Alex Rogawski, ’19, is majoring in economics and business at Brandeis University in the Boston suburb of Waltham, Massachusetts.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue economics?
A: It’s a really broad topic, and there are many aspects that I find interesting, including the financial side of economics, how governments function and why people make decisions with money. I’ve been interested in economics for a long time, and I applied to college knowing I would major in economics. I also follow the stock market closely every day, and I wanted to learn more about what drives the market. It’s also a really practical degree and is useful in everyday life.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: I’m taking Introduction to Macroeconomics, Intermediate-Advanced French, Statistics for Economic Analysis and Introduction to Motion Picture.
Q: What is your favorite class?
A: My favorite class is macroeconomics because everything is really interesting to me. (The professor) is super engaging, and he applies the topics we learn to real-world theory. We take detailed numbers from governments — such as the GDP of certain countries around the world — and break it down and apply it to what we are learning.
I’ve personally found that more interesting than microeconomics, which is a smaller-scale study of economics, such as how businesses or households function.
Q: Least favorite?
A: I’m pretty happy with all my classes, but if I had to choose, (French) would be my least favorite because it is a language requirement. Not that I have anything against French.
Q: How big are your classes?
A: Most of my classes are pretty small, usually ranging from 15-40 people. The largest class I have is Introduction to Macro, which has around 60 students — which is actually pretty large for a Brandeis class.
Q: What’s your workload like?
A: For most of my classes, I’ll have one or two problem sets per week. For French, I have homework four times per week, but for the other three classes, homework is usually once or twice per week.
It’s not a lot of work, but sometimes it will take multiple days to complete an assignment because (I am) learning new material as (I) go.
Q: Are you in any clubs?
A: I’m in one club: the Brandeis Investment Club. We get a portion of the money from the endowment fund, so we’ll come up with sector reports, trying to find what stocks (the university) should invest in.
Every three weeks, we make a pitch to the university, and if they like our pitch, we will invest in those stocks for the university.
Q: What is your housing like?
A: I’m in a double in the freshman dorm.
Q: How do you get from one place on campus to another?
A: All my classes are so close to one another, so basically everything is within walking distance.
Q: How’s the weather?
A: It’s definitely a lot colder than California. There’s generally a lot of snow during the winter, especially in February, but it’s actually been pretty warm compared to previous winters. The weather here usually ranges from 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit, but it has been as cold as 10 degrees Fahrenheit this winter.
Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?
A: Yes, I have. A big thing is that we have a lot of buildings with the same name. For example, we have seven buildings named Shapiro, and a couple of other buildings are named Brown.
On my first day of classes, I had a class in a building called the Brown Social Science Center, but there is also a Brown building for the graduate school. So I went to that graduate school instead of the social sciences building.
I did not make it to that class on time, but I learned my lesson. A lot of people have that same issue.
Q: Do you think Country Day prepared you well for college?
A: I actually do. Writing (at Country Day) is the biggest thing that prepared me for college. My writing assignments have been super easy this year due to all the lessons I learned at Country Day.
Q: How was the transition?
A: Overall, the transition has been pretty smooth. I’d even argue that I have less coursework in college even though I have more things to manage.
Q: What about the social transition?
A: It was pretty smooth for me. Especially during orientation, people were super friendly and eager to meet other people, which made finding friends pretty easy. I think in general, it’s easier to meet people at a small school. Of course, it’s still a much bigger place than Country Day, and there are still tons of other freshmen who I don’t know and probably never will.
Q: What do you miss the most about home?
A: Definitely the culture of California. The culture (on the East Coast) is different, and it took me a while to adjust.
It seems like everything is a bit more serious compared to California, almost as if everything is a competition. Boston is especially known for having a no-nonsense attitude.
Q: What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
A: As students, we have the entire city of Boston at our disposal, and there is a ton of stuff to do here. I see concerts pretty regularly with my friends as well as go to social events at other colleges in the area — such as Harvard, Boston University and MIT.
Boston is a sports town; we have the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. There is just always something to do here in Boston.
Q: Is it easy to travel from campus to Boston or other cities nearby?
A: Yeah, we have a train that takes you directly to TD Garden (the home of the Celtics and Bruins) that you have to pay for. There is also a free shuttle I take to Harvard Square, which is popular among students.
Harvard Square is a great place, filled with good restaurants. It’s pretty awesome.
Q: After eight years of playing the trombone for the Country Day Band, how are you planning to incorporate music in your college life?
A: It’s not my main focus right now. Economics is my main focus, but I would definitely say the ability to play an instrument is a great skill to have.
Q: Brandeis has some traditions during its orientation, such as gathering underneath the “Light of Reason” sculpture in front of Rose Art Museum for a vigil called “Light up the Night.” What was that like?
A: On the first day of orientation, everybody gets a little electric candle, which we hold up to the sky. On the bottom of the candle, we write down a goal we want to accomplish during college, wishing that it will come true.
It launches your college career here at Brandeis, and I would say that I met some of my closest friends at “Light up the Night.”
Q: Any advice for the class of 2020?
A: When you get to college, step out of your comfort zone and try new things that you maybe thought you wouldn’t have liked. No matter where you go, your college is going to have so many things to offer that you should take advantage of. Finally, relax and enjoy your last semester of high school and do the things you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the time to do.