Aaron LaFauci ’21

Brandeis University is a wonderful place to read books and learn. While the copy-paste response among students is to point and laugh at how ugly the school is, I take another view entirely. All that aged brick, elaborately poured concrete, jutting glass and steel spiral around a vegetated hill in Waltham to create one of the most memorable schools in New England. There are so many corners to explore and infiltrate, so many beautiful views to discover during one’s search for a good place to get assignments done.

Maybe that is what I loved most about studying English at Brandeis—it is such a mobile degree to pursue! You can read novels in Sachar woods. You can pop open a book on the balcony encircling the theater building, treating yourself to a view of those blue and purple Massachusetts hills. You can even climb the cliffs overlooking the castle meadow, or sneak into the graduate offices in Mandel. I had to lock myself in a dark room with a lamp when essay deadlines approached, of course, but otherwise the coursework was very freeing. I am an independent learner by nature, and the Brandeis English department fully respects a student’s right to flip or flop by their own experimentation. I managed to find time to edit the school paper (woohoo Brandeis Hoot!), teach myself to program, and explore and catalog nearly every inch of the university’s strange and disjointed campus.

One of the projects that I am still not entirely sure was a flop or not is my thesis. I came to be a senior right as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and the course of my thesis changed radically soon after lockdown. What might have been a research paper about classic American literature transformed into a genre exploration of the Robinsonade. I unlocked my childhood love of survival stories in order to build a history of the genre as it relates to the creative impulses of children. My key text? Minecraft! I dove headfirst into the burgeoning field of game studies in order to argue the literary basis of the hit survive & build video game. The thesis itself is rambling and long, but I am so happy that I had the chance to tackle a project that was legitimately important to me.

Brandeis’ English curricula is diverse enough to instill ADHD in even the most focused mind. I had the chance to expose myself to English classics, the golden age of American literature, and even a class entirely dedicated to fantasy writing. My peers were generally serious and class discussions were a pleasure. I particularly enjoyed my classroom time with Professor Tharaud, whose knowledge of American literature is staggering and inspiring; Professor Flesch, who managed to make Shakespeare as human as a modern TV drama; Professor King, whose coursework pushed me harder than anyone else, and all of the staff in the creative writing department—you guys made me confident in my own writing.

After graduation, I floundered for a few months until I landed a job teaching literacy in the Malden Public School System. This is some of the most rewarding work I have ever undertaken in my life. I started as an assistant, and now I am leading my own class of 14 crazy students. Teaching children to read is a foundational human responsibility, and I am thankful I had the chance to participate. As of writing, I am preparing to embark on my next amazing journey: New York City! Though I may never learn to love the Yankees, I do hope to kickstart a career in the larger literary community of NYC. I would love to work in publishing or journalism. If not, education suits me fine. Fingers crossed either way!

While I was studying there, I gave Brandeis University all the kvetching that a student can offer. Now that the meal plans, housing lotteries, and dreary hours of homework are behind me, I find I miss the things that really mattered. Brandeis is a fantastic place to study, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.