In high school, I had almost no idea what I wanted to do when I "grew up." Sure, I knew I was fascinated by human behavior and passionate about social issues, but I had no idea how I could turn that into a career. I had friends who had known they wanted to be doctors since they were five, and took Neuroscience senior year, and others who took three humanities courses a semester and listened to history podcasts in their free time. I knew that, like my friends, I loved to learn and was lucky to be in a high school that supported me, but, unlike them, I hadn't found my "thing" yet. I applied to Tufts with very few ideas about what exactly I would study, but knowing that I was very excited to find something that inspires me.
I could not have been more ready when it came time to choose classes for first semester. I had been combing through the course catalogue for weeks and kept coming back to one class in particular: Sociology 20: The Sociology of Family and Intimate Relationships. I had never taken a sociology class before, they didn't offer any in high school, and I liked that it was something new. Despite concerns about taking a class with sophomores, juniors, and even seniors, I was so interested in learning about an institution like family which impacts me every day. I enrolled and went to the first class feeling nothing but excitement. After 75 minutes of discussion about how social norms of love and care shape gender roles in marriage, I walked out of the classroom saying to myself "ok, I think I found my thing."
One of the best initial decisions I could have made was bridge the gap by doing a Pre-Orientation program. Through FOCUS, the social service-oriented option, I spent a week with the greatest group of other incoming Tufts first-years working with elderly community members (nothing beats the smile on Thelma's face when she texted her grandchildren for the first time), and suffice it to say I made many new friends, young and old alike.
For me, the Chabad on campus has also been tremendously instrumental in easing the transition. In it I have found not just a religious landmark but a place to “go home” when I need that home feeling, where I can eat the most amazing home-cooked meals, and most importantly where I can engage in the sort of “over-the-dinner-table” conversations (with the Rabbi’s family and community of other students who might happen to be there) that I miss from back in Chicago with my family.
Adapting to day-to-day life on campus couldn’t have been much easier. With a base network of friends already established from FOCUS (not to mention the invaluable opportunity to have moved into my dorm early with the Pre-Orientation students), I could divert my attention in the first couple weeks to getting to know the campus, attend as many extracurricular informational meetings as I could find, and delve into my classes from the get-go.
Right off the bat I’ve found myself studying with some brilliant professors—across the gamut, that’s two nationally bestselling novelists, a department chair, two directors of independent labs on campus, a news anchor, and the most incredible psychologist with a background working cases one-on-one with mental patients and criminals in the top maximum-security prisons across the country. Suffice it to say there is never a dull moment in the classroom. Still, as intense, engaging and fantastically challenging as my classes have been, the homework load has been light in comparison to what I knew in high school. Add to that the time between classes that opens up our daily schedules in ways we never could these past four years (and prior), and the freedom to have unstructured time during the day has been the biggest shift for many of us in our transitions.
But of course, being Tufts students, we see that free time as an opening to fill with more activities, events, and exciting opportunities as we go. This is just the beginning of an adventure.