To acquire wisdom, one must observe

After four years of college (and cartoons)

When I was in second grade, I discovered my love for newspaper cartoons. I was constantly reading “Calvin and Hobbes,” “Foxtrot,” “For Better or Worse” and any other cartoons I could find. Coincidentally, that same year, I also first went to Brandeis. No, I wasn’t a prodigy ready to pursue higher education at the ripe age of eight. I was a younger brother folding paper airplanes in Slosberg while my sister had a clarinet lesson. Little did I know, a decade later, I’d be a student here.

My comic strip “Campus Life” has been in every issue of the Hoot since September 2020. And today, the final two strips are in this very copy (go ahead, you can turn the page and look). Over the course of these four years, I drew over 100 strips about college life exploring topics like attending classes virtually from home, studying abroad and procrastinating.

During high school, my friend Anna Badalament ’20 invited me to visit her at Brandeis. She gave me a tour, we had lunch at Usdan, and I got to meet her friends. There was such a good feeling to Brandeis, a feeling I continued to have whenever I would visit. The students were genuine and kind. I felt at home.

I also felt at home during my first year at Brandeis, because I was … at home. The pandemic started during my final months of high school and in such an uncertain time, I made the decision to do the first year of college from my house. Even so, I tried to immerse myself in the college experience as best I could. I acted in virtual plays, I tutored math with Waltham Group and of course, I began my comic strip, “Campus Life.” Thank you, Aaron LaFauci ’21 and Emma Lichtenstein ’22, the then-arts editors, for being so supportive of my cartoon in its early days. Looking back, the idea of submitting a strip in a public paper every week seems extremely daunting and I think the only way I did that 103 times was by not thinking about it too much.

I knew when I started designing my strip that I wanted it to be an ensemble piece. I wanted to have many main characters because I think what makes college so cool is that there are so many different people running around doing all kinds of interesting activities. That said, I did want one character that was sort of the core of the strip. I chose Eddy, the backward hat-wearing, orange haired kid with a clingy little brother stuck doing college remotely.

A big decision I had to make was if I wanted to address the pandemic in the strip or pretend like it never happened. I decided I had no choice but to acknowledge it and embrace it in my strip because otherwise, my comics wouldn’t have been as relatable during the time they were being released. I had characters living on campus that first year and those going to college remotely. Having both options represented was important to me because both experiences were occurring, and both were distinctly different ways to start college. Now, I think the collection of strips serve as a time capsule of what going to college in the 2020-2024 era looked like.

Moving onto campus, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t make any friends. I had a great roommate (hi, Michael!) and some people I knew from Zoom school, but I didn’t feel a part of the community. During my first couple weeks on campus, I was walking in the Skyline hallway and a fellow sophomore, Lauren Podhorzer ’24, came up to me, introduced herself, and told me she had loved reading my cartoons while she was also virtual that first year. That was the first time I heard of a Brandeis student I didn’t know reading my cartoons. It was a cool moment. Little did I know Lauren and her twin Jennifer Podhorzer ’24 would become such close friends of mine and join the arts section of the Hoot (check out our joint farewell drawing in this issue!)

As my experience at Brandeis progressed, so did the characters’ in “Campus Life.” As many of my friends have picked up on, Eddy’s experience often paralleled my own. When I moved on campus, Eddy did too. When I studied abroad in New Zealand, so did Eddy. I believe strongly in the idea of “write what you know” so I knew if I was going to make a relatable cartoon, it had to be relevant to me, so I incorporated observations from my life and those around me into my strips.

Now that I am a month out from graduation, I am feeling the nostalgia. Not for the buildings. I know I can come back and sit in the library dungeon again or scale the Rabb steps. But I’m going to miss being with you all. I’ll miss the Skyline hangouts, going to campus events to paint a Muppet or attend a bingo in hopes of winning either a hot sauce collection or AirPods. I’m going to miss getting lunch and dinner with friends at Sherm and Usdan and staying up far too late in our Ziv (shoutout to the Party Zone!) watching the craziest content YouTube has to offer. I’ll miss working at the Sound and Image Media Studios with so many talented people. I’ll miss doing arts and crafts with Brandeis Buddies and going into Boston with my friends.

But I’m glad I’m going to miss it because it means I got to have those experiences. I think first-year David would be so happy and relieved to hear that college was more than just Zoom breakout rooms. I think second-grade David would be very happy to be reading this too. Though, he’d probably just fold the newspaper into an airplane. 

Thank you to this year’s incredible arts editors Lucy Fay ’24 and Naomi Stephenson ’26, the impressive editors-in-chief, Logan Ashkinazy ’25 and Cooper Gottfried ’25 and the whole Hoot community. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this paper for the last four years.

It has truly been a hoot.

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