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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Eliana’s Advice: Navigating campus conundrums

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: Opinions

Dear Eliana,
The new meal plans and dining hall options have made me exceedingly frustrated. Trying to get food has become a restrictive activity. Last year, I could use a meal at Einstein’s if I had an extra one and it was late at night. This year, I regularly have extra meals at the end of the week. Because I don’t always have time to sit down and use a meal, I wind up losing several meals each week and, as a result, a great deal of money. Further, since I am on the 12-meal plan, I do not know how I am going to survive on my meals and points this semester if I keep losing these valuable meals. Should I try to change my meal plan? Should I just force myself to eat more? Is there a way I can gift my meals to someone else? What should I do?
-Unsure of Usdan

Dear Unsure of Usdan,
I think you are in the same boat as a lot of people on this campus. These changes in the meal plans and dining options are definitely something that’s going to take time to get used to. One question to ask yourself is, do you see yourself needing more points or more meals? If you rarely have time to sit down in Sherman or Lower Usdan, a more meal-intensive plan might not be your best bet. However, the 12-meal plan actually has more points than the eight-meal plan, so that just makes things more confusing. One of my friends recently mentioned an idea that you may find helpful—try the 12-meal plan this semester, and hopefully have points left over, and then next semester, switch to the eight-meal plan. Since the eight-meal plan is cheaper, you would save money in the end!

Dear Eliana,
After the first full week of classes, I don’t really know what classes I want to take. I know the drop period is almost over and that I need to make my final decisions soon. However I don’t want to just blindly pick what classes I’m taking. I’ve asked my friends what they think about the seven classes I’m taking, but they don’t really know the ins and outs of my courses. I even turned to the professors of the classes I have attended, but all have simply told me to take their class. Is there anyone I can talk to about this who will have an educated, unbiased view on what classes I should take?

Dear Overloaded,
First, I’m going to suggest that you do not take seven classes. I understand wanting to try everything before you commit to something, but you should not overextend yourself! While your friends can definitely be helpful sources of advice, you are right in wanting a second opinion. Luckily, Brandeis offers a few options when it comes to needing help choosing classes. The first person you should go to is your academic advisor. The advisors’ offices are located in Usdan, and you can call or send an email to Academic Services to make an appointment. They also have drop-in hours most days. Your academic advisor’s job is to guide you through your college career and help you choose classes that will be the most beneficial and exciting to you. Another option to look into is the Roosevelt Fellows—fellow students who are trained to help you and have first-hand experience with the classes here. They span a variety of majors, so you can talk to the one whom you think you will relate to the most. Basically, there are people everywhere who want to help you succeed at Brandeis and do what is best for you. All you have to do is reach out to them.

Dear Eliana,
Living in a first-year dorm is about as exciting as you could imagine. However, I am having difficulties getting to know my hallmates since I don’t always like what they are doing. I hear music playing or people talking down the hallway all the time as I’m trying to study in my room. I don’t want to be a buzzkill and ask them to keep quiet, but I want to be able to get my work done. Should I move my studies over to the library nightly to get some quiet? I don’t want it to seem like I don’t want to get to know everyone by leaving, but I need some peace and quiet. Is there a middle ground I have to find between studying and hanging out?

Dear Torn,
Oh, the wonder of a first-year dorm! New people, new sounds and even some new smells! It’s great that you want to get to know your hall mates better, but sometimes you just need to work. One solution is, as you said, to go to the library. Also, remember that there are a ton of other places you can study quietly, such as the SCC, the SSC and many more, if you just look around. If you do want to stay in your dorm, you can always ask your CA to help you out. If you talk to your CA about your concerns, you can let them be the one who quiets people down instead of you. Part of your CA’s job is to help you adjust to community living. While it is definitely important to study, you should take some time to hang out with the people on your floor and join in on the fun. If you make sure you have the right balance, you will be fine.

Dear Eliana,
A friend of mine has been having trouble with her parents at home. A lot of the time I’ve tried to spend with her has been shortened by phone calls home. What’s worse is that she won’t really let me know what the problem is, and I want to be able to help her deal with it while also respecting her privacy. I want to be a good friend and want her to be happy, but with these issues, she just seems really stressed. Should I be more forthright with her and ask her what is going on? Or should I give her more space and just wait for her to work it out?
-Ready to Help

Dear Ready to Help,
That is definitely a hard situation to be in. It’s hard when you want to help a friend, but you just can’t. I think all you can do now is to let her know that you’re there for her if she ever feels ready to share. Be as supportive as you can under the circumstances, and hopefully she will see for herself that she can open up to you. Pushing her would probably just make her pull away more. Do what you can to help make her life easier, and hope for the best.

Dear Readers,
If you can’t already tell, this is an advice column, and I’m here to help you with any questions that you might have! If you want more exciting questions, send them in and I will do my best to answer them. Whether it’s relationships, social problems, or just life in general—send them here. I can’t wait to start hearing about everyone’s problems (How often do you hear people say that? Oh yeah, never). Send questions to Thanks!