An open letter to the Class of 2022

August 24, 2018

Dear Class of 2022,

Two years ago I was in your shoes—I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, nervous and excited, sitting in the car waiting to drive up Loop Road to my new residence hall. I watched the Orientation Leaders (OLs) do the “first year rumble” and jazzercise in the quad, and as I stepped out of the car, I was greeted with “Welcome to Brandeis” screams and laughs. A name tag hung from my neck, denoting my status as a first-year, sweat collecting from the warm summer day. Conversations started—“where are you from?” (Hong Kong), “which hall do you live on?” (Reitman 1), “what do you think you want to study?” (Psychology)—and bonds were formed.

As you read this, you might be wondering if Brandeis is the right match for you or how you will ever find your place amongst some 3600 people. Whether you are thousands of miles away from where you call home, like me, or a Waltham native, Brandeis is a new environment, and from experience, I know that being away from what you are familiar with is not easy. You are probably afraid, and that is okay. I have been there too. You are not alone.

My first time on Brandeis’ campus was in November 2014, the fall of my junior year of high school—I went on college visits in the greater Boston area, and at Brandeis, I thought, “I could see myself here.” I liked that it was a combination of a research university and a liberal arts college, that it was a diverse community filled with passionate individuals and that it is only nine miles away from the city of Boston. Fast forward one year later, I was a senior, and I applied to Brandeis through the Early Decision II option, on a whim. On Jan. 28, 2016, I officially became a part of Brandeis’ class of 2020.

Even though I applied through the binding option, I had my doubts. I liked Brandeis enough that I was willing to commit, but I did not love it the way many of my classmates did; throughout my first year, even though I was enjoying my time at Brandeis, I wondered if I could be happier if I attended a different school. What if I could be happier elsewhere?

Once I felt like I was actually a part of the Brandeis community, I stopped asking myself that question.

I found my place at Brandeis as an e-board member of Cru Brandeis Christian Fellowship, an editor for The Brandeis Hoot and a Community Advisor (CA.) I knew I belonged when my friends proudly snapped pictures of me making my first ever s’more at Cru Boston’s annual Fall Retreat. When I put together an issue of The Hoot on a snow day, in the middle of a blizzard, to make sure that the paper would still be published the following morning. When my fellow CAs and I laughed so hard during our staff meeting that we cried.

Brandeis’ medium size of roughly 3600 undergraduates is large enough to be constantly meeting new people, but small enough to know everyone by name. With hundreds of clubs on campus, ranging from a capella groups to culture clubs, there is something for everyone. Sign up for a few clubs you think you’d be interested in and participate in their activities. As you meet people through club meetings and events, I promise you, the 235-acre campus will seem a little less lonely.

Orientation week is a good time to get a head start on engaging with the Brandeis community. This week will likely be one of the most memorable weeks of your time at Brandeis. I vaguely remember my own Orientation week; the long hours spent absorbing massive amounts of information was draining, but it was because of Orientation that I became acquainted with the campus and some of my friends (like The Hoot’s Features Editor Polina Potochevska ’20, except we did not realize this till last spring.) You might not remain friends with everyone you meet after Orientation, but my Orientation Leader, Chris Calimlim ’19, is still one of my closest friends on campus, and we both thank Orientation for bringing us together.

Orientation week comes and goes. Some things don’t change—you will still wave or nod at familiar faces from Orientation week, you will continue to have meals in Sherman and Usdan.

Other things do—you will probably not wear your keys on a lanyard, you will learn short cuts through different buildings and you will have a more regular schedule. When classes are in full swing, your days will not always look as carefree as orientation. Some days, you just want to give up; there will be at least one point in your Brandeis career when you realize you cannot do it all alone or that you are struggling. We have all been there.

I have gotten lost trying to find my way around academic buildings (I still get lost trying to get to IBS, and I’m an economics minor.) I have struggled with classes for my major, and cried over it. I, a CA, have been locked out of my own room at least twice. (Yes, that last part is quite embarrassing.)

Your problems, big or small, are valid. Asking for help does not mean that you are weak. There are so many people in this university who want to see you thrive and are willing to help you as long as you ask. I once took a 100-person neuroscience class with ten TAs—that is a lot of help available! That is what Brandeis has been for me, knowing that there is always someone there to give you advice, study with you, and at the very least, be there to give you moral support.

I applied to be a CA last year to be a part of that support network. My first year CA, Laura Garcia ’18, had been a part of my Brandeis support system since day one, and I wanted to pay it forward. My favorite part of being a CA, besides the CA community, as everyone in DCL already knows, is screaming “that’s my resident!” every time anyone brings up my residents’ successes and triumphs and being proud of their accomplishments.

This year I will be be a CA for first-year students. It is most certainly a change from being a CA for sophomores in East, where I lived last year, but I’m excited to be a part of my 41 residents’ journeys of exploration and growth. And yours too, should you allow me.

Welcome to Brandeis, class of 2022!  You got this. I believe in you.

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