Two weeks ago, The Hoot interviewed a group of students from the class of 2027, who shared their perspectives of Brandeis so far and expressed their expectation of their upcoming college life. Shifting gears from the first-years, The Hoot reached out to some upperclassmen and asked about how they view Brandeis differently compared to before, and their advice to their first-year selves.
Shreya Ahuja ’25, now a junior, was a midyear student when she first came in. She used to be overwhelmed with the pressure to find her own friend group at the beginning of her college experience, but now she has become much more comfortable reaching out to people. She wished she would have known the importance of joining clubs. “I would just blame the reason I was so isolated on the fact that I was a mid-year [student], but I just really didn’t know how to join clubs or I didn’t know how to get more involved,” she emphasized how much a new student should branch out from their initial friend group, “everyone in freshman year has like their very tight knit friend group that’s like usually a lot of people, and I think it’s very important to go past that group, because that group most likely will not last throughout your college years. I think the best people that you will find are through random interactions.”
As of now, Ahuja was able to find the sense of community at Brandeis. “The people you find [here], you will probably [be] with them for a long time, which is something that I really like. I think the people are one of the best parts of Brandeis.”
Besides making friends, Ahuja added that her favorite part of Brandeis was definitely the amount of academic resources that were available. “One of the best parts of Brandeis is definitely the faculty,” she said, “specifically the science faculty. I really admire the neuroscience and biology professors, like they are very well educated. They know what they’re talking about … I think Brandeis really does have the unique experience of working in a lab and being really close to your professors.”
Vidushi Poddar ’24 and Qiyuan Feng ’24, both international students, joined Brandeis in the year of COVID-19. Poddar did not enjoy her freshman year because everything was online. It was very isolating for her to start college in another country. As she is a senior now, she has gotten to know Brandeis and its culture better, especially the kindness that the community shows to everyone.
Similarly, Feng also spent his freshman year on Zoom abroad. When he came to Waltham in his sophomore year, his impression of Brandeis was still limited—he lived off campus because he missed the housing application—as he constrained himself within the academic departments he took classes with. “Much later I got to know that actually there were a lot of different subcommunities at Brandeis, like the cultural clubs, the lab people and the academic people and also … athletes.” He told The Hoot.
A helpful piece of advice Feng would give to the first-years is to better plan out courses that they plan to take in the future. If he could go back to his first year, he would plan all the courses in his freshman year instead of improvising too much. He also wished he participated in more fun cultural clubs instead of more academic projects in his lowerclassmen years. “I think sophomore and freshman year, you are supposed to have more fun, but in junior and senior year, you have less time for that, so better do that early.”
Another upperclassmen being interviewed, Zachary Fournier ’24, was a sophomore transfer student. As a transfer student, he suggested new students could go to the library more often instead of hiding in their rooms. “Meanwhile, there’s so many resources available there and so many places to study,” he suggested, “and when studying there, you can also meet other people who are studying either similar or dissimilar things.” Like Ahuja and Poddar, Fournier thought engaging with the communities at Brandeis has been highly stimulating, and he spoke highly of the Brandeis faculty being highly supportive.
However, he was not a big fan of the administrations here. As someone who had undergone a personal housing crisis—he once had to stay in a hotel to wait for the Department of Community Living (DCL) to transfer him to a new room—he stated that DCL “sometimes treats us like cows.”
Poddar also commented on the administrations, expressing that she thought they should have done more to increase the quality of the food here after hearing so many complaints from the students. As a vegetarian, she could not find many options in the dining halls for vegetarian food. “That doesn’t include fake meat.” she added. She says she is lucky to live in Mods in which housing accommodations include kitchens, so she cooks 80 to 90% of her meals. But for those who have dietary restrictions and no access to a kitchen, dining would be a much bigger problem.
The final question The Hoot asked the interviewees was to give a piece of advice to their freshmen selves.
“Be open to new experiences and new people.” Poddar said.
“Don’t be stuck in the same little bubble that you were stuck in like the first semester that you came to college. Partying isn’t everything. You don’t need to go to parties, like this is not the only way that you meet people. ”Ahuja added.