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Midyears making their own paths

By Polina Potochevska

Section: Features, Top Stories

March 3, 2017

Aryela Rose ’20, a midyear, says that she “wouldn’t trade the experience [of being a midyear] for anything.” Taking a somewhat unconventional route, she did not go abroad on a Brandeis program, but rather worked her fall semester.

For the few months before her arrival to the university, she worked at a Chevrolet car dealership while also taking classes at her local community college. By going to community college for a semester, she got some general requirements out of the way.

Rose said that being a midyear does come with some challenges. At times she feels isolated from the rest of the first-years and pressure because of a perceived “responsibility to get involved” in clubs and groups to meet more people, almost as if she was “thrown in … at Brandeis.”

Her experience has not been entirely negative however, as she says that she really appreciated being accepted. “The [midyear] class speaks volumes about what it means to be a Brandeis community” and that she is happy to have been “jump started” into the community.

Working her first semester gave Rose a perspective different from those who went abroad, as she worked “full time in an adult environment” and had to provide for herself. However, Rose also said that if she had had the chance to go abroad, that she would have liked to experience that as well.

Rose’s advice to incoming midyears of the class of 2021 would be to “take as many opportunities as you can to get involved [at Brandeis],” including things like taking the time to walk up to Usdan for meals to avoid the isolated feeling and meet people whom you would not otherwise meet. While she said that feeling comfortable will come naturally with time like many other things, she pointed out that she would tell midyears that “you’re still a part of this community and mean just as much.”

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Dana Blackman Brown ’20, a midyear at Brandeis, took an unconventional road on her trip to Brandeis. She studied abroad in England for her fifth year of high school and then backpacked in 13 different countries. Back in the States this fall, she interned for her local senator, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, worked full time while taking two classes at the University of Indiana, South Bend, and also taught Hebrew school.

Brown’s midyear experience has been nothing but positive. She said that she loves Brandeis and is “proud to be a midyear” because it is a community across grades. Actively involved on campus already, Brown hopes to be a triple major, is the midyear senator for the Student Union and participates in Relay for Life and “The Vagina Monologues.” “I don’t sleep,” she joked.

Brown said that she is satisfied with her decision not to go abroad on the Brandeis program her first semester, as she had not been home since her time abroad in England and her backpacking trip. She also said that she enjoys being a midyear and “wouldn’t want to be a regular admit” or be a part of the huge orientation that happens in the first semester, as even the midyear orientation seemed daunting with a much smaller group of students.

Her main advice to midyears: “Stop thinking you don’t deserve to be here,” a common thought among the class. She said that administration should help midyears integrate and tell other students about the process of accepting midyears. Additionally, Brown advised midyears to be unafraid to introduce themselves, take higher-level courses and say their opinions in class, because “it is valued!”

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Lily Fisher Gomberg ‘20 spent her first semester not abroad on the Brandeis program in London or Florence, but rather on a service program called the Rustic Pathways Spanish Immersion and Service in Latin America.

Gomberg originally planned on doing a full gap year, because she wanted to participate in a non-academic program abroad, but being admitted as a midyear ended up working perfectly to allow Gomberg some time to travel abroad.

Gomberg and other students lived in homestays to be immersed in language and culture, while participating in service projects that would directly affect their homestay families. In the Dominican Republic, where Gomberg was located, their project was fixing an aqueduct that would carry water to her homestay family’s area.

“Having been outside of the Brandeis bubble [for the first semester] makes coming into it awesome,” Gomber said. Since her hometown (nearby Newton) is so close to Brandeis, they can often feel incredibly similar. Her program allowed her to experience a completely different community and culture. She also appreciates Brandeis more because she is a midyear, as the school and community are “really unique.”

One downside to being a midyear, she said, was housing for next year, because “I don’t know as many people as I maybe would” had she started at Brandeis in the fall. However, Gomberg also appreciates having a smaller community and enjoys that aspect.

To next year’s midyears, Gomberg said, “It’s not as scary as it seems.” She added, “You’re not a midyear because you’re less … it’s an addition, not a subtraction.”

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Ben Benson ’18, did not go abroad for his first semester before arriving at Brandeis. Instead, he took classes at community college, including Russian classes, worked and was a paid scientific test subject for the Veteran’s Administration and the Air Force.

When Benson came to Brandeis in January 2015, Boston was experiencing one of the snowiest seasons it had ever seen. He said that it was an exciting experience because “all the midyears got really close” due to being stuck inside the Village, where all midyears lived that year, during these blizzards and storms.

However, there have been some definite downsides to being a midyear. Because he transferred credits from his community college, he was not able to study abroad during his junior year at Brandeis when many other students do. When he dropped a class, he discovered also that he will have to do summer school to graduate on time. Lastly, not immediately getting to know non-midyear students felt isolating.

Benson enjoyed his first semester before coming to Brandeis, as he liked the social life, saved money by taking classes at a local college and was able to work his first semester in San Francisco. He said that he is glad he didn’t go on the Brandeis abroad program because it was expensive, while going to community college was “super easy, boring, but put me in a better financial place” before coming to school.

For Benson, working his first semester was “the way to go” and a great choice for him personally, and he “wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

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