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How Brandeis has changed me

I would never have imagined my senior spring being abruptly cut short by a global pandemic like the novel coronavirus, and that my “senior op”—a tradition where graduating editors on The Hoot write opinion pieces reflecting on their times at Brandeis—would be written and published in March. As I write this, I am grappling with conflicting emotions ranging from fear to bewilderment to nostalgia. The closure of the university comes with the anxiety from the coronavirus, the uncertainty of what my academics and thesis will look like, the sadness of leaving my friends and the culmination of it all—saying goodbye to my undergraduate career with a lack of closure. 

Reflecting on my time at Brandeis, I have changed a lot, and most certainly did not expect to be who I am now. I applied to Brandeis under Early Decision II (ED-II) on a whim, unsure as to whether I would ever love it the way my classmates did and wondering whether I could have been happier at a different institution. I am glad I did; I only wish this was not the end.

One thing that has been characteristic about my time at Brandeis, and arguably my favorite thing about the school, is the flexibility it offers in academics and extracurriculars alike. I have never been told that I couldn’t do anything, but rather, have been encouraged to go for it. I came into The Hoot during my first semester with no journalism experience, and what started out as two hours of layout design for The Hoot every week became operating a full 16-page weekly publication as an Editor-in-Chief alongside Polina (#HootNationIsThriving). 

In my sophomore year, I became a Community Advisor (CA) for the Department of Community Living (DCL), and learned to be a stronger, more confident leader on my halls and staff team. Two years later, I became a Head Community Advisor for the largest residential area on campus (Massell and Rosenthal Quads), and gave a six minute and 40 seconds long PechaKucha speech about how my identities affect my role as a CA to the entire department in fall training. 

This past fall, I said yes to writing an honor’s thesis, after spending the entire summer leading up to senior year debating whether I should because I had no psychology research experience. And here I am, conducting a study on the effects of religion on depression and risky behavior, thanks to encouragement from my advisor, Dr. Ellen Wright, and a whole lot of prayer with and from my friends. Faculty and students alike not only told me to pursue these opportunities, but also run after them.

What changed the most during my four years at Brandeis—and what ties each of the three experiences together—would be my faith. I grew up in the church and in a Christian home, but my faith was not my own until my sophomore year. Being a Christian at Brandeis required intention and active devotion in ways that I have never known; I had to make the choices to get involved in a local church, participate in an on-campus organization (Cru Brandeis Christian Fellowship) and spend time learning and growing in scripture. It came with lots of joy, and I got to meet some of my best friends. These choices also came with sacrifice, such as weekends spent with other Cru chapters in the Greater Boston Area and 9 a.m. shuttle rides to Harvard Square followed by 20-minute-long walks in the sun or rain or snow. Together they form my most fond memories, like watching fireworks on the fourth of July from the roof of our summer house and fall nights spent running around a campsite in New Hampshire. There were little things along the way, too: lavender lattes at my favorite coffeehouse, finger touches and sweet texts when I least expect them. 

Besides monetary and time sacrifices, being a Christian, especially on a college campus, came with the task of learning to love on the people around me with truth and grace. With my closest friends, it looks like raw, vulnerable conversations about our physical, mental and spiritual health. Other times, they are conversations in which we call each other out on our words and actions. With other friends, residents and peers, it means seeking to be patient and understanding with them. It means choosing to love and support them in spite of rejection. Love comes in both words and actions; Bob Goff once wrote, “simply put, love does.” As I continue to learn to love like Jesus, I hope my words, actions and inactions reflect him well.

This is my four years at Brandeis: completing a major and two minors, writing a thesis, working one job, being involved in and leading two clubs, getting out of my comfort zone and going up and down the multitude of hills that make up the campus. While I am still in disbelief that I will be finishing my undergraduate degree virtually, I think I have made good use of the time I did get to spend on campus. 

Thank you, Brandeis, for all the opportunities and the ways you have changed me. More importantly, thank you for always telling me that I was enough and that I could do anything I am passionate about and put my mind to.

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