There was something about being back on campus that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. 

I loved reconnecting with friends I missed over the summer and the thrill of moving into a better dorm than the  one I had previously lived in. I was excited to check out the new food offerings in the dining halls, and to return to my favorite quiet spots on campus. Then I realized: it was the thrill of campus no longer being new. It was the act of being back. I knew the little secret spots behind buildings, I saw familiar faces, and I remembered different restaurants in Upper Usdan. A massive new class of students has descended onto campus alongside the rest of us and will likely be wrapping up their orientation period shortly.  I can’t quite say I remember the experience, as being a midyear my move onto campus was much different. But I can recall the excitement and nerves of trying to find your way around campus and into friend groups. So, here’s my guide to Brandeis, or rather what I wish someone had told me when I started. Maybe you’ve already figured out most of what I have to say, but just in case, bear with me. 

Number one: college is not high school. Folks are much more independent; it’s confusing and it’s okay to congratulate yourself on eating a vegetable unprompted. Introduce yourself to new folks! Nobody has their old social groups and comforts, and everyone is nervous. Also, you don’t have to ask to use the restroom in lectures, just get up and go. You’re an adult now, you can make your own bladder decisions.

Number two: college is so much like high school. There will be times to party and times to hit the books; it’s up to you to decide when those are. Make sure to give yourself time to rest, too! It’s easy to get swept up in everything new and different and forget to care for your own well-being. Additionally, there will be the occasional person who thinks they’re hot stuff and too cool for you; they’re rare and usually best left ignored. They’ll be humbled soon enough — high school social credits don’t go far here.

Number three: you are wholly in charge of your own person. Hopefully, you figured this out a bit before getting to campus, but it’s ok to have been more reliant on others. Here in college, though, you are the adult in charge. Sure, you can decide to have nothing but gummy bears for a meal, or several meals. But you’re also the one who’s going to have to take care of yourself when you’re sick after not actually eating fruit. There is some trial and error and I promise you, you will not have adulthood figured out anytime soon. You’ll strand yourself in Boston at least a few times beforehand. Check the shuttle schedules, trust me. 

Number four: people are nice. Both socially and resource-wise, we’re all rooting for you. You can ask for help, and you can ask to be friends or get someone’s socials. Everyone else is confused and trying to find their classes as well. Don’t be scared of the older students — we remember being there too, and we’re happy to help however we can. 

In turn, be nice to the people around you! Don’t cluster in hallways or the dining hall; please just move to the side or sit at a table. We’re all glad you’re making friends, but you are in the way. Just slightly.

Number five: it’s not that big of a deal. College is made out to be a massive coming of age. You’ve been working toward it for years! But there’s life after college too. It’s okay to drop a class (or a friend) that’s not working out — these things happen. Maybe the major you thought you wanted doesn’t work out, or the friends you made in orientation don’t stick. It’s happened to all of us, and you won’t care about it in a month or two on. Don’t let anyone scare you about life after college yet, but remember it exists. So any embarrassing or lonely moments will pass and be forgotten, 

There’s of course much more than that, and many websites and parents will say similar things. The hard part is actually internalizing them! Enjoy your first year — it passes fast. Eat at the dining halls, try to decorate your cinder block dorm, and attend your courses. And look forward to looking back.