Friday, June 20, 2014

Brown-I Takes Brandeis

Waking up this morning was a much more pleasurable experience then usual as I we didn't need to leave until 8:50! Even though I still didn't reach my goal of an 8 hour sleep I got that much closer, and the extra hour or two actually really helped. We got a quick breakfast at the Starbucks in the hotel, consisting of a Chocolate Croissant and Coffee and then we set out for the station. Instead of taking the Amtrak like usual we decided to take the MBTA into Boston. This proved to be a pleasant surprise as it tended to remind us all of BART and the Bay Area. Despite this feeling there were a few downsides however, as the MBTA didn't have any outlets to charge your electronics and as a result my phone died abnormally early and my computer is slowly approaching the same fate. Either way the train ride took around the same amount of time to get to South Station and that's when our usual travel routes differed.

Today we realized that the Boston Red Line towards Alewife and then transferring to the Commuter Train would be the fastest way to Brandeis. The university actually has its own train stop so any other course of action would've been more expensive and not as practical. Unfortunately we just missed the 11:44 AM Commuter Train and due to construction the next one wasn't due to arrive until 1:25 PM. This seemed to work to our advantage in this case though, as we were all fairly hungry and we were surrounded by good restaurants. In fact, the stop from which we were taking the Commuter Train was only a stop past the Harvard Station so I think that we actually crossed into Cambridge at one point.

Chicken Pesto Pizza
We decided to eat at the Stone Hearth Pizza Company, which was an all organic restaurant that only used local ingredients and made everything fresh. We didn't have a lot of time because by the time we decided to eat there it was already 12:15, so we quickly decided on a Pesto Chicken Pizza and a plain Cheese Pizza with their homemade Blue Cheese Dressing on the side (Alana's choice). To our surprise the pizzas were ready in 15 minutes and were brought to us as soon as they popped out of the oven. We ate quickly, only talking only sparingly when we were in between bites. By 12:45 we were headed out the door and on our way back to the station.

The train came shortly after we arrived and we were at Brandeis within 20 minutes of boarding. Brandeis was only a short walk up from the train station so we arrived at the Ruth & Carl J. Shapiro Center with plenty of time to spare. They had a bunch of handouts describing in detail all their different programs so I took a bunch in certain majors that I had the slightest interest such as Business, Econonomics, Neuroscience, and Biomedical Studies. As with the other schools we were able to have a private meeting with an admissions officer. Marina Offner wasn't the AO from our region but that didn't matter at all as she was very informative and gave us the full history of Brandeis as well as what their main focus was as a Liberal Arts University AND a research institute. She also answered any and all questions that we threw at her with a certain distinction and poise, if I might add, that was very inviting. We spoke with Ms. Offner for about an hour until the campus tour was set to start at 3 and then we set off for that. 

Arnold, Dennis, Brandon, and Jing
Our tour guides (first school with multiple guides) were very impressive. Our first guide, Dennis, was a rising senior with a triple major in Theatre, English, & Sociology, as well as a double minor in Social Justice and Policy. Our second guide, Katie, was a rising sophomore with a double major in Neuroscience and Biology on the Prehealth track. Needless to say both of these individuals were very academically focused, yet, as we learned with the continuation of the tour, they both took place in many extra-curriculars and community building opportunities. Dennis had just directed the school musical of Hairspray, which 3 of 4 nights sold out for, while Katie was on the Varsity Soccer team. Both of them were also part of the numerous clubs offered at Brandeis and both seemed very happy with their decision to attend this university.

A few of the things about Brandeis that I found very interesting mainly took place in the Economics and Prehealth departments. As for the Economics, which is the largest major selected at Brandeis, they offer a 5-year B.A./M.A. program, which for those of you who don't know is a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters degree. This kind of opportunity is so special because in only 5 years you can get your undergraduate and your graduate degree as well as being part of a regal society where 95% of graduates are getting full-time jobs within 6 months of leaving. This doesn't only apply to the B.A./M.A. program either, but the entire Economics major as whole. Study abroad programs also seemed fairly large as people who take part in the 5-year program can decide to earn their graduate degree from IBS (Brandeis International Business School). Unfortunately, the Master's Degree is specified as being in International Economics & Finance, and one semester must be spent abroad, but they offer more than 20 International Business Schools to choose from.

The Prehealth major is also very interesting as the study abroad program plays a large role in this major as well. One doesn't have to study abroad while on this track but it is offered, which is very unique as most students who get Premed degrees at other colleges are just simply to busy to be able to study abroad, yet Brandeis goes out of its way to make sure that students are able to have this opportunity. In fact most of these study abroad programs in the Prehealth track result in international internship opportunities which gives much needed experience for this difficult field.

The Brandeis Castle
Another thing that really struck me about Brandeis was that community service and social justice were two things that were highly stressed. So much so, in fact, that apparently 95% of Brandeis's senior class this year were given awards for outstanding service to their community. Social justice was also very big in that there was nothing on campus that was exclusive only to certain people. Sports, IMs, clubs, and societies are all-inclusive things that you can't be turned away from. Dennis used the example that, and I quote, "if your singing caused birds to die, you could still be in a musical on-campus." It really helps to create a strong-knit, close community who really value what everyone has to offer. This also was shown through the fact that you don't have to submit any SAT or ACT scores to be accepted to Brandeis. In fact, they offer two other alternate ways to apply, which is very interesting and intrigued me greatly. The first has to do with your SAT Subject Tests and AP Test, where you send in three scores total out of the two in all different subjects. For example you could submit a Math Subject Test, World History AP Test, and a Biology AP Test and they would consider you for acceptance. The other has nothing to do with any testing at and is in fact a way that I think is genius. They let you submit an analytical paper that has been graded and marked up by your high school teacher along with a teacher recommendation. Brandeis thinks the same way which most students do in the way that a single standardized test should not control whether or not you get into the college that you want to go to, so they offer this alternate method.

Some of these things are not exclusive only to Brandeis but when they are all put together they are what really separates Brandeis from the other top colleges and universities in the US. I mentioned last night that I wasn't expecting much but I thought that I would be surprised and I definitely was. I don't think that I would have ever even thought about applying to any of these colleges but I feel like once I get back home I'm going to have a hard decision about which schools I'm able to apply to and which one's I just don't have room for. 

Sign Outside of Menton
After the tour and a quick discussion with Dennis and Katie about various topics we headed down to the tracks to catch the Commuter Train back to the Subway. We waited anywhere from 10-20 minutes for the train and then got back to the transfer point in about 15 minutes. By now it was around 5 PM and the Subway ride back to South Station seemed to drag on for a long time. But we got back to South Station around 5:30 and after picking up our Subway tickets for the next day headed out to catch a taxi to our dinner reservation at Menton.

The All Things Green
Menton is a high class restaurant about a 5-10 minute walk from South Station. They serve a French cuisine, of course, with your choice between a prix-fixe 4-course meal and a chef's choice choice 7-course tasting meal (kind of like tapas). We decided to choose the prix-fixe menu as each course had a selection of about 4 or 5 different items to choose from. They also gave us a choice of about 9 different "mocktails" (virgin cocktails) to choose from, most of which had very interesting names, such a Gin Gin Pony, or the All Things Green, which is what I personally chose. It was a kind of soda water infused with cucumber, mint, and lime. It was darn good.
Along with the meals that we ordered also came a bunch of complimentary little finger foods, the first of which was a celery boat filled with some sort of fruit gelatin type thing. Personally it wasn't my favorite as I thought the celery was a little overpowering and I'm just not a huge celery fan in general but all that aside it looked very good and was a good start to the meal. The next hors d'oeuvres that they gave us was a steamed pull on top of a sort of pork tartare with a fruity vinaigrette glaze which was outstanding. These small starters helped to elevate the palate before the main courses came and we weren't even done with these little snacks. Next up was a little virgin soda martini of sorts with an olive and everything. I thought the olive flavor kinda killed the lime flavor but it was good and the first course came soon after.
Pork Tartare w/ Steamed Mussels
Lime/Olive Soda
Chilled Main Lobster w/ Mint Snow Pea Puree
I decided to have the Chilled Maine Lobster with a Snow Pea and Mint Puree and Morels. The lobster was good but I found that the puree was a bit overpowering. The other cohorts had things a Hiramasa Crudo and Grilled Asparagus with Truffles. For the second course I had the Salmon with Clams and Baby Squid, in a homemade broth. Most of my other cohorts had the Black Striped Bass with Clams which they remarked was exquisite. For the third course the whole table, except Kevin, had the Quail with Escargot, which I believe was Brandon and Arnold's first time trying it. In between the third and fourth courses we were offered a cheese sampling and we gladly obliged. He picked out 5 cheeses along with pairings  to go with them. All of the cheeses were great but the mild blue cheese that he picked out for us was my favorite by far. I have to really stop getting used to this amazing lifestyle because we move into the dorms in two days and I know it's not going to be anything like this after that.
Salmon w/ Clams and Baby Squid
Quail w/ Escargot
The Magnificent Cheese Cart
And for the final course I had the Chocolate Pave. It's kind of hard to explain because I don't exactly know what it is but it's kind of like a compressed and hardened chocolate mousse topped with all sorts of different kinds of things. This Chocolate Pave was topped with Toffee, Ice Cream, and Sweetened Orange Rind. I am what one could call a chocolate addict so whenever I see something that has a rich chocolate flavor on the dessert menu I have to get it. I don't know what it is but it's some kind of force that makes me get it. I think it comes from my mom as she also shares this weakness for chocolate. The only kind I'm able to resist is white chocolate, but I'm getting of topic here so all I have to say is that it was wonderfully rich and all the toppings complimented it perfectly.
Chocolate Pave
We walked back to South Station after leaving Menton and waited around an hour for the next MBTA train at 10:45. In the meantime we all set to our blogging and before we knew it the train had arrived and we were hustling down the track to get on in time. The train ride back was slower than usual because visibility was low and they had to slow down the train to make sure we didn't crash. This was good however, as I think we all needed a lot more time to work on our blogs, I mean its 1:30 right now and I'm just finishing up. So after working on this for around 2 hours I think I deserve a break right? All in all it was a good day. Jusqu'a a la prochaine fois!


  1. I, too, appreciate Brandeis' no-test-score option, because as a teacher, I know that getting high marks on a test doesn't necessarily mean a student is learning or hardworking, and just because a student doesn't get high marks on tests doesn't mean he or she isn't exceptional or a good candidate.

    I really enjoyed your photo tour of Menton. You really captured the essence of our dining experience. Bravo!

  2. Ah! Yes! The alternate to sending in test scores! That's what I used for my application to Brandeis. I used a Litvin and I got accepted. It's really a great school. Anyway, just thought I'd drop in to say hello to this years ILCers. Be sure to send Brandon and Ms. Scott my best wishes. I'm a bit pressed on time at the moment so I will leave a comment on your blog, Jing. Glad you're having fun and I wish you the best of luck! :)

    1. Hi Damian,

      Thanks for the shout-out and reading the students' blogs. Congrats on your acceptance to Brandeis. I think it may have been my favorite of the schools we've visited, largely due to its phenomenal founders and founding ideals. Where will you be heading off to for school next year?

      Take care and stay in touch,
      Mademoiselle Scott

    2. Hello Ms. Scott!

      It's great reading about your fun Ivy League Connection chaperone experience! I agree that Brandeis is an amazing school. I wish I could have visited it during my college tour dates last summer.

      I will be attending UC Davis this fall. I was narrowing it down between Brandeis and Davis, but I ended up sticking with UC Davis due to convenience, finance, travel, and weather. Of course I will be asking for a few more details when I do some HHS visits as a freshman in college. :)

      Damian Wong a.k.a Xavier Wong

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