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Outgrowing school, or just growing?

Published: March 10, 2006
Section: Opinions


“Do you ever feel that you have outgrown Brandeis?”

My friend asked me this on the shuttle taking us home from Harvard Square. It took me by surprise. Outgrown Brandeis? I, Leah Berkenwald, the young-for-my-age 20 year old definition of “late bloomer, have outgrown Brandeis? No. Of course not.
Ever since he asked me that, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Mostly because I think I actually am starting to outgrow Brandeis. Perhaps not Brandeis, but college in general.

Living off campus is certainly a big part. The world of cramped dorm room parties, CA drug raids and four a.m. fire alarms seems more like cruel and unusual punishment than a way of life. I certainly dont miss Aramark meals and the bathroom visits that inevitably followed.

I used to arrange my schedule so that Id only have classes three days a week, and even then none before 11 a.m. Four days a week Id sleep from four a.m. to four p.m., just in time for the sun to go down. Why? Because I could. These days, I wake up before eight a.m. and have a nice leisurely morning before my 9 and 10 oclock classes, five days a week. Why? Because I can.

I also no longer feel it is appropriate to wear my pajamas to class, to dinner, to meetings with professors, or out grocery shopping at Hannafords. Not to say I dress to impress everyday, but the pj's have been designated for extreme cases only, like having the flu, or when you know youll be sleeping over in Shapiro.

Since I began the preliminary work on my senior thesis (and having sleepovers in Shapiro) my classes seem less important. Though they are interesting, they feel more like a distraction from my own research than anything else. And you know youre getting older when you can identify all the first years in your classes by the way they always try to answer the professors rhetorical questions.

Do I feel that I have outgrown Brandeis? No, but I do feel that I have crossed that imaginary line separating upperclassmen from underclassmen. Thats frightening enough. In fact, thats really what being an upperclassman is all about: fear of writing theses, of securing internships and finding jobs for after graduation. Fear that we wasted the first 2-3 years of college following the wrong goals and sleeping until four p.m.

Its not that we outgrow college, but that from this end of it we can peer over the edge into the bottomless pit that is the real world. And while we take solace in making fun of the first years, we are still working through the changes weve made since we were first years, and the new changes directly ahead of us.

There were three girls sitting in front of us on the shuttle that night. They were obviously first years, coming home from a night on the town. They were laughing and taking pictures of themselves. I vaguely remember doing that with my friends freshman year. As I stared out the window, I wondered if those girls would even be speaking to each other next year.