This is the first in an occasional series highlighting the experience of college freshmen. In this issue we interview Abe Levine, a 2007 graduate of Brookline High School, who is attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Macalester is a highly selective liberal arts college noted for its political activism, international focus and Midwestern friendliness.How is the academic work different from high school?
The work at Macalester is more demanding than in high school. One big difference is that professors expect students to support their comments in class discussions and in papers with proof from the readings or class lectures. “The class discussions are much more analytical,” says Abe. There is also a great deal of reading for each class. “You don’t have time to read everything closely,” says Abe. “You have to prioritize what you are going to read, but your professors are there to help and so are the upperclass mentors.”
What is your favorite class?
“Chinese,” says Abe. He enjoys learning the cultural and linguistic aspects of the language, and, in particular, how different cultures view the human experience: “The words of comfort the Chinese use when someone dies translates to ‘What a mess’ in English,” says Abe. “In the east people fear death less than in the west (Abe acknowledges that this is somewhat a generalization) because of a belief in reincarnation.” However, Abe adds, they fear living in a manner that will inhibit them from ending the reincarnation cycle. Abe also sees the benefit of attending college with so many international students when it comes to language learning. “Five kids on my floor speak Chinese so it helps to converse with them.”
How could high school have prepared you better?
“High School prepared me pretty well,” says Abe. The areas that Abe reports to be particularly challenging in college so far have been learning to refine a thesis and ascertaining an author’s single most important point and then critiquing it. Another strategy that he wishes he learned in high school was proper note taking when reading. His professors have taught him to write in the margins and summarize the reading, not simply to highlight with a yellow marker.
Is Macalester what you expected?
“It’s better,” says Abe. “When you visit, you are rushing around and you don’t really get a true sense of the place.” Now he feels like a part of the community. “The food is also amazing.” He reports that there is so much to do both on campus and in St. Paul. Abe, who was active in sports at BHS, has pursued new activities such as salsa and swing dancing and is learning meditation.
What advice do you have for high school seniors?
Abe strongly recommends that students take advantage of orientation activities that their prospective college might offer, as well as mentoring and host family programs if available. He credits this with helping him develop a core of friends. “Sit down with different groups of people at meals,” advises Abe, who believes in getting to know as many people as possible on campus. Most importantly, Abe now realizes something that he did not during his senior year: There is no single right choice about where to attend college. “I could have been happy elsewhere even though I am really happy here,” says Abe. “It’s what you make of it.”
Educational Advocates congratulates Abe for making the Dean’s list for first semester!