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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ offers more than happiness: a home

Published: February 7, 2014
Section: Opinions

Do you remember applying to college? There was so much involved: the tests, the essays, the actual filling out of applications. Everyone has their own story of how they got to college. It is easy to think back on the whole thing, but people sometimes forget how stressful it was, especially because of everything that followed the application process. After applying, there was waiting, not knowing what your future holds and where you will end up. Next, there were the actual results, where you were accepted, wait-listed or even rejected. There were the options, that big decision of at what institution to receive your higher education. You made a decision, and for those of you reading this, that decision was Brandeis. Nonetheless, making the decision was not the end. There was still the hassle of moving in, and moving in was just the beginning since you still barely knew anybody or where any of your classes would be. It goes on and on, and it did.

There was the stress of classes, getting involved and meeting people. College, simply being here, is stressful. Even the process of getting here by car or plane was taxing on the nerves. Nevertheless, remember some of the advice you got along the way: “Pick a place where you fit in.” “Enjoy it because it’ll fly by.” “Don’t forget that there’s more than just school.”

College is stressful, but people do enjoy it. Whether you like it or not, you spend at least eight months of your year here at Brandeis, a home away from home. You had to focus on grades, essays and tests to be accepted, and you still have to focus on grades, essays and tests to remain here. But just because there is a lot of work does not mean you cannot enjoy the ride.

I set out to find out what made people happy. I spoke to a variety of students: first-years, a couple of CA’s and other upperclassmen. I asked them why they were happy and what made them happy. When they answered me, I did not hear what I expected. Instead, I heard what made Brandeis their home.

Walking out of recitation, one first-year told me about how little things on a daily basis illustrate the larger support system on campus. She smiled at the menial gesture of sharing food, and she pulled her shoulders back with a touch of confidence when spoke about how good it felt when a TA gave her a “good going.”

A CA talked about the community he had taken an avid interest in, how supportive and diverse it was. He summarized his comments with a blunt statement, “People here are just nice.”

Another first-year with a book in her lap spoke about how Brandeis was this place for experiencing and learning, where she did not have her parents. She described it as taking her first steps into the real world. Taking those first steps can be scary, though, so it was no surprise that my most popular answer to why and what makes you happy was friends.

Brandeis acts as our second home. It is where we sleep, where we eat, where we are for a good part of the year. So, yes, our friends become our family, whom we talk to outside of class and whom we eat dinner with. That is why, after speaking to both upperclassmen and first-years, I realized that the longer you are here, the “happier,” or more at home, you become.

Starting a second semester, you did not have to worry about buying things like a trash can or a new lamp; you already had those things. Not everyone was a stranger when you walked back on campus after break; you already had some friends. I think it is fair to say the longer you are here, the more established you become in this second home. You learn to balance classes a little bit better, giving you enough time to join clubs, eat, spend time with friends and get some much needed sleep. You learn what days Upper Usdan is closed, so you can think of an alternate plan for dinner. You learn to live on your own, and that “real world” you took a step into your first year just becomes the “world,” nothing new to really scare you.

College starts out as this scary thing, an ominous, stress-filling shadow in your future. Then college becomes this real place that you exist within. You came for a reason, worked hard to get here for a reason, and four years can be a long time somewhere if you have no sense of home or community, no matter that reason.

I started with asking what made people here happy. Most of the students looked at me a little confused, but they all answered. It was hearing their answers when I realized I was asking the wrong question. Happiness is possible in spite of all the stress at college, but it is the home you find here that I should have been interested in. Home is where you can find comfort, more of a contentedness instead of simply being happy. Now, I just wonder if I am going to get homesick over the long four months of the summer for my second home—for Brandeis.