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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A first-year’s perspective: sublimely shocked

Published: September 16, 2011
Section: Opinions

When I left my hometown of Mexico City to come to Brandeis, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. As I said goodbye to my parents and hello to a world of independence, I was sure that I knew precisely what I was doing. But I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Orientation began Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, and with it, the fun of endless ice breakers and rainy afternoons—which, of course, provided for such a bonding experience that no one could stay in the “I don’t know anyone here” stage for very long.

In fact, the accepting, happy and energetic Brandeis community proved so overwhelmingly welcoming that at times it felt weird not to be in an overly happy and extremely excited mode.

I assumed my first week at college would be a frightening and intimidating experience—for which I felt entirely ready. After all, not only was I in a foreign country, speaking another language and introducing myself to so many people that it became difficult to remember their names, but I was also a first-year getting lost on the way to my home away from home, otherwise known as Reitman Hall. I was lost also when it came to meals, slang and living with a roommate. But somehow at Brandeis, none of these things were a problem.

Despite being far away from Mexico, I really felt at home—a home with slightly more french fries and slightly less chili that is, but still a home—where the people were so friendly and the girls in my hall so nice that it was hard not to think of them as family. Together we stepped into our first college party, our first Activities Fair—where we signed up for more clubs than others would consider normal—and our first trip to Boston where a great deal of shopping and eating was done.

After the fun of orientation, the challenge of classes began, and I found myself—always proud of my English-speaking skills—googling words my professors had said and which I had never heard in my life. I realized, only after changing my meal plan and my schedule—after swimming in a sea of reading assignments and re-thinking my life plan and potential major—that I was happier than I been in a long time.

It turns out that, at Brandeis, if life gives you lemons and you make lemonade, there will always be someone there to drink it with you.

From international orientation, to hurricanes, to classes and friends, my first week at college was nothing like I had expected, but that’s only because the fun of new experiences, new friends and a new life is difficult to anticipate. While Mexico is not exactly like Brandeis (even though an alarming number of people can speak Spanish here), I don’t see why it should be. Sure, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking I’m at home in my old room, only to realize that my family is still in Mexico and (for now at least) I’m not.

Sometimes I miss speaking Spanish fluently and I wish, time and again, that Sherman served chilaquiles, but somehow it seems wrong to go around missing things that I could easily get back while I’m having an experience I will never have again.

The thing is, I thought I knew what to expect from college and I thought I knew exactly what I was doing, but I really didn’t. All I know for sure is that, when it comes to college, I know nothing at all.