Brandeis University Admissions
Stepping Out of Her Comfort Zone and Finding a Home Away From Home
Aris W. ’24
“[International] students come from all different backgrounds, but the community allows everyone to be themselves.”
Despite being 6,720 miles from her home in Beijing, Aris W. ’24 has found Brandeis to be a perfect fit.
"It can be hard to find a balance between the creative arts and humanities. At Brandeis, I can pursue a career in philosophy while also taking courses that fulfill my creative side," she says. "And in both areas, there is a real academic vigor. It’s an intellectual challenge, and I enjoy that."
Finding a Community
I’m from China and feel fortunate that we have a large population of students on campus who are also Chinese. It gives me a sense of belonging.
I started my Brandeis experience virtually because of the pandemic, taking classes online back home in China. When I arrived on campus a year later, I felt like a first-year student. I had to overcome the challenge of navigating a new campus, but I quickly adjusted by getting to know other students in my classes and in my residence hall. Everyone was so friendly. I also began participating in different programs across campus.
I joined the Mood Psychology Brandeis Chapter, a club that connects Chinese international students with counseling services both on campus and off campus.
I realized that international students face different challenges than students from the U.S., and mental health constitutes a great portion of our well-being. In the past, I’ve found myself in a really bad mood under pressure, but throughout the years I've developed various mechanisms to cope with stress.
I was inspired to join the chapter because I wanted to share the self-care tips that were useful to me with my peers. I am now serving as their director of publicity, creating content on topics like seasonal affective disorder and how to manage stress during midterms for their WeChat platform.
I also recently participated in I Am Global Week as a global fellow. It was great getting to work with students across campus to organize the events for the week. This experience also helped me recognize how diverse Brandeis is. I’ve made friends from Nigeria, Indonesia, and other parts of the world. As an international student, it’s great to see how much of a global community we have on campus.
I wanted music to be a big part of my college experience outside of my major. I started playing the piano at age 8, so it’s always been a major aspect of my life. In addition to participating in music courses through my minor, I’ve found ways to actively perform on campus.
During my sophomore year, I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned to play the harp in the Early Music Ensemble. The ensemble is a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience with Renaissance instruments. Now, whenever I’m stressed I find myself visiting Slosberg to practice the harp. I always feel refreshed after.
I’ve always been more interested in the composition aspect of music rather than the performance aspect. My music theory and composition classes have enabled me to sharpen my composition skills on the piano. I feel energized by being challenged inside and outside of the classroom.
Advice for International Students
Don’t stay in your own social circle. It’s very cliché, but try to step out of your comfort zone. I find that international students sometimes find their circle and stay together. It’s important to meet new people. Joining music ensembles and performing has really pushed me to step out of my routine and find my community.
Favorite Spot on Campus
The library is my favorite to study, but I also get a vibe of the community when I’m there. During most of the semester, the library is quiet in the evening. During finals, it is a different story. You can’t find a seat because everyone is there. It’s a nice sense of community when you can feel how everyone is going through a shared experience.
Discovering Her Future Path
After graduation, I plan to get a master’s degree in mass communications.
During I Am Global Week I participated in various events sponsored by the International Students and Scholars Office. I connected with students across campus, took videos of events for future promotion, and encouraged students to attend events on social media. While doing this, I found myself interested in communicating and spreading ideas, such as diversity and inclusion, to a larger audience.
Community at Brandeis is About…
Diversity and inclusiveness. A lot of people don’t realize how large the international student population is on campus. We have students from Madagascar, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, and across the world. Students come from all different backgrounds, but the community allows everyone to be themselves. I find comfort in knowing people don’t have to change who they are.