Becoming a Brandeis midyear: The opportunity of a lifetime

A select group of first-year students spent the fall semester studying abroad, taking courses, and carving their own path

The Florence skyline under a dramatic cloud-filled skyPhoto courtesy of Skye Spinner

The skyline of Florence, Italy, one day in the fall of 2021.

For midyear students, the fall semester before they arrive on campus is a once in a lifetime opportunity for growth, adventure and self-discovery. 

Each year, Brandeis receives an impressive selection of candidates. With so many first-year students, there are just not enough dorms to accommodate. As a result, the Midyear Program was created to allow some students to start in January. These students demonstrate strong work ethic and a curiosity for new experiences, making them a perfect fit for this program. 

Midyears are given a variety of choices for their first semester. Students can spend the semester working, attending classes at another college, or studying abroad at one of Brandeis’ programs. Whatever path you choose as a midyear, you’re sure to have a great experience while learning more about yourself along the way. 


Tasha Epstein with the Eiffel Tower behind her in a wide photo of the Paris skyline
Photo courtesy of Tasha Epstein

Tasha spent her semester gaining her independence and exploring new places.

Going from Zero to Sixty 

Tasha Epstein spent her senior year of high school learning virtually, spending most of her time with her parents at home. Once she found out she was accepted as a midyear student, she decided a study abroad in London would be the perfect opportunity. “I went from zero to sixty,” said Epstein. “After being home with my parents for the last year, I’d be on my own across the world.”

Epstein loved her experience in London, studying microeconomics, cornerstone writing, art history and London-themed literature. Her favorite part of her experience was exploring Europe on her own, embracing her independence. “I loved being able to figure everything out on my own,” said Epstein. “I even traveled to Paris! I saw the Eiffel Tower and loved every minute of it.”

Jake Franklin in a soundroom lit in red and blue
Photo courtesy of Jake Franklin

Jake got the chance to step behind the scenes in the sound box while attending 'Back to the Future' in the West End.

Watching 24 musicals in The West End

Jake Franklin had always wanted to go to London. When he was offered the chance as a midyear, he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer. “I took that chance as soon as I saw it!”

Jake Franklin’s interest in studying abroad inspired him to go to London, but his love for theater brought him to the West End - 24 times. 

When Franklin wasn’t taking his courses in cornerstone writing, contemporary photography, sociology and British media, he could usually be found traveling with friends to see a show. “I feel like I went to every theatre,” said Franklin. “It’s too hard to pick a favorite, but I loved seeing ‘Come From Away’ and ‘Six.’

Enjoying lasagna, chocolate cake, and making memories with friends

Eva Tibbetts was drawn to the idea of studying in Florence, but was nervous about traveling to another country without knowing anyone. She used social media to find other midyear students and quickly met Skye Spinner, her roommate and soon-to-be best friend. “It was so exciting finally meeting in Italy after our 13-hour flight,” said Tibbetts. “We quickly became best friends.” 

Eva spent the semester drawing in her sketch class, speaking like the locals in her Italian class, writing in her cornerstone course and discovering the history of Italian dishes in her food and culture class. She loved each of her courses, but found her favorite discoveries after class in the many local restaurants with her roommate Skye. 

“We’d spend four days a week going to the same restaurant,” said Tibbetts. “This restaurant had the best lasagna I’ve ever had in my life.” The two spent their evenings enjoying their routine of lasagna followed by their favorite chocolate cake. “Best chocolate cake. Ever.” 

Italy scenery
Photo courtesy of Skye Spinner

One of the views from Skye's morning walks.

Appreciating the little moments 

After chatting with Tibbetts about Italy, Skye Spinner knew she had to go to Florence. “I was nervous about my first time out of the country,” said Spinner. “But how could I pass up this opportunity?” 

She took similar courses to Tibbetts, but her favorite moment of the day was her morning routine. “I was always so excited to wake up in the morning, have my cappuccino, and walk to class,” said Spinner. “I’d pass buildings like the Florence Cathedral everyday and see mountain ranges in the distance. I just felt immersed in beauty.” 

Spinner recalls the anxiety she felt when leaving her home and traveling alone for the first time. She found it was all worth it in the end for the amazing experience she had in Italy. “Everything happens for a reason. By being a mid-year student, I got to have the best experience of my life.”

Rachel Finch with her sister standing behind three lit menorahs

Embracing Growth and Spending time with family

Rachel Finch couldn’t wait to start pursuing her passion for biology. She made it happen by taking biology at her local community college, along with four other courses. “I loved taking a lab course,” said Finch. “The classes were super convenient because they were close to home and I was able to get a head start on my requirements for Brandeis.”

When Finch wasn’t in classes, she spent time with the people she loves most. “I didn’t realize how much I’d appreciate getting to spend time with friends and family,” she said. “I made a lot of memories and took the time to focus on myself.”

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