adventuresofarestlessmind

Posts Tagged ‘college

So it’s been a week since graduation, and as the fresh excitement wears off, I’m starting to reflect on lessons these four years have taught me.  If you’re reading this, I want to share them with you.

First of all, try everything. A wise friend once pointed out how alike the words “university” and “universe” are – because college opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. I’m glad I found a home in the clubs that I thought I would.  (Thank you to Hillel at Brandeis, The Hoot, and STAND.) But I’m also forever grateful that I took the chance to sing a cappella, perform in 24 Hour Musical, and participate in all the quirky Brandeis traditions.  So do it all. The world is your oyster and campus is your home.

Accept that friendships might change as circumstances change. You may discover that some relationships, whether in high school or on your freshman floor, came from living in close proximity.

If you’re still in school, go to office hours, not only to get questions answered, but to get to know your professors as people.  Also, use all the campus resources, because they are here for YOU.  I’ll tell you this because there’s NO shame in it: I wish I’d found my Brandeis therapist even earlier.

It’s perfectly fine to drop a class if you need to. This happens much more often than you think.

Learn from someone who’s let too many deadlines slip by – DON’T PROCRASTINATE.  Do start your job/internship/scholarship/etc search early to stay ahead of all the due dates.

It’s okay to be an introvert in college. It’s okay to stay home when you need to recharge, or to take yourself out for solo adventures, something I absolutely recommend doing.  Realizing this was probably my biggest moment of self-discovery.

Platonic relationships are important – speaking as someone who has as many guy friends as girlfriends.

On that note, it’s great to have many types of friends. The ones who will tell you honestly how you look, and the ones who always know what to say to make you feel good. The kind ones, and the ones you can be snarky with.

There is a difference between having real feelings for someone, and enjoying the attention they give you. When you’re single and caught up in the moment, you might not see the difference.

Your parents were right about a lot of things, and you’ll start to discover that as “real world” experiences begin.

With that said, always listen to your intuition if you just know something’s not right.

Do venture outside your comfort zone, but don’t act like someone you are not. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate what makes you unique is not worth your time. I have to remind myself this through the highs and lows of job searching.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Don’t look at other people (especially on social media) and feel inadequate because that seem so much more secure and accomplished than you. We all have insecurities, deep down somewhere.

Most of all, be patient with yourself. Set goals and expectations, but don’t let them stress you out.  Expect that things may not happen on our time, but they happen when they are meant to. Sure, I thought a lot more of my life would be in order by now, but what good does it do to think that?  (This article sums up that feeling better than I ever could.)

You don’t have all the answers yet, and that is okay. I don’t even know all the things that I don’t know yet. But you will learn and grow a little more every day, and that’s how we will become the people we’re supposed to be.
To my classmates, congratulations again, and to the rest of you, keep enjoying college and life!

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Commencement day photo taken by my dad from up in the bleachers

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Lately I’ve seen the words “blessed, not stressed” all over social media, often meant as a response to finals stress.  While I like that this sentiment of gratitude is becoming more widespread, I think there may be a better way to express it.

I am, and always have been, grateful for my education.  I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me the opportunities to study what I love at a great university, and pursue whichever path I choose.

And speaking as a woman, I’m grateful to come from a part of the world where it was never even a question whether I could safely go to school.

But people get stressed for many reasons.  I am prone to anxiety.  Sometimes it’s apparent to others and sometimes it’s not, but it often reminds me of its presence during exam periods.

Do I get stressed sometimes?  Yes.  But the short-lived moments of “I can’t do it anymore” in no way conflict with my deep feelings of gratitude.  One can feel overwhelmed for a moment, and still understand how good their life, is in the grand scheme of things. “Blessed not stressed” makes it sound like these feelings are mutually exclusive, but no one should ever be made to feel that their vulnerabilities make them a less grateful person.

So if you’re struggling this week, do whatever makes you feel a little more at ease. Commiserate with friends if it makes you feel any better. Take care of yourselves, and look out for each other, now and always. Because it gets better, and there’s always something good on the horizon to look forward to.

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This semester abroad is so close now, I can almost taste the tea and crumpets. 
 
My January 1 flight (Jan. 2 arrival) is booked.  
 
As someone who always looks for special meanings in numbers and dates, I think it’s especially significant that New Year’s Day 2014 is literally the start of my biggest adventure yet.  New year, new country, new friends.
 
A month from now, I’ll be sailing the River Thames on an orientation boat cruise.
    
Some more knowledge I’ve gained recently (thanks to a wonderful program alumna):  
 
-You’ll have to pay to join clubs at Queen Mary and most English universities, but theatre tickets in London are very reasonably priced, and most museums are free (!!!) for students.  
 
-Under no circumstances should you try to imitate a British accent.  It’s okay to be your American self. 
 
That’s all for now, as I push through finals and keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.  Much more to come.
“I’m on my way, don’t know where I’m going, I’m on my way, taking my time but I don’t know where” 

I’ve been waiting to write this post with wonderful news to share — I was officially accepted to spend Spring Semester 2014 at Queen Mary, University of London!  I’m going on the Arcadia program, so if any other accepted students see this, please write to me!

(I sure hope this government shutdown is resolved by the time I leave the US.  Does anyone else find it terribly ironic that America was born from a Tea Party against the Brits, and now our very own Tea Party is our downfall?  Political karma in action.)

So this will be my campus, a new home away from home-away-from-home:
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Study abroad has always seemed so far off in the distant horizon, until it hit me yesterday: My program starts on January 1, 2014.  That is 3 months from today, October 1.  At this very moment in 3 months, I will be either on an international flight, or setting foot in England.  I am a self-imposed expatriate.
So I have three months to finalize my flight arrangements and get a student visa.  But that’s only the beginning.
Three months to prove to my parents that their baby girl is prepared and ready to live in another country, while in reality, I’m just as terrified as anyone.
Three months to vacillate between anticipation of all that lies ahead, and sadness for what I’m (temporarily) leaving behind.  It’s happening already: I get so excited looking at destinations for excursions all over Europe.  Then I think about how I’ll miss my cozy Brandeis routine.  And the dear friend who brought me tea when I was sick all weekend, and even the familiar acquaintances who I pass on the way up the Rabb Steps — I may not see any of them for 8 months.
Three months to learn some easy and edible recipes, because I won’t be on a meal plan at Queen Mary.  I’m going to be living with British flatmates, and I cannot be that dumb American student who can’t cook.
I hope the locals like me despite any cultural differences, and if I make mistakes while adjusting to life another country, I hope they understand that I don’t represent America as a whole.
I hope the students on my program from other schools understand the love of learning, activism, introversion, and curiosity that is my life at Brandeis.

I don’t know what else to expect right now.  Setting expectations for something completely new is like trying to remember an event that hasn’t happened yet.  I just know that every day I hope to feel a little more ready, until it’s time to go.
My mom sent me back to school with this quote for inspiration: “A parent’s job is to send their children off with roots, and wings.”  So this period of time is about strengthening my wings. Onwards I go, with my favorite journey-related songs in mind, like this one:
Until next time,
Rachel
This blog is back, back, back, tell a friend, friend, friend!
To be fair, it never really left — it just ended up buried at the bottom of my virtual stack of essays, applications, articles for The Hoot, a few Divrei Torah for BaRuCH (The Brandeis Reform Chavurah!), and of course, some poetry.  I’ll admit that I’ve been cheating on this blog with some Twitter and Tumblr.  But WordPress, it’s always been you, and I hope this time we can make it work.  So here I am.
It’s been a very important and life-changing few months for me.  I was accepted to study abroad in LONDON next spring!  So this time next year, I’ll be surrounded by this scenery:
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And somehow a committee looked past my awkwardness and liked me enough to award me a major SCHOLARSHIP for a Brandeis female studying the humanities in Europe!
You know when you convince yourself that you have no chance of winning, and suddenly it happens, and you want to scream because it feels like a million sparks of excitement igniting inside you?  That’s what happened to me.
And even sooner, I’ll be in ISRAEL with thirty other Brandeis students on Birthright!
So the pieces are falling into place for my near future.  Even though I’m still trying to secure my internship plans, deal with people who think you don’t even exist in a professional capacity if you’re not a senior with superhuman qualifications, and keep my self-esteem from rising and dropping like the stock market with every successful interview or rejection I get.  It’s a long and arduous process, that’s for sure.  If you have the chance to do it all ahead of time, don’t procrastinate like I did.  If I
had a time machine (preferably a blue box that’s bigger on the inside), the first place I would go is back to January before all the application deadlines.  Yes, I’d go to boring old January 2013, before I even see the Victorian era or any time in the future.  Such is the life of a college student.  Mine is a cautionary tale.
And for the future of this blog, I’d like to do a lot more creative writing (poetry and prose), and maybe I’ll start a separate forum for mini Jewish commentaries, because I really do enjoy writing spiritual material for BaRuCH.  (Maybe I should take on Education Coordinator as my next board position?)
So that’s all for now.  I think I’ll end with the reprise of my Bat Mitzvah speech, given at services this past weekend and adapted for a Friday night service in college:
Shabbat shalom l’kulam!

 
Shemini, this week’s portion, is an important and thought provoking one.  It tells the dramatic story of Nadav and Avihu’s demise, and lays down the rules of kashrut, a key part of Judaism as we know it. 
 
But the major question of this portion is, how can ordinary people make themselves holy?  How can we feel the presence of G-d in our everyday lives?  
 
Is the answer simply following G-d’s commandments, the way you’d follow a recipe?  That’s definitely a part of it. When Aaron and his sons Nadav and Avihu make an animal sacrifice in the way they were commanded to, G-d appears to them, and all the people fall on their faces in disbelief. 
But simply following the commandments is not enough.  We see that when Nadav and Avihu make their own sacrifices to G-d, and His fire consumes them.  Even though they WERE following the commandments, they were so narrowly focused on following the rules that they cut themselves off from the community.  They forgot the intent and meaning of their actions.          
 
This divine event represents a much bigger theme- that COMMUNITY AND TOGETHERNESS are the keys to making ourselves holy.  There’s a reason why we pray, celebrate our holidays, and life cycle events in groups.  Not to say that individual prayer isn’t meaningful, it is, but the idea of praying with other people and sharing that common experience is beautiful.    
 
Sometimes it’s not even formal prayer that makes us holy.  In our busy lives, some of us find that meaning in doing community service projects, or the simple mitzvah of helping a friend.  If it’s done with the INTENT of making someone’s life better, or making the world a better place, then it is the first step to holiness.   It is CONNECTION that makes us holy- connection between each other, within our larger community, and connection with G-d.  Shabbat Shalom.    
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Posted on: October 23, 2012

“I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it? What is true for writing and for love is true also for life. The game is worthwhile insofar as we don’t know what will be the end.” -Foucault

Since sophomore year started, I feel like I can’t even check Facebook anymore without reading that someone has declared a major or minor ahead of the spring deadline.  I, on the other hand, am still trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the next three years, and my life for the foreseeable future.   

And if that isn’t daunting enough, registration for next semester is coming in a week, and I have to start picking classes that count towards possible majors and minors.  Maybe I’ll double-major and triple-minor in true Brandeis style, or maybe I’ll do an IIM (self designed interdisciplinary major) like some people have said.  What I do know is this: I am a writer, a thinker, and a social activist/humanitarian who cares about the issues of the page and the world.  So this is me doing what I do best – ironing out my thoughts and indecisions in writing.

Journalism

This is the one decision I’m already set on: I am minoring in Journalism.  The minor either leads to a senior internship or a research project, plus the real-life (to a degree) experience I am gaining on the Hoot and as an assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.  The only problem is the one that still has me in denial as an avid writer: that paper publications are fading away (even Newsweek is going out of print this year).  So there’s always communications/PR or social media marketing.  When I met Tom Brokaw at a Holocaust Museum dinner once, he said to me, “The future of journalism is in the Internet.”  So with that advice in mind, I pick up my journalist’s notebook and go forward.      

English

When I applied to college, my default plan was to major in English.  I still love literature and the written word, and even those eccentric professors who change students’ lives in the end.  English could be one reason to go study abroad in Great Britain (London or maybe even Scotland), which I’ve always wanted to do.  I am really an Anglophile and an old eccentric British lady at heart.  So English is either a definite major, or minor. 

American Studies

American Studies is such a broad and flexible major that really anyone can pursue any interest within it.  There are professors who are experts on the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, or periods of American history and culture, or journalism, legal studies, or even sports.  If I pursue this as one of my paths, I’d focus on modern and historical elements of American culture/society and the media, because it is important for me to stay current.  There are actually plenty of people who pursue the AMST and journalism track as one path, and I could easily become one. 

Sociology

I read an essay once that said (paraphrasing this a bit) “If you are someone who passes through a new town and instantly becomes curious about the lives of the people inside, then sociology is for you.”  I swear that writer read my mind. 

It was actually Introduction to Anthropology, my first social science class at Brandeis, that showed me that what I instinctively do in new places and locales – watching people, observing their most significant actions and rituals, asking questions, and trying to become part of the group in order to understand it (“the art of belonging” according to my family) – is exactly what sociologists do.  I am a social observer, and I even find myself thinking like a sociologist when I’m not required to. 

So far my Sociology courses have explored whether war is inevitable or even necessary (War and Possibilities of Peace, which is a total throwback to the sixties, and I recommend it), and Sociology of the American Jewish Community, where I can sociologically reflect on what it means to watch the more religious Jews at Brandeis living a very different lifestyle within my own culture.  I notice that the social observation process is actually a lot like the investigative part of journalism, and marketing is a lot like applied sociology.  So I have options here.    

HSSP

Health Science, Society, and Policy sounds like an unlikely choice for a humanities type, but it really isn’t, and this is why. 

Anthropology and Judaism both teach that every life is worth saving and every culture has intrinsic value even if it’s different from what we believe – two ideas that get me interested in medical ethics, systems of healthcare and medicine, and how they work. 

Health care is probably the biggest issue of this election and time, because EVERYONE, even people in perfect condition, will need health care at some point in their lives, and I believe no one’s health should be determined by what they were born into – gender or social class.  In this economy, healthcare jobs will never go away because we will all need it.  I also better understand the politics of healthcare now, thanks to videos watched at the Schneider campaign office, and discussions on that historic day when the Supreme Court ruled to uphold Obamacare.

So there are 2 interdisciplinary HSSP tracks for people who care about health but aren’t headed for medical school: Social and Behavioral Dimensions of Health and Illness, or Health-Care Policy and Practice.  One is more social-cultural and could point me towards more psychology and sociology classes, which overlap with HSSP.  The other is more about politics and the environment, and I could at least try either one.  Brandeis is also working on a “Global Health and Ethics” program, which could be the answer for me. 

So who knows where any of this will lead me.  Some days a possible path seems as clear as day, then other days I feel no more sure than a 4-year-old telling her preschool class that she wants to be Big Bird when she grows up.  (This actually happened in my preschool class.  Now what will become of her if Mitt Romney cuts PBS?)

I’m just taking my life plans one day at a time.  And that’s the way it is.    

Laying Out A Map For The Next Three Years

Hello, readers.  This is my first post written from my beautiful, air-conditioned Village C room at Brandeis!  It is wonderful to be back for sophomore year, even though I still have to remind myself I’m not a freshman anymore. 

So this is sophomore year.  A long time ago, I learned that the word “sophomore” literally means “wise fool”, according to English folklore. That is an interesting contradiction about human nature.  “Wise fool” – does that suggest that a person’s underlying foolishness cancels out whatever wisdom they might possess?  Are we nothing more than fools, despite the myriad things we’ve learned and experienced?  And what exactly makes us wise: expertise in a subject, our overall worldview, or both?      

I think the description of wisdom and foolishness fits this year well, in a good way.  As the year begins, I am simultaneously reminded every day how much and how little I know.  It’s refreshing to see how easy the transition to sophomore year was, compared to the head-spinning newness of freshman year.  The campus is familiar, and returning feels like settling back into an old routine rather than starting from scratch. 

What’s new this year are a few commitments.  My overwhelming desire to commit to every club and organization is still there (seriously, it must be something in the air at Brandeis), but now I am privileged to have leadership positions in two groups that inspire me.  This year I will be Deputy News Editor of the Brandeis Hoot, and Social Events Coordinator of BaRuCH: The Brandeis Reform Chavurah!  (Thank you, leaders, for entrusting me with actual club responsibilities.  I won’t let you down.)  As a Hoot staff member I will help come up with story ideas and get my lovely fellow news editors through Thursday production nights, and as Social Events Coordinator I will plan exciting bonding events to bring people together and sustain our group membership!  I am gaining knowledge of two passions of mine, writing and Reform Judaism, from the inside and hope each of these two experiences will enrich the other and make me a better person. 

And maybe it is all right to walk into my first board meetings or production nights and have no idea what I am doing.  There is a time and place to try anything, and that is college.  Maybe the time spent wandering outside of my comfort zone will teach me more about myself than my actual work.  Every journey begins with a single step, and maybe temporary foolishness is just the first step in a journey.  I am ready for whatever learning, new friendships, and further adventures this year will bring.  Last year I laid a foundation for the rest of college, and this year I hope to grow closer to finding my path and gain a little more direction for the future, even when my projected plans change every day.

With undying love for the Brandeis Democrats’ DNC viewing parties, my roommate, the sounds of a cappella everywhere, and every photo of my baby cousin Ellie,

Rachel