I still remember the first day I stepped on campus as a freshman. Trying desperately to find Hope College (map in hand), I studied my new surroundings with great excitement. Eager anticipation and promise resided in every building and structure I laid eyes upon. Finally, all my questions about Brown would be answered as I embarked on a magical four-year journey! Brown would no longer be just a name on a list. I was actually about to taste the fruit I had been craving for so long.
Now, as I begin my senior year, I cannot help but to juxtapose what I have learned about our fine institution and what I never knew coming into it. It is this information gap that I wish to fill for all of you incoming, starry-eyed and equally excited freshmen.
First and foremost, Brown is truly an amazing place. Whether you applied early, got recruited, gave up other Ivy League schools or got off the waitlist a week ago, you have most assuredly made the best possible decision. With that said, Brown will truly agitate you.
For every amazing professor you love, there will be one you just cannot stand. For every cool person you meet, there will be a jerk you absolutely detest. While at times you may become judgmental and downright nasty, know that everybody (faculty and students) is here for a reason. Position yourself to see the best in people and try to figure out what everyone has to offer. By exhibiting patience, you will truly make the best of the next four years.
Second, as intelligent and open-minded as Brown students seem, there will be cliques, and there will be group mentalities. Brown is one of the most (if not the most) liberal institutions in America. Take a look around campus and you will see hipsters, activists and liberals galore. For those of you looking to champion causes related (but not limited) to Democratic, communist, socialist and even anarchic goals, you have chosen the correct place to spend your undergraduate years. While I encourage you to use all available resources (student organizations, professors, fellow Brunonians, etc.) to facilitate your cause, you must keep an open mind. Question everything, and do not become complacent in your ideology simply because a large majority of your peers are in agreement.
More importantly, if you are a conservative, do not be afraid to speak up. I never had the luxury of knowing exactly how homogeneously (and militantly so) liberal Brown students were until it was too late.
During my enjoyable freshman year seminar, HIST0970: "Culture and U.S. Empire," a discussion about the justification of Bush's war in Iraq began. As a Republican who supported the policy, I spoke first with great confidence. The second I finished, 19 defiant hands in the room shot up. It was at that moment I realized what I was up against, and I have not stopped fighting since.
In that regard, remember that we conservatives are a unique commodity here at Brown, and we can never cave in to the liberal hegemony which exists on our beloved campus. Instead, we must provide valuable and much needed insight on campus, local and national issues, working aggressively with our liberal counterparts to create the best possible policies and consistently maintain a rigorous dialogue.
Regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum, or any spectrum for that matter, remember to get involved. Brown is truly focused on maximizing the quality of undergraduate life, and you should aim to take full advantage of everything that Brown students have to offer you. Join student organizations, write for publications, go out at night and meet everybody on your floor. The connections and skills you can develop during your time at Brown will ultimately help you gain life-long friends, valuable knowledge about how our university works and more serious insight about where you want to be after Brown.
Take it from a senior: The next few years will fly by. You don't want to be that girl or guy that happens to be another face in the crowd, and you certainly do not want a laundry list of regrets by the time 2013 rolls around. Make every encounter a learning opportunity and you will never be disappointed.
Lastly, this old Republican has one more line of advice, for freshmen and all other Brown students alike: Do not stalk Emma Watson.
Anish Mitra '10 is an Economics concentrator from Queens, New York. He can be reached at anish_mitra(at)brown.edu.