My Heller admission story does not begin with my own acceptance to Brandeis, but my partner Ran’s. She accepted an offer to Brandeis’ MA in Psychology program around the beginning of June, so we planned our move to Waltham. I had graduated in May of 2019 with a degree in psychology too, but had decided to take a gap year before going back to school. A little after the year deadline I set for myself, I was more confused than I was when I graduated. I knew I wanted to go back to school to get a graduate degree, but I was uncertain on the type of program I wanted to apply to. As I was doing research for possible schools for a Spring 2021 or Fall 2021 start, I found the Heller School when scrolling through the Brandeis website.
As I flipped through the webpages of all the Heller programs, I was fascinated by what I saw. I was interested in so many of the programs, but also in the existence of a school that prioritizes social justice and equity. The Sustainable International Development program particularly caught my eye because of experiences I had the previous four summers. when I would travel to China to live with Ran and her parents before returning for college. Those trips exposed me to the need for development, by showing just how privileged my American life had been. When visiting their home village, many of the houses lacked sewage, had holes in roofs, and electricity was unreliable. Thinking back to those times and seeing the current development projects occurring there such as roadbuilding and agriculture projects, I decided I would apply to Heller the next cycle. When I went to go check if Heller had spring admission, I was shocked to see that they were still accepting applications for the fall. In that moment, it all came together: my interest in social psychology from undergrad, my love for traveling, and a commitment to disrupt oppressive norms and policies. I knew I had to take advantage of this situation and immediately got all the required materials ready in just a few days.
The wait for a decision was agonizing as it was the middle of the summer, a pandemic was raging around us, and we were also moving at the same time. It had been a long two days of moving in the July heat as I sat down to catch my breath. Flopping down on the nearest elevated surface, I chuckled when realizing that I was the first to sit on the couch my partner Ran and I had just put together. The air conditioner blared in the background as I opened the Gmail app on my phone (even when handling much more pressing issues like putting together furniture, I still like to keep my digital inbox in order!). As the screen flickered to show an unread email from ‘The Heller School’, the exhaustion I felt moments ago evaporated instantly. Not letting anyone know what was going on, I stealthily thumped in my email and password before hitting the scariest enter button of my life. If I did not get accepted here, I would not know what I would be doing for the rest of 2020. My anxiety turned to jubilation as I saw a financial aid award letter load in slowly because we had not had the chance to install wi-fi yet. I looked over to Ran with a blank look on my face and said “Well, guess I got in”, before cracking a huge smile. Seeing her exhaustion melt away too, she jumped up and gave me the most epic high five into hug combination I had ever experienced.
After coming off the initial rush of the acceptance I took a day or two to make sure Heller was the right choice for me. It did not take long to make my decision because they had already won me over during the application process. Once accepting the offer and settling into our new place, it was time to enjoy our last month of summer before becoming graduate students.