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Honesty, working for others defines Brandeis spirit

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Opinions

April 15, 2016

The first time I visited Brandeis, I came away with the sense that I couldn’t possibly end up coming here.

The architecture was ugly. 1960s era architecture mixed with early 2000s, and everything in between? Brandeis looked like its buildings were pulled out of a grab bag.

The student offerings didn’t stick out as exceptional. Every college I visited had its own schtick. Sailing on the river right next to your residence hall, Division I sports empires and the greatest festivals in the country. What did Brandeis offer uniquely from all the others? I could not see anything specific.

Maybe it was an overcast day, or possibly an unengaged tour guide, but at that point I strongly felt as though I could cross this school off my list. I left carrying the impression that I would not return.

Several weeks later, on March 13, I received an acceptance. Virtual confetti fluttered from the top of the notice, and just that little touch of creativity made me want to visit again.

I drove out to Waltham once again on Admitted Students’ Day of spring 2014, breaking the idea I had formed weeks earlier that I wouldn’t return. The campus was abuzz with activity. The smoky barbecues, scintillating entertainers and arced balloon columns on display were clearly staged in large part to impress visiting students. However, it wasn’t any of the exhibition that began to have an impression on me. It was the students who were helping to put it on.

I missed the last tour of the afternoon. As two friends and I walked through Massell Quad, a student (who I later got to thank) seemed to recognize that we weren’t with a tour group. He was an off-hours tour guide and went out of his way to offer us a personal tour, to which we excitedly agreed.

Zach the tour guide was witty, upbeat and personal. He showed us the best parts of what Brandeis was, and didn’t fail to air worthwhile criticisms of the institution that he was trying to convince me to attend.

Following this tour, I made my way down to the Gosman Convocation Center where I was matched with a host for the evening. It would be my first—and only—college overnight experience.

Friendly, informative and energetic, Jake the host not only made sure I had a place to stay that night, but he took up the responsibility for taking care of three other prospective students who were seeking hosts as well. At first, he kept us busy through the most awkward game of Cards Against Humanity ever, but soon eased up and began to show us an honest portrayal of what a day in the life of a Brandeisian looked and felt like.

Jake the host was my first friend at Brandeis, and with that he became a friend who I have held over the past two years. Now that he is graduating, I feel pretty bittersweet.

As clichéd as it sounds, the thing that thoroughly convinced me to come to Brandeis was not a barbecue, or a column of balloons or being fed the latest creation out of Sodexo’s kitchen; it was the people.

People such as Zach and Jake, who went above and beyond to make sure that their guests were taken care of, were what stuck out to me the most. Everyone at Brandeis seemed similar in that regard—they cared for things beyond themselves.

It was apparent from interacting with them that it was the quality of individual—not the pageantry—that made Brandeis the place to be.

This past weekend, I signed up to take on an admitted student for an evening. I was honest with him about everything that he asked, and I encouraged him to ask the questions that he might not have otherwise put forward. How is the food, actually? What are the parties like? How do the first few days really feel?

By the end of his stay, he had made a firm decision to commit to Brandeis. I felt pride, and I felt happiness, just to know that many of the same joys, ups and downs of attending this institution might be his to start experiencing less than a year from now.

Like nearly all of the students that I have encountered during my time at Brandeis, I got the sense from my admitted student that he too believed in actively caring for things beyond himself.

Good job, Brandeis. You have successfully convinced me that despite all of your difficulties, missteps and failings, you are doing something absolutely right. That is, accepting students of the best kind, quality and virtue of anywhere else.

Our peers are the sailing club, the Division I sport and the unforgettable festival. They are the best offering you have to give us, and for that I offer profound appreciation.

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