Category: Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (page 1 of 2)

Event Recap: Punishment Culture and the Persistence of Mass Incarceration in Massachusetts

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

In my concentration course this semester, our professor asked if we could attend a bonus lecture as part of our regularly scheduled class. I decided to attend the Joshua A. Guberman Lecture: Punishment, Culture, and the Persistence of Mass Incarceration in Massachusetts, presented by Elizabeth Matos.  Brandeis University created the Joshua A. Guberman lecture to honor Guberman, who had passionate concern for individual well being and social justice. I chose to attend this lecture because I have had an interest all my life in criminal justice, mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, anything that involved the justice system in America. I felt that the lecture would be a good place for me to start getting my brain going about my presentation in my class and to learn more about what mass incarceration looks like in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Matos was a an amazing speaker and lecturer, linking her life story to her current work in a phenomenal way. She walked us through the origins of mass incarceration: what triggered this mass wave of incarceration of Black and Brown people in America and connecting the historical origins to what we are seeing in mass incarceration trends today, especially in Massachusetts. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Black and Brown individuals  are 4 times more likely to be incarcerated versus their white peers. Even though Massachusetts is on the lower end of incarceration rate, it does not mitigate the fact that they still dedicate most of the budget to spending on prisons.  According to the Department of Corrections 2020 annual report, the state spends, on average, $61,241 per prisoner at its largest prison,  MCI-Norfolk, and $111,674 per prisoner at its only exclusively maximum-security prison, Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. . Now imagine if we dedicated this money to community resources and schools in low and middle income communities. What would Massachusetts look like?

I had two major takeaways from sitting in on this lecture. The first takeaway is that Massachusetts is the only state in the country that will utilize correctional centers as places to treat people who have mental health and substance abuse issues. Individuals who struggle with mental health crises or substance abuse issues are not offered residential treatment, instead, they are sent to solitary confinement.  Elizabeth highlighted the story of Ayesha Johnson, a 35 year Black women who died in the custody of Boston Suffolk Prison, after only being there for a few hours. Even though the state ended the practice of incarcerating women for civil commitments in 2016, Johnson was civilly committed under ‘Section 35’ in Massachusetts, which is meant for people who need mental support. She did not need to be locked up because she did not commit a crime, she needed extensive treatment and support. But instead she ended up becoming another statistic of our harsh criminal justice system. Prisons are not places of treatment, they are a place of discipline and often torture. It made me question where did we go wrong if we deem that having a mental health issue or substance abuse problem is a crime? Individuals who struggle with these issues are often criminalized more often, especially if they are Black and Brown: just another tactic in this new system we know as the New Jim Crow.

My second takeaway from this lecture is what we dedicate to the spending budget for prisons. I mentioned that the state of Massachusetts spends $61,241  per prisoner at is largest prison. Even though efforts for rehabilitation and treatment have definitely grown over the last decade or so, we are still far removed from what biggest goal of prisons should be: rehabilitation.  When an individual is incarcerated, they give up everything they have and now they no longer own a car, or have a job, they do not see their families, they are now property of the state. Yet when the state no longer has them as property, they are released from prison with nothing to fall back on at all. How is someone supposed to become a law abiding citizen when they have to start from the bottom. I wondered,  ‘How could we better support the assimilation in society after an individual is released from prison? How could we prepare an individual for this while they are awaiting release? How could we make sure they are rehabilitated and they do not reoffend?’ I asked these questions to Elizabeth at the end of her lecture, and she reassured me that this element of mass incarceration has grown better over time. The re-entry space has more resources then they ever had, because what people experience in prisons affect their reentry. Now, we have peer coaches and peer actor individuals who were also formerly incarcerated, supporting the release of individuals back into society. Yet in order to keep pushing for a more effective re-entry space, we must have all hands on deck from all aspect of our government.

I am really happy that I decided to attend this lecture. I did leave the lecture with more questions and more worries, however, I did feel I learned something new about a state I have lived in for the last five years of my life. I got to understand how this state handles mass incarceration and what efforts are being pushed, discussed, and implemented in hopes of ending the spread of mass incarceration and to really encourage a more robust restorative justice practicing society.  Thank you Heller for hosting this lecture, and thank you Elizabeth for providing the knowledge on this topic and helping us as students, faculty, and peers in continuing our fight for justice in the area of mass incarceration!

Get Involved! The Value of Student Working Groups

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

A university is not only defined by its ranking, degree programs, or faculty members. It is also defined by the quality and vibrancy of its campus community. When I was in undergrad, I worked 31 hours a week in the EdTech department. While I absolutely loved this experience, working this many hours as a full-time student meant that I did not have as much of a chance to become involved in the many student organizations on campus. Coming to Heller for graduate school gave me a second chance to get involved in the campus community. 

To understand the landscape of graduate student working groups, I attended a variety of info sessions, as well as the Fall Student Groups Fair held in the Zinner forum. At this fair, e-board (Executive Board) members from active student groups set up a table and talked with attendees about their working group’s mission, activities, and plans for the semester. All the groups had such good energy and were involved in really interesting initiatives. I left the fair wishing there were enough hours in the day to be a part of every group! 

During the lunchtime hour sometime later, I attended a follow-up info session with the Brandeis University Africa Forum (BUAF) which was led by two MBA/SID second year students, one of whom had been my TA for the summer Quantitative Fundamentals course. BUAF is a working group of African students and other members of Heller’s community who are interested in African history and the continent’s socio-economic development. Their mission is to coordinate cultural, professional, and social events to provide learning experiences, expand partnerships, and foster a sense of community on campus. I was immediately energized by the BUAF mission. A few weeks later, I was elected as Secretary and my tenure on BUAF’s e-board began! 

Although I’m a dual MBA/SID student, I have only been taking one SID class a semester. This means I have not had nearly as much interaction with members of my SID cohort as I have had with students in the MBA program, who I am in the majority of classes with. Being a part of BUAF has allowed me to connect and build relationships with not only other SID students, but with graduate students from other programs who I might otherwise not have had any interactions with. BUAF allowed me to learn from other professionals who’d worked and studied on the continent. By organizing a dialogue series in collaboration with my fellow e-board members Peter Masue, Shiko Rugene, Martin Alexis and Nush Laywhyee, BUAF was able to create space for dynamic, social impact-oriented conversations about current events and their impact on the continent. So far, our Africa Speaks sessions have covered such topics as the political and economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on Africa and the military conflicts in Sudan and Burkina Faso. 

By far, the most rewarding aspect of my time with BUAF has been being able to experience the richness of multiple communities, including the larger graduate population at Brandeis, my fellow Heller students, and especially the black, African, and diasporic presence on campus. As a school with Jewish roots, the African community and student body may not be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you think of Brandeis. However, the work of BUAF is helping people recognize and appreciate that this community is here. It’s active and warm and vibrant and deeply engaged in the work of creating a space outside of classes where students can connect, support each other, and have fun together!

Guide to Resources for Incoming International Students

Heller’s commitment to our international students makes up a core part of our commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity, which recognizes a broad definition of diversity reflective of differences that include, but are not limited to, age, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, visa status, culture, economic status and background, gender and gender expression, sexual orientation and identity, religion, political views, academic background and interests, abilities, learning styles and pace, physical appearance, and individual personality. International students make up more than a third of Heller’s student population, hailing from 39 countries from all over the world. Because of that, we provide several resources to help international students transition to their new academic and personal environment in the near future.  Below, I’ve outlined several resources that international students can consult to help make this adjustment go as smoothly as possible.

Brandeis’ International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO)

The ISSO is undoubtedly going to be your biggest resource for all questions related to your visa, maintaining your student status within the U.S., and working during or after your program. Listed below are some pages that you might find especially helpful at this stage:

Pre-Arrival Information

Entering the U.S. 

Graduate Student Orientation – included on this page are links to register for virtual events, like F-1/J-1 Immigration Session: Maintaining Status in the U.S. and Accessing Healthcare at Brandeis: What You Need to Know

Brandeis’ Intercultural Center

The Brandeis Intercultural Center serves as the umbrella office for 17 diverse student clubs and organizations, and provides a welcoming space for international students across campus. The center includes a resource room equipped with computers and printers, a small lending library of cultural books and videos, and a diverse array of cultural publications, as well as  a conference room, multipurpose room, comfortable lounges, a patio and kitchen facilities, which students can reserve. They also host a number of events each year that are open to all students.

The University Writing Center

The University Writing Center is a place to talk about your writing and to get an extra pair of eyes on your paper. They offer support for writers of all levels in all subjects, pairing students with other graduate students to offer help ranging from understanding the writing assignment and getting started writing to making edits and revisions on your writing.

ESL Support and Professional Writing Support

Students in Heller’s fall semester  Professional Writing course have access to tutors who can support them in both professional writing (structure/clarity/use of evidence/strength of argument) as well as ESL related issues such as basic grammar and vocabulary. If you have ESL challenges or concerns, you can meet with Student Services staff who can help you design and implement a plan to improve your written English, sharpen your listening skills and build vocabulary.

Brandeis’ Counseling Center

This is, I think, the most important resource I’ve listed here. In my previous job, I worked with many international students who struggled with the transition to living and learning in the U.S., and it was sometimes very damaging to their mental health. If you aren’t doing well mentally and emotionally, succeeding academically, maintaining your visa status, and accomplishing your goals becomes infinitely more difficult: there’s a saying in the U.S., “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, that really applies to these situations. I would really suggest that you make use of this resources early and often; counselors can help you work through any feelings of homesickness or stress that you may be dealing with to make sure that you are set up to succeed in your program.

 

My Experience as a First Generation Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Nearly five years ago, I took a huge leap of faith and gathered all my belongings to move 3,000 miles away from everything I knew in hopes to purse higher education. Fast forward: I am now nearing the completion of my first year as a first generation Master of Public Policy student. WOO!

In retrospect, I attempted to begin my journey without any expectations because when I began undergrad I had so many expectations for what I thought my college experience would entail, but everything does not always go according to plan. I wanted to come into my graduate student journey with a clean slate and a open heart and mind. I did not want to assume that any of my classmates would be similar to me, or that my professors would either be helpful or not, or if I would even be able to utilize all the resources provided  to me.  I came into this program wanting to be a sponge, soaking up all information and knowledge in relation to my interest and my future career goals. This program however has exceed anything expectations that I could have possibly created.

One thing I’ve appreciated the most about my time here at Heller is that the classroom  is extremely collaborative, open, and vulnerable space for students to voice their interests, opinions, and concerns on important policy issues. In undergrad, I rarely felt comfortable working in groups or voicing my opinions because I felt others would not understand my views or value them. I appreciated the push from my fellow peers and my professors at Heller, who encouraged me to share my experiences and thoughts. To my surprise, in most cases, others would have similar experiences, shared interests and thoughts. My professors deemed my insight as important and provided extensive feedback on how to tailor my skills. Being a first generation graduate student, it meant the world to me to enter a space without feeling as if you do not belong there.  Reassurance is key for connecting with first generation students because we can easily feel imposter syndrome. The feeling of knowing that you earned your spot like every one else and that your insight matters is the best feeling when navigating higher education.

What I have learned on my journey thus far is that time management is everything. This is something most first generation students struggle with because we do not have the luxury of just being able to attend school; at times we have to cater to needs of family members or work jobs that will assist us in paying for our education and survival. This can be overwhelming for many individuals, but what I have learned from this is that it is okay to ask for help, it is okay to say that you do not understand, and it is okay to say that it is not feasible for you at the moment and to ask for an extension. No one in this program wants to see you fail because of things outside of your control. Being able to speak up about  your needs is important and you never know who might be able to support you or point you in the right direction.

School is far from easy and I never expected graduate school to be so. I knew I was in for a challenge, I just did not know what it was going to be exactly. I am proud of how far I have come and I am looking forward to what is to come next. To all my first generation graduate students: do not forget that you deserve to be where you are no matter where you come from.  Continue to always show up in spaces as your greater self and even though some days maybe harder then others, just remember where you started and where you will be when you are done. Take care of yourselves– we got this!

What Black History Month Means to Me As a First-Gen Graduate Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

As we near the end of Black History Month, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what the month means to me as a Black first-generation graduate student.

Higher education was not accessible to Black Americans for years. I remember learning about the history of my ancestors who fought to learn how to read, write, and to attend classes with their other peers. They were belittled, hosed down, and even killed when trying to further their knowledge. Without their sacrifices and fearless hearts, I would not be able to attend this university today.

I reflect on the way my ancestors used the power of non-violent protest and their voices in order to advocate for the space and the opportunity to advance their educational skills in the real world, and so that their children, grand-children, and great-grand-children could do the same. Education Rights Activist, Malala Yousafzai, said, “Let us remember, one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” I imagine what a world would be like without the input, creativity, and ideas offered by Black Americans. I believe that we would struggle intensively when climbing the ladder of economic and social advancement in this nation without it. What saddens me the most is that after years of blood, sweat, and tears, Black Americans still have to fight for a seat at a table.

My hope is that through my time at Heller, I will be able to not only enhance my skills and expertise but also utilize my experiences to connect to my peers and faculty. I want to be able to embody the strength my ancestors had when advocating for issues that I believe in. Even though this month is the shortest one of the year, celebrating the accomplishments and strides of Black Americans in this nation from the past to the current this does not mean our accomplishments are short-lived or do not exceed expectations. The world moves because we move and I will continue to make sure of this whenever I enter a room no matter what month it is. Black History Month makes me feel a wave of emotions that can be excruciating at times, but it is also extremely beautiful and eventful. This month makes me feel alive and proud; I hope that I can continue to celebrate and shine a light on my community for years to come.

Happy Black History Month!

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Happy Black History Month! One of my favorite months in the year. This Black History Month I want to take the time to highlight some of my favorite influential Black people that have made amazing strides in the community and who have inspired me on a journey of higher education, advocacy, and self-awareness.

Katherine Kennedy

Katherine Kennedy, also known as KK or Ms.Kennedy, is a Boston native and for the last 18 years served as Director for the Howard Thurman Center of Common Ground at Boston University. I met Ms.Kennedy in 2017 when I was in search of a community on the Boston University campus. I remember entering the HTC one random day and I introduced myself by my nickname, and she said to me “Young lady, now what is your actual name, because I know that is not the one your mother gave you.” From that day forward, Ms.Kennedy became one of my favorite faculty members at Boston University. Before her time at BU, she started her career as a journalist for the Boston Globe where she served on the team that received the 1975 Pulitzer prize for Meritorious  Public Service for reporting on the Boston busing crisis of 1974. She was then recruited to the University of California Berkeley, where she established the minority journalism program. After her time with Cal Berkeley, she worked for the NFL and the New England Patriots where she piloted a degree program for active players. Ms. Kennedy showed me the meaning of being an active community member.

Stacey Abrams

Stacy Abrams is a Black American politician, lawyer, and author who served on the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017. She is mostly known for her work in advocating for the best voting rights practices. She is the founder of Fair Fight Action, whose primary goal is to promote fair elections across the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.  Abrams is one of the reasons I became interested in voting rights and how voting is not as accessible as we think it is. Abrams helped me understand the true meaning of my vote and why voting amongst the people of the global majority is important so that we are able to amplify our voices and make sure our needs are met. Thank you, Stacey Abrams, please keep fighting!

Shirley Chisholm 

Ms. Unbought and Unbossed herself! Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected into Congress in 1968, where she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms. Before joining Congress, Chisholm worked for the New York’s State Assembley. Chisholm gave us the best piece of advice yet, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Chisholm was a trailblazer, she was a force to be reckoned with, and she would never back down from a fight, especially when it regarded basic human rights, healthcare, minimum wage, and education. She taught me to never give up, to always fight for what I believed in, and that my knowledge is a tool that could always be utilized for the greater good. Without Chisholm, women like Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, and many more would not be in the positions of power they are in today. Thank you, Shirley Chisholm for leading the pack; we are truly grateful for the doors you have opened for Black women in politics.

Financing Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

The feeling you get when you receive your offer into the graduate school of your choice is undeniably one of the best feelings ever! You may have been working on your application for months, recommenders may have bailed out on you, the personal statement began to look like a blur after too many rewrites, but you finished it, submitted it, and got in. The next order of business is always “so how will I pay for this?” This can be answered in many ways, but for now, I will just offer my own two cents.

For me, I was lucky enough to leave my undergraduate institution with minimal student debt because I was granted a full scholarship. However, unlike undergrad, I knew that it would be difficult to secure sufficient funding in grad school. When I started my grad school application process, I would search the websites to determine how schools would disburse financial aid. Heller usually offers at least a 30-50% merit scholarship to most students applying to their programs, though some programs may offer more. This was a green flag for me when applying because it showed that Heller did not want students to unnecessarily worry about the financial part, but to come in and be able to learn without the additional stress.

A few things I learned when seeking funding for grad school: First, I learned when searching for funding, you need to be specific in your wording. I would recommend searching for “scholarships for public policy students” or “scholarships for graduate students”, which would narrow the information down to my particular request, avoiding the disappointment that comes with finding a great scholarship only to see in the description, “this is only for undergraduate students only”.

Second, I live by the saying “closed mouths do not get fed” and from this, I took the initiative to reach out to my mentors, former supervisors, or programs that I worked/volunteered for. This can be helpful because many jobs or programs have funding to support individuals’ academic efforts. Sometimes these can be free without any additional requirements, or you may have to fill out an application and work out a system to receive the funds. If you do not advocate for yourself and your work ethic, then who will?

Lastly,  working and going to school can be difficult. I found full-time or part-time work-study jobs to be beneficial. Note that most schools do not offer work-study for graduate students, especially international students. But even if it is not work-study, some on-campus jobs are able to hire students directly to their payroll if the department allows for it.  I advocate for on-campus or work-study employment because they work the best with students’ academic schedules, and they also are able to provide support and resources, and you may be able to score a job that fits your academic interests.

Seeking funding for graduate school can be rough, but it does not have to be. Always reach out to the school of your choice and see what resources they provide to graduate students; if you do not ask, then you will never know. This information is sometimes public but not always, so it is important to really advocate for yourself and your needs when you’re applying, during your time in the program, and even after you graduate.

Applying to Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Applying to graduate school as a first generation graduate student is not always as easy as it may seem.  When I started my senior year at Boston University, I was on the pathway to become a law student. I spent all summer and most of fall prepping for the LSAT, deciding what schools I wanted to apply to, endless amount of GroupMe messages… it was all super draining.  Yet when it came time to write my personal statement I could not find the words to say why I wanted to be an attorney. Was it because I wanted to help my community? Was it because I will be financially stable? What was it? I spent the last  two years prepping for my journey into law school and now I can’t even say why I want to be there. I think I was turned off by the law school process. I did not understand the purpose of the LSAT when all the 1L and 2L says the LSAT has barely anything to do with your classes. I did not understand why I would choose to sit in a class discussing outdated laws. I did not understand the process for the bar exam. It all just seemed like a rigged system to me and I no longer wanted any part.

Once I officially decided that law school was not for me, I was right back to the drawing board. Well, what am I supposed to do now? I was set to graduate from BU in less than 5 months and I just shut the door on what I thought was my dream career. I remember speaking with a old supervisor of mine about my concerns: I told her I knew I wanted to help people but I wanted to make a everlasting impact, I wanted to be within the community making the changes they want to see, and that I was thinking of applying for a MPP or MPA degree. She told me it sounded like a great idea and if she could had gotten her MPP or MPA instead of law school she would have 1000% done it. She said to me, “I did not want to study law I wanted to learn the legal and government system to make it better.” From that statement alone I began thinking some more about my personal goals and the field I saw myself in. Once that became clear, I began my search for masters programs.  I had few goals for this new journey: find a master’s program that did not require the GRE (hey, what can I say I was burnt out from standardized testing), only apply for 5 schools, and secure a scholarship offer.

One thing I forgot about once I narrowed down my choices and began my application process was that in undergrad I had way more assistance. I had more time to polish my personal statement, I had more time to search for schools, I had more time to submit scholarship applications, and on top of that, I was chosen as a Posse Scholar, and they pretty much do all the work for you– all I did was show up to an interview and a few meetings. I was on a time crunch submitting grad school apps, finding recommenders, and submitting scholarship essays. Not only did I have to deal with being on a time crunch, I had to deal with the most hated question of college students, “What are you doing after you graduate?” I would answer, “Grad school” only to receive responses such as, “Why would you want to go to grad school right after undergrad?”, “What do you plan to do with a second degree?”, questions I honestly did not have the answer to and probably still don’t have the answer to.  However, my mentor, my posse, my friends, and my family where all very supportive of my decision to get my masters. They always wanted me to do what made me happy and I can not thank them enough for the support. Friends offered to read my statement of purposes, people always asked for updates and when acceptances letters came in I was showered with words of wisdom and encouragement. Most of my family never went to college and sometimes its hard for them to understand the challenges I have to face, but they never doubted my ability to finish strong. One piece of advice I want to give a first generation graduate student is that breaking generational curses starts with you and even when the road looks foggy, trust the light is always at the end.

Yes to Summer Reading

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

A defining assignment in my Heller career came before I even stepped foot in the classroom. The summer before the program begins, in addition to some of the virtual on-boarding and orientation programs, Heller asks all MPP students to read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Typically, when we think of summer reads, they are romance novels and light reads to match the airiness and warmth of the summer.

I would not say that The New Jim Crow fits the description. According to a New Yorker piece published in 2020, The New Jim Crow “[…] considers not only the enormity and cruelty of the American prison system but also […] the way the war on drugs and the justice system have been used as a ‘system of control’ that shatters the lives of millions of Americans—particularly young black and Hispanic men.” All the same, it had sat on my book list for months and I was excited for the push from Heller to finally read it. 

Not only did The New Jim Crow set the foundation for my studies at Heller, but it was also the perfect summer book. I was enthralled, as so many pieces of a broken system were weaved together by one coherent report. It sought to educate the reader without incendiary or alienating language. It brought clarity; in a time of publicized racial reckoning, The New Jim Crow meticulously outlined the past, present, and future of racial prejudice. It fostered a sense of renewal through its emphasis on the magnitude of work that needs to be done and the political vacuum that must be filled to attain retribution. It underscored shared accountability. Most of all, it provided a refreshed account of our systemic perpetuation of slavery through its digestible, direct, and transparent telling. 

Since consuming Alexander’s words a year ago, my work and studies have been grounded by the narratives of the millions who suffer under American persecution. The confines of American society conscript too many to an unjust life: they force individuals to live a life of constant fear devoid of any respect or decency. The emotional and sociological brutality of the institutional and social imbalance in the United States can entrap and torture a person, without having to place them in a physical prison cell. And Michelle Alexander uses her platform to demonstrate that too many are still waiting for physical and emotional salvation.  

Heller’s commitment to the eradication of discrimination can be seen in the requirement of each public policy student to engage with such material as The New Jim Crow. We as a nation can only be as good as our worst policy. As a school, we can only be as impactful as the effort we put in – and after I closed a heavily marked-up copy of The New Jim Crow, I knew Heller was the place I was going to learn to make a difference.

Missing Home-cooked Meals: From a Very Hungry Graduate Student (Sazia Nowshin)

Sazia Nowshin, MBA/SID’22

Let’s face it, being responsible for yourself is not fun. The luxuries of living at “home” are far gone when one moves away for college, work, or for any other opportunity. I used to revel in the spoils of living with my parents in my undergraduate career, with access to free laundry, home-cooked meals (the lack of which is currently the bane of my existence), and a queen bed. However, when I had to move away to attend Heller last August, I had no idea what I was in for. 

Having lived at home all my life until graduate school had its perks. I had the privilege of waking up every morning to the smell of some new meal my mother was cooking or a fresh cup of chai. When I had dirty clothes, I simply put them in the hamper and did the laundry downstairs in the basement. Little did I know that these would be luxuries compared to my current circumstances. 

Who would have thought that the toughest part of moving away was moving away from my mother’s chicken curry with purple top turnips? The gravy she cooks it in is thinner and slightly spicier, saturating the softened turnips and making the chicken pieces fall off the bone. I cannot guarantee that I am not salivating while typing this but the nostalgia is so strong, I can smell it right now. To cope with this, I exhausted the many options available on Uber Eats, Grubhub, Doordash, and Caviar. If I am missing some services, please let me know… although I’d rather not know, just so I still afford rent. Leaving behind my mother’s cooking in Scranton, I explored the plethora of cuisines found in the Greater Boston area. From my favorite, the Bittersweet Shoppe on Newbury St., to Kimchipapi, I have had a taste of food that was not available back at home. However, there are times when I fondly remember my mother’s handmade pithas or even, at times, her simple chicken curry. 

To mitigate this, I started making food my mother would make at home in my apartment. FaceTime, my savior this semester, came in handy whenever the gravy to one of the curries I was making had the wrong viscosity or looked “off.” My mother, the hard-working woman she is, would answer the call at all times to guide me through the process. I remade her recipes and came up with ones of my own. The taste is not the same, but it is something. I know the journey life has taken me is one towards success, but I can never forget those who protected me throughout that journey. Brandeis is offering me an enriched and wonderful education, but it did take away eating my mother’s meals. It is a very difficult trade-off but I have been able to manage with the help of video chats and phone calls. It is not all that bad, though. I am sure there is a return on investment hiding there somewhere…

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