A Fresh View: Navigating Brown

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This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for NSP:PAL…

Hello, Brown hopefuls! My name is Kimberly Truong and I am the awkward (but utterly thrilled) first-year behind A Fresh View. With that big question mark hovering over where you’ll be spending the next four years of your life, rest assured that this freshman will tell you her experience as she stumbles through the wonderful world of Brown.

I’ve been asked by a nervous prefrosh an important question that I think needs to be discussed in today’s blog post for all you other prospective folks: “Did you feel overwhelmed without some guidance as a freshman?”

As you probably know, Brown has an open curriculum and takes pride in having one. This curriculum isn’t in place so you can take the easiest classes but challenge yourself in taking classes you like and even the classes that you’re slightly interested in.

Some of my favorite catch-all phrases that I’ve heard people used to describe the open curriculum are:

  • “You do you.”
  • Being “responsibly irresponsible”
  • “You need to figure out your own shit here.” (my all-time favorite, said by a Brown junior who shares my secret study space!)

As you can see, especially the last quote in particular, charting your own education bears a ton of responsibility on you as a student. I am already in the middle of choosing my courses for the spring semester and there are numerous courses I want to take and others I probably won’t take because I am only limited to 4 or 5 per semester. Moreover, a liberal education gives you a wide spectrum of majors (concentrations, rather) to choose from and my intended concentration practically changes every five seconds. I tell people different things each time someone asks me what I’m looking forward to studying here for the next four years.

But it’s a good problem to have though. Yes, it is a difficult journey to find create yourself here, but it is a valuable one. You’re exercising independence and self-reliance and developing a strong liking for whatever tickles your heart. You find value.

Perhaps, surrounding myself around a handful of people who already know that they’re going to be engineers or pre-med made me feel discouraged and I was missing this vital point. I didn’t see the positive in being confused—in being undecided.

But at Brown, you’ll never be alone. There will be many people in the same boat, and as a first-year, you will have a wonderful support system to take advantage of. Every first year has a faculty academic advisor and a Meiklejohn (upperclassmen peer mentor). On top of that, there are many other support groups and willing faculty members to guide you along an unclear journey.

For example, I’m very thankful (is it Thanksgiving yet?) of signing up for a NSP:PAL (New Scientist Program: Peer Advising Initiative) mentor offered by the Science Center. Frustrated that engineering might not offer me an education in both the sciences and humanities, I am reassured and informed by my NSP:PAL mentor of other options. As a student and a person, I like to have a variety of options. What I make of those options and how I pursue them, with the resources given, is what defines a Brown education. Whatever these next four years hold, I know I won’t be alone in “figure[ing] out my shit.” I will somehow manage to get by—with the help of Brown and its support network.

Any questions or suggestions for my next post? Please send them my way at kimberly_truong@brown.edu. I’m happy to answer and heed to all of them!

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