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When home doesn’t feel like home

By Candace Ng

Section: Opinions

March 31, 2017

My best friend’s little sister was recently admitted into Brandeis’ incoming first-year class. I texted her shortly after to congratulate her, and offered to answer any questions she had about the school.

“Do you like it? Tell me all about it.”

I went on a Brandeis admissions tour over Thanksgiving break in the fall of 2014. I liked Brandeis on paper—its proximity to Boston, the liberal arts curriculum, the strong research programs, its diverse community and its commitment to social justice. Its medium size of roughly 3,500 undergraduate students seemed to be a perfect fit for an introvert like myself—it was large enough to be constantly meeting new people, but small enough to have a strong sense of community. Coming from a small, close-knit boarding school setting, I hoped that Brandeis would be able to give me the same sense of comfort and security. To my disappointment, it didn’t.

Earlier in the semester, I attended a senate meeting as a Hoot-SPAN operator. Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel was also present at this meeting. According to Flagel, Brandeis alumni have a “weird disconnection” to Brandeis. It is ironic in many ways: They are close with their classmates, they love their professors, and they wouldn’t trade their education experiences for the world. But like current students, they do not love or take pride in their alma mater.

Flagel couldn’t have put it into better words.

“I really like it academically… but I am still struggling to find community, especially after living in the boarding school bubble for three years,” I replied.

The community’s “weird disconnection” to the university only highlights Brandeis’ inability to fulfill the sense of community I was hoping it could give me when I submitted my ED II application. We don’t like to admit this, but whether we like it or not, we all need community. Some of us find our families away from home on sports teams, varsity and club alike. Others turn to religious groups, clubs and Greek organizations on campus in hopes of building a support system to fall back on. One way or another, we attempt to connect with other members of the Brandeis community with similar beliefs and passions.

“As a whole, I like Brandeis a lot, and I can’t picture myself going to school anywhere else, but it is a weird place,” I continued.

I am lucky. My boarding school experience has set a high bar in terms of my expectations for a community, but I have been fortunate enough to find my own community at Brandeis. My Community Advisor became my best friend. Cru Brandeis, despite its small size, pushes me to grow as a leader, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, when we are not out in Boston trying to find the best breakfast food or obsessing over the Target in Central Square. As for The Brandeis Hoot—the day my Orientation Leader Mia became my editor-in-chief marked the beginning of long production nights with my fellow editors, filled with laughter (from watching dog videos) and Pringles, but mostly frustration over Adobe InDesign.

Complaining about Brandeis’ lack of community without taking action would be like whining about a headache without taking an aspirin. We must step up as leaders and members within various domains, whether that be joining the Student Union or organizing club events. To do my part in creating stronger bonds within different members of our university, I applied and have been hired as a Community Advisor for the upcoming school year. In my individual interview, they asked me why I would be a good Community Advisor. I can’t remember my exact words, but I said something along the lines of this: “Community is very important to me. I came from a boarding school where everyone was very close. Brandeis severely lacks a community. It is diverse, but segregated. However, I believe we have the resources to change that.”

Many of us only call Brandeis “home” for the sole reason we live on campus. Together we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and perhaps, one day, “home” will feel like home.

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