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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.


Published: April 26, 2013
Section: Opinions

As my time at Brandeis draws ever more quickly to a close, a separation anxiety of sorts is finally starting to grip me. The odd thing about this is not so much my growing sentimentality, but rather the strange ways in which it seeps into my life. I have found myself feeling a pang of nostalgia on my morning death march from Ridgewood to Rabb (and trust me, as a second-semester senior, a daily trek to Rabb is a death march). Recently, my friends dragged me to Sherman and I found myself savoring the experience simply because it was one of the last times that I would ever have it. Yet, the occasional burst of warmth and the halting attempts of trees to bloom are incontestable signs that my time here is running out.

I come from a small town in southeastern Massachusetts near Providence, R.I. The town is largely conservative. My parents, both New York transplants, helped make sure that I was less conservative than most in my town, but nonetheless, more conservative than the average Brandeisian. I had always followed the news and considered myself fairly knowledgeable about contemporary events, but I eventually realized that I had no real conception of what was going on in the country and the world when I first set foot on campus. Now, as graduation approaches, I think it is fair to say that my worldview has expanded significantly and my political views have shifted farther to the left from where they once were. I was transformed from a small-town moderate who leaned conservative to a liberal intellectual.

There are two main reasons why Brandeis spurred this change in me. First, the students of Brandeis are some of the most politically-aware I have ever come across. They show it through rallies, signs, clubs and a myriad of other activist accomplishments. This spills over into regular conversation and I often felt that, as a Brandeis student, I was expected to know something about everything. I remember when Noam Chomsky came to campus at the beginning of my sophomore year and there was a huge controversy over it. At the time, I had no idea why, but I quickly learned that everyone else did know, and that I had better follow suit if I did not wish to be the guy who had nothing to say.

The second reason for the expansion of my view of the world, however, came from debate. Having been deprived of a debate team in high school, I was eager to take advantage of the club at Brandeis. One of my new friends was also eager to join the team—it was largely through her support that I remained involved, for debate was not an easy activity to master. It took me years to figure out how to compete as side opposition but I eventually became a sort of intellectual dabbler in many topics out of sheer necessity. After every round and every tournament, I found myself looking up not only the subjects I had debated but the topics that others had as well. The convergence of debate and the general atmosphere of social justice at Brandeis opened my eyes to a world that had never been so clear to me.

I guess if I could offer any piece of advice in regard to my experience, it would be to get involved in something that intrigues you intellectually. Find something that you are passionate about and go for it. For most of you, this is the only time in your life when you will have the ability to dabble and not have to make money. You have the ability to take part in one of the most politically and socially active domains in the United States. Regardless of your interests, I can guarantee you that there is a club or team that will provide for them.

During my time at Brandeis, I realized my full potential. I know—that sounds like something that came off an orientation flier. While I had a successful academic career during high school, I never put in a significant amount of effort. This was a function of both my own personal incompetence at the time, and the fact that my town’s school system was not particularly promising. When I came to Brandeis, I had moderate expectations for my academic development yet I found myself stunned by my professors’ talents.

My first year was truly an eye-opening experience where I saw how exemplary an education could be and I enjoyed the vast majority of my classes. This in turn spurred a reciprocal reaction, as I started pouring effort into work like never before. By sophomore year at Brandeis, I would complete my work weeks ahead of time and would often send in a draft if at all possible. My studiousness paid off; I attained better grades and had the most enjoyable intellectual experience of my life.

Your professors are some of the most brilliant people you will ever meet and the academic system here is top notch. You should try as hard as possible in your classes so that you can get the most out of them. It may not be fun to do all of the readings or to study for days before the test, but the rewards (both for your future and your own sense of self) last far longer than the difficulties. In the end, the entire system is built to help you achieve your dreams—it is you, however, that must be willing to put in the work.

I recommend getting the most out of your time at Brandeis. The time goes by more quickly than you expect, and the last thing you want to do is find yourself sitting on a pile of “what ifs” at the end of your undergraduate career. In the end, I feel that I got the most out of Brandeis, which is something that will hopefully comfort me in the weeks ahead as I drift out toward the vast expanse of uncertainty that is the future. I hope that when you find yourself an old and grizzled second-semester senior such as myself, you will be able to say the same.