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Brandeis University: Land of the independents

Published: April 13, 2007
Section: Opinions


If I had to sum up Brandeis in one word, I would have to say that its independent.
For those of you who already go to Brandeis, perhaps you have different words. Awkward. Jewish. Liberal. Politically-correct. And while Brandeis does have its fair share of all that, I think the real quality you need here to survive at Brandeis is to be independent. And I think that thats what makes Brandeis the ideal place to succeed.

For those of you who are expecting things to be handed to you on a silver platter: dont. Brandeis is a young universityand believe me, youll get tired of hearing that soon enoughbut you can use that to your advantage. Dont expect the administration or the union to follow through with your demands: while I promise things do get better every year, the truth of the matter is that if you want something done your best odds are doing it yourself.

One example: getting a job. You would think an institute of higher learning would hold your hand to help you get a jobnot quite. The paradox of a university as obsessed with higher learning as Brandeis is that they have neither the time nor the inclination to seek you out and give you direction, a job, a letter of recommendation. It is your opportunityyour responsibilityto do the legwork, to make the phone calls, and to find your own job. Itll be irritatingbut that is the price for independence.

The second double-edged sword of Brandeis is clubs: the independent individuals on campus have a wide variety of clubs, ranging from Flight Club, Works in Progress Film Production Club, a Comic Book Club, Equestrians, not to mention six undergraduate theatre groups, but in the end, Brandeis cant possibly have every club to match every student. And there are plenty of peopleboth current students, and those who will join the community in the months to comewho will use this opportunity to complain.

But the smart peoplethe independent peoplearent going to take no for an answerwhether its a club, a social life, a job, or your directionand they certainly wont wait for someone else to fix the problem for them. We come from a generation of inflated expectations for collegethat it will be some sort of secular Paradise that you earn when you get enough As in high schoolbut the honest truth is that not just at Brandeis, but everywhere, your experience will only be as good as you make it. Therell be paperwork, therell be difficulty, and you will probably have to start out small. But no matter what, youll learn more about your baby and love it all the more simply by working for itand just know that every baby starts out small.

What about meeting people? Professors? Friends? Romantic interests? Professors, I am pleased to tell you, is Brandeis strong suitthey are thought-provoking, inspiring, and will help you learn more about the direction you want to take. But again, you have to work for ityou have to make the effort to meet with professors face-to-face, and do their work: and know that if a professor doesnt respond to your e-mail or misses your meeting, its not a snub directed at youits just that life happens while were busy making plans, and the more understanding you give them, the closer you will be to them. Regarding the social life on campus, again, it is what you make of itif youre a party animal, you can make that happen. If youre a social recluse, youd be likely to stay in your cavern. Ultimately, the only change that will happen in your life is the change you make happenindeed, youre coming to college to be independent from your family, and you cant do both that and expect the university to take over from where your parents left off. In an age of Ivy League expectations, I have to tell you that education does not equal commodities and luxuriesin many ways, unfortunately, it often means the opposite. But, if you embrace your independence, and work towards the life you want to lead, Brandeis is the place for you.

Perhaps independent is the wrong word to describe Brandeis. Perhaps a better choice would be this: Successful.