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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

First-Years begin Brandeis with open minds

Published: September 26, 2008
Section: Features

All high school students have pre-conceived notions about what university life will be like; the fears, the expectations, the stereotypes. But how is life at Brandeis really shaping up for the class of 2012 first-year?

Having been at school for almost a month, first-years are now truly starting to get a sense of what it is like to be a part of the Brandeis community. Freshmen are dealing with the typical college worries, as well as thoughts and expectations particular to Brandeis. Most students share the excitement of living on their own for the first time and are getting answers to questions such as, will I like my roommate? Will I have enough space for all my stuff?

Roommates are required to fill out a contract to set some ground rules on issues such as guests, music, studying, and sleep habits. Students also have a private meeting with their Community Advisor (CA) to discuss any problems they are having. This shows students that people at Brandeis care about their dorm experience and are here to make it the best it can be. “I think that having meetings with our CAs and being made to meet with advisors is a really good idea for the freshmen,” said Hickey ’12. “It lets us know that we actually have resources we can use.”

Laura Hickey ‘12, a first-year living in Cable Hall, shared her thoughts and previous concerns about living with roommates. “I was very apprehensive about living in a lofted triple, but now that I’m here I couldn’t be happier,” she said.“The people here at Brandeis are all so friendly and fun to be around. I love living in North because the quad is a really nice area and I usually pass by the castle, which is a really unique thing to see.”

Another challenge first- years must face is adjusting to academics in college. Most students have some idea about the academics at a particular school before enrolling there, and it is often a large part in their decision to attend. Referencing her expectations of Brandeis’ academics Laura Hickey ’12 said, “I expected that it would be challenging because this is such a good school, but I was looking forward to the classes because they sounded really interesting.”

Getting the opportunity to pick from a wide range of courses is one of the many aspects of college that differs greatly from high school. For Hickey, the academics at Brandeis were one of the main reasons she chose to attend. “Brandeis was really good academically and it was ranked very high,” she said.

The classes are proving to be a challenge as she expected, but she enjoys being able to take the classes she wants. “For me personally there is a lot of reading,” she said. “But I am enjoying it, which I thought I would. It’s been probably a little more work than I thought, but I also feel I procrastinate too much.”

Sam Datlof ’12 had a similar view. “I expected the classes to be pretty difficult and have a lot of reading, both of which ended up being true,” he said. “They’ve turned out well so far, but one big difference between college courses and high school courses is that we’re assessed much less frequently, so I don’t really know how I’m doing yet since I haven’t been graded yet.”

Let’s face it, having a social life at college is another big priority for most entering first years. Some were concerned that Brandeis wouldn’t provide many opportunities in this department. Brendan Fradkin ‘12, admitted, “I didn’t think there was going to be one.” However, first-years have quickly learned that Brandeis students do like to have a good time in addition to being serious about their studies.

Nora Mitnick ’12 had also heard the rumors about a lack of social life. “I heard that there was no social life at Brandeis before I came here, but that didn’t really faze me,” she said. “When I got here it was just confirmed that we are still all teenagers, even if we are more studious or academically driven than a stereotypical party school, we still go out and do things.”

Hickey agreed that there is plenty to do at Brandeis. “I thought it would take a little while to establish a close group of friends and I had heard that there was not much to do,” she said. “However, I have made a really close group of friends already and we are never bored. We always find something to do.”

Brandeis provides a variety of activities, both on campus and off. You can usually find a show, dance, or barbeque to attend, but if nothing on campus seems to suffice, Brandeis provides a free shuttle to both Waltham and Boston on weekends. The campus’s proximity to the city is a big attraction for first-years.

“I kind of expected a pretty laid back social life, which is what I got,” said Datlof . “The stereotypes of no social life didn’t bother me. I knew they couldn’t be true and my visits showed me they weren’t.”

Another stereotype that worried some is the myth that everyone at Brandeis is Jewish.

“Before I came here people had made me believe that it was a school full of only Jewish people and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hickey. “But there’s a lot more diversity than I thought there would be. I like how there are different levels of religion here, but it’s not forced on us. Everyone is so welcoming.”

For Nora Mitnick ’12, the Jewish community was a positive aspect at Brandeis that influenced her decision to attend.

“I like the Jewish community; the people, more than the traditional aspect,” said Mitnick. She doesn’t think the religion at Brandeis it all overpowering. “It is entirely take it or leave it,” she said. “If you want to avoid it, it’s more than possible.”

As previous concerns about Brandeis are melting away, first-years are now finding out how much Brandeis has to offer.