To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Finding my place at Brandeis

As I now sit here with only one day of classes left, I can’t help but marvel at how my college journey unfolded in ways I never expected. It’s been a wild ride, one that began with COVID-19 and meandered through moments of isolation, discovery and profound growth. It’s a story I feel compelled to share, especially now, as I pen my final piece for The Brandeis Hoot. 

My journey began in the shadow of disappointment. The pandemic had already stolen moments I had long anticipated during my high school years—my prom, a traditional graduation ceremony, and the cherished enjoyment as a second-semester senior. The start of my college experience at Brandeis was no less affected; my first year was conducted remotely, confining me to a bedroom-turned-classroom far from the campus I had yet to see in person. This was a period of isolation common to so many during those months, but also by a personal struggle to find my place in a college community I had never physically joined.

My sophomore year—the first spent physically at Brandeis—came with high hopes. I anticipated a year of discovery and engagement, eager to immerse myself in the campus life I’d been dreaming about from afar. Yet, it turned out to be a crash course in self-reliance and the complexities of college life. This period became a litany of firsts: First time living alone; first foray into the social and academic life of Brandeis; my inaugural battle with the less-than-sunny weather of Boston, a far cry from the perpetual sunny day back in Southern California. 

Suddenly, the absence of my sun-soaked home, my tight-knit circle of friends, and the irreplaceable company of my precious golden retriever, Ollie, felt more pronounced. As for my winter wardrobe? Let’s just say it went from “Do I even own a winter parka?” to “Do I have enough scarves to start a small boutique shop?” And my gratitude for the rare sunny day intensified, much like my skepticism towards our dining hall’s culinary experiments—navigating Brandeis’ menus always became a quest for edible treasure. All these experiences were invaluable, yet they nudged me toward taking a gap semester, driven by a desire to reflect on my ambitions and the impact I hoped to make in the world.

During this hiatus, I had the privilege of serving as an honors intern for the Public Defender’s office in California. This experience was transformative, crystallizing my passion for legal advocacy and shaping my aspirations for life post-college. It provided me with a profound sense of direction and purpose, guiding my return to Brandeis for the second semester of my junior year. However, circumstances led me to live off-campus, limiting my engagement with the university community and reinforcing a sense of separation from the college experience I had envisioned. I will not forget the tiny visitors who used to pop by my third-floor room just to say hello—those little mice that my landlord was adamant about keeping around.

Now, finally in my senior year, I have found my stride and, with it, a deep connection to Brandeis. Engaging with various clubs and organizations has given me a sense of community that was missing in my earlier college years. Heartfelt gratitude to the Brandeis Upward Bound Program and its guardian angel, Naomi, for creating such a safe space where chaos meets calm and learning knows no bounds. Your program was a lighthouse, providing guidance, warmth and a sense of purpose amidst any challenges. Thank you to the Legal Studies Program, particularly Professor Kabrhel and Professor McKenna, whose guidance and insights have been crucial in my academic development. To the Religious Studies Program and Professor Lucken, I extend my deepest thanks. Serving as a Religious Studies UDR this past year has been an unparalleled honor. Additionally, to the Philosophy Department, especially Professor Yourgrau, who not only guided me through the treacherous terrain of my honors thesis but also instilled in me the courage to philosophically spar with the specter of death itself, thank you. 

Among these groups, I cannot forget The Brandeis Hoot. The Hoot has held a special place in my heart. Despite joining The Hoot in my second semester junior year, a unique path in itself, I was warmly welcomed into this community. Starting as a writer and progressing to the role of deputy news editor in my final semester is a testament to the welcoming and inclusive culture of The Hoot. This position has not only allowed me to be more engaged with campus events, attending and writing about them, but it has also placed me at the heart of such a wonderful group. However, as the deputy news editor, this reflection would be incomplete without acknowledging the darker aspects of my time at Brandeis, specifically the regrettable police violence encounter that happened in November. Witnessing such failings has been disheartening, definitely casting a shadow over the moments of light. However, it has also reinforced a crucial lesson: the essence of Brandeis lies not within our administration but within the people—the students, the faculty and the campus workers. 

As I reflect on my journey, I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment and profound gratitude. My time at Brandeis has been anything but straightforward, yet it has been immeasurably enriching. It has taught me the value of embracing change, pursuing my passions, and forging my own path. It has shown me that, amidst the chaos and challenges, there is always a place for us—a place where we can find our community, discover our passions and carve out our unique trajectories. To those who may feel out of place or uncertain of their path, I offer this reassurance: there is a place for you here. It may require patience, perseverance and a willingness to explore the depths of your own identity, but finding your community and your passion is possible. 

The tears, sweat and anguish of the past four years have not been in vain. They have prepared me for the world beyond Brandeis, equipped with lessons of resilience, compassion and the absolute belief in my ability to make a difference. As I prepare to move forward, I do so with the knowledge that I have made the most of my college experience, in spite of—and perhaps because of—the challenges I faced. As I step into the future, I do so with gratitude for the journey, the people who have shaped it, and the invaluable lessons learned along the way. 

Here’s to the class of 2024—Let’s carry forward the strength and resilience we’ve honed, ready to face whatever lies ahead. Congratulations, we (almost) made it!

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