By Amy Mandel
Unigo Campus Rep at Brandeis
Oct. 21, 2008
At Brandeis University, as at all colleges, students face numerous choices their freshman year that help to shape the college experience. Sometimes, these choices result in mistakes. In college, these mistakes happen often, but in the experiences of Brandeis University students, the mistakes we first make in college, the mistakes that occur freshman year, help us to grow and learn.
Freshman year, my biggest mistake was thinking that college would be like high school. I left a close-knit group of friends and a school where I was at the top of the social and academic ladder for the anonymity of college. It was a hard transition for me to make. I attempted to recreate my social circle from home and became close with a group I later realized I had nothing in common with. I was upset when I didn’t do as well academically as I would have liked, it took me a long time to realize that in college it’s incredibly hard to get straight A’s like I did in high school. Thinking that college was the same as high school made me expect the same sort of academic results, a mistaken belief that clouded my overall view of my first semester at Brandeis.
Other Brandeis students also list academic mistakes as their biggest freshman year mistakes. Justin Pierre-Louis ‘10 felt that taking physics freshman year was his biggest mistake because he was not ready for the rigors of the course. He also felt stunted by the class, which Justin said was “full of people, upperclassmen, who knew what was going on,” and who had more knowledge and experience in the subject. Marina Suholutsky ’09, also thought class choices constituted her biggest mistakes freshman year. Marina had the experience of thinking a class would be one way and having it turn out to be completely different. Marina thought her beginning theater class would teach her about acting, but instead the class was like “intro to backstage work.” But Marina and Justin both learned a lot from their experiences, which according to Hannah Lindholm ’11, “makes even making the worst mistakes worthwhile because you can learn from them.”
Choices made freshman year can also lead to good decisions that may end up changing our worldview or your entire college experience. During college some of our best decisions occur outside the classroom and everyday life transforms into a learning experience. The best decision Marina made freshman year was to not just focus on classes but to expand her social horizons. Marina said she “learned more my my experiences outside the classroom than in classes.”
On a more personal note, the best decision I made my freshman year was to branch out towards new social and academic fields. I discovered a love for Yiddish culture while taking Yiddish language classes and decided to work towards a minor in Yiddish and Eastern European Jewish Studies. On the advice of a friend, I joined the stage management team on an undergraduate theater production and discovered a passion for the inner workings of the theater
While I discovered a new passion by taking a class, Hannah and Justin both rediscovered lost interests by taking classes to fulfill university requirements. Hannah never planned on studying art in college. Having done art in high school, she planned on focusing on other academic pursuits but because of her University Seminar, a freshman year requirement, Hannah saw the potential in studying studio art and is now a studio art major. Justin took taekwondo as one of two his mandatory gym classes, rediscovering a love of the martial art. Justin is now active in the taekwondo club and even has a leadership position in the club as treasurer.
While college may seem like a scary step into the unknown full of decision-making, most of our choices, good and bad, teach us lessons and contribute to the experiment of personal growth.