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The Still Life: My last first week … wait, what?

Published: January 17, 2013
Section: Opinions

It’s an odd sensation to go through, that first week of the semester. Classes are just starting; papers are not due; clubs are recruiting new members; people who were abroad last semester have come back; and new students are going abroad.

A new group of midyears has also arrived and as they experience the start of their term at Brandeis, I’ve been wading through this first week for what will be my last time.

No, I’m not transferring because Brandeis hasn’t decided to add puppy therapy during finals—an excellent idea that two friends of mine wrote about at the end of last semester. This is going to be my last “first week” because in May—assuming that this semester goes as planned—I’ll be graduating.

The last time that I experienced anything similar to this was at the start of my last quarter in high school. Back then I was still awaiting college decisions and was taking my last requirement, a fine arts class.

This time around, I’ve got a whole different set of things to consider. Graduate school applications have been sent in and the decisions have come. Wherever I choose to go will accept me as long as I graduate at the end of the semester. So this semester, for the first time in a long time, I’m treating the future as a non-factor. By this I mean that I’ve already done what I can to positively impact my life post-Brandeis, and there’s nothing I can think of that will change the events of my life after graduation during this last semester.

Since I’m not going to focus on the future, I’m taking this semester as a rare opportunity to focus almost entirely on the present. This semester, I still need a class to finish my major, a class to meet the distribution requirement of a minor and a third class to graduate. Unlike in high school, in which I could take extra classes that could count at the next level (for example, taking four out of six AP classes), none of my classes here will count toward whatever requirements my graduate program will have. Certain classes will be more helpful in preparing me for my chosen career path in journalism while other classes will be taken to finish unrelated majors, minors and university requirements.

Additionally, I have one last opportunity to use the pass/fail eligibility option. While I don’t have to decide immediately whether or not to use the eligibility or even if I want to keep or drop the class, this will be the only time I can think about these decisions without having to make amends in future semesters. This is the last time around, so as long as I pass my classes, I can move on with my education beyond Brandeis when commencement rolls around in 120 or so days.

Now some of my friends and peers are stepping into the real—meaning employed—world, and I imagine their experiences are somewhat different. This may be my last semester at Brandeis, but I already know that a year from now I’ll be in the middle of a graduate program while many of my friends will be immersed in jobs and beginning to live their own and increasingly independent lives. But this semester, beginning with this last first week of undergrad, it’s an incredible chance to go through the semester and only worry about the classes I’m taking this semester. So many things this semester are going to be slightly different simply because they’ll be the last time.

When finals roll around, instead of counting the days until my last final and the ability to drive home, it will be senior week and commencement: many goodbyes, some farewells and hopefully none of those, “If I never see you again, it will be too soon.” Commencement will be interesting; it will be happy; it will be sad; it will be final. I haven’t exactly savored my time at Brandeis in the past, as many of my friends both here and elsewhere have always known, but with this last first week, I’m determined to savor this final semester. Among other things, my savoring of this last semester will start soon as I sit back, not worrying about checking the box for housing next year or about joining new clubs. I will be enjoying the ride instead.