past mistakes. And first-year students get to learn everything as they go. It’s all part of the college experience.

But for us returning students, being back at school provokes many mixed emotions. The stress of coursework is back, but so are the exciting weekend nights. Our academic rivals are back (and believe me there’s a lot of them), but so are our close friends. The last-minute paper writing is back, but so are the creative ways in which we procrastinate (Wikipedia exploring). The taste of Sherman food is back but so is the sweetness of Einstein’s coffee. So you take the good with the bad. After all, for most of us, there isn’t anywhere else we’d rather be.