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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Sophomore year: finding your paraDeis

Published: September 16, 2011
Section: Opinions

Sophomore year is not what I was expecting.

It’s sort of nice to see these words in print, no longer an abstraction—a cloud of doubt looming in the back of my mind.

It feels unnatural to be unsure of where I belong here at Brandeis, a place where (thanks to a year of hard work) I thought that my spot in the stratosphere was solidified. I spent my first year here, establishing myself: making friends, getting involved in extracurricular activities, doing work and generally carving out a place for myself in the Brandeis world.

After so many years spent in the confinement of high school and my parents’ house, it felt incredible to be independent (at least relatively so). Never before had I been allowed to eat, sleep, study and socialize whenever and wherever I wanted, with no questions asked and no judgment cast.

I found my new freedom intoxicating and took advantage of it in every way possible, filling my year with countless club meetings, pointless all-nighters, free pizza events, frat parties, late-night philosophical conversations and—perhaps, most frivolously—American Studies classes.

To say that I loved my first year at Brandeis would be an understatement.

I became infatuated with Brandeis culture and what it meant to be Brandeisian. While I wasn’t ignorant of the university’s flaws, I was excited to be a part of the force that changed them for the better. I was excited to be a student, to learn, study and make my mark here.

Mostly, I was just excited that I still had three entire years left in my newfound paraDeis, and I carried that excitement with me into the summer.

My summer—though pleasant—was no substitute for my newfound bliss. Hot off of my first year at the university, I couldn’t help but compare my (lame) life at home with the exciting adventures that had filled my time, just a few weeks before. I couldn’t wait to get back to Waltham and the magic awaiting me there.

I moved in early—Aug. 21—to begin Orientation Leader training. After weeks of waiting, being reunited with friends was incredible. We laughed and hugged, shared stories about summer and excited sentiments about how awesome it was going to be living together in Rosenthal—and a penthouse suite, no less.

That first night, alongside the excitedness and adrenaline that come with reunion, I remember feeling something odd in the pit of my stomach. Unsure of this feeling’s origin, I chalked it up to exhaustion from the journey to Waltham, or indigestion from Sherman.

I enjoyed my first few days back at Brandeis, but I couldn’t shake that feeling. As the days collected into weeks, I couldn’t help but wonder why I wasn’t struck with the same feelings of joy that had filled the days of my first year at the university.

I was spending time with the same people, frequenting the same locations and eating the same food, yet something was different.

I was suddenly annoyed by the piercing voice of a friend and overwhelmed by the possibility of studying abroad—let alone the pressure of having to declare a major in just two short semesters. I didn’t understand why my suitemates and friends couldn’t clean up their Asia-Wok leftovers or flush the toilet.

Why couldn’t things just stay the same?

Where had my pure and unadulterated joy of my first year gone?

What in the world had changed?!

With a few additional weeks of perspective, I think that I can say with confidence that I now understand the ailment was nothing other than the sophomore slump.

While the term is usually used in reference to the careers of athletes, Wikipedia informs me, “In the United Kingdom, the ‘sophomore slump’ is more commonly referred to as ‘second year blues,’ particularly when describing second-year university students.” In other words, gone are the carefree days of my first year, when Brandeis was filled with novelty and opportunity. Things are getting real and it’s time to figure out a way to deal with it.

As I enter our second year of acquaintance, I am coming to the hard realization that friends here are no longer objects of mystery and excitement, but people—flaws and all. With this new insight, it is important to understand that quirks, which may have gone unnoticed in the novelty of our first year, are now impossible to ignore. While this phenomenon may be initially jarring, it is important to understand how important this process is.

Sophomore year is a time to figure out which of your friendships will last. With relationships spread all over campus, it is no longer an option to rely upon convenience to uphold friendships; it is necessary to make an effort to keep in touch and stay updated. Fake friendships—held together by shared classes or residence in the same building—fade quickly, leaving true relationships, where it is worth dealing with quirks and annoyances in exchange for real friendship.

Another rude awakening that accompanied the beginning of sophomore year was the reality of communal living.

After getting through the housing lottery—and all of the craziness that it incurred—I remember feeling unilaterally excited about the prospect of a new living situation. I was so excited to be delivered from my cramped double in Massell to Rosenthal—the promised land. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate how different life in Rosie would be from that in Massell.

The stresses of living with people you know and love can be intense—life is a bit more complicated when you’re not just worrying about retaining a roommate relationship, but also a friendship. It’s more difficult to ensure the cleanliness and presentability of a suite than it is a single room and it’s far more difficult to share the responsibilities of cleaning and decorating with eight people than it is with two.

It is important to realize, however, that none of these inconveniences are comparable to the joy that can come from living with people you love while having your own space in which to study and hang out.

The most difficult thing to accept about my sophomore year is the fact that it is not my first year.

Growing up at Brandeis is all about realizing that things are constantly changing here. Relationships are evolving, expectations are shifting, workloads are fluctuating and years are passing. As hard as it was to realize, I know that I am lucky to have figured it out now as opposed to in a few weeks or months when I could have wasted weeks or months obsessing over the changes affecting my year.

Almost an entire month after that feeling first settled in my stomach, I can’t say that the slump has been shaken entirely—there are still days when I miss the simple carelessness of sunbathing and smoking hookah by Massell pond—but I can say that I am working to appreciate all of the small advantages of sophomore year and finding my paraDeis all over again.