As an incoming senior at the University of Delaware, I can’t help but look back on the past three years. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What do I still have time to do? One year left out of four sounds like a lot of time until you remember that life seems to go faster the older you get. Senior year may technically be twenty-five percent of a college career, but it probably doesn’t feel that way. “I’ve done everything I should have done,” a graduating friend of mine told me last spring. He has no regrets over the way he spent his four short years, and his faith in his college success makes me question mine. If I could do things differently, would I? Yes, I’ve realized, thinking about Hillel. I would have gone to Freshmen Fest.
Freshmen Fest is a wonderful opportunity for incoming Jewish freshmen to move to campus two days early. During the extra time, students will play games, get to know Hillel and the Greek communities on campus, and make friends that may last them the rest of their lives.
So why didn’t I go? To be completely honest, I didn’t want to be so ingratiated with the Jewish community. Hear me out. College is a chance to redefine yourself, to discover who you are and what makes you unique. I didn’t want to go to Freshmen Fest because I didn’t want to be immediately sectioned off from the rest of the university, and I worried that attending would already differentiate me from the majority of the student body. There is already enough of a stigma against Jews and against those of any faith who consider themselves religious.
Looking at Judaism that way was a mistake. Judaism is not a clique. It is not something that sections me off. And it is certainly not something that should be stigmatized. You may be rolling your eyes at me or nodding your head and saying, “Of course not. It took you until senior year to figure that out?” Well, no, it took me until the end of my sophomore year when a friend took me to Hillel with her.
When I finally allowed myself to become a part of the Jewish community, I found where I belonged. In trying so hard to redefine myself, I lost sight of who I was. Judaism is not all of me, but it is definitely a part. I love going to Shabbat services and dinners, filling myself with as much conversation as I do challah. I love the holidays—yes, even Yom Kippur—that remind me of my heritage. I love that I can count on Hillel to always be there for me, whether I need a place to study, somewhere to hang out, or a shoulder to cry on.
If I had gone to Freshmen Fest, I may have figured this out a lot sooner and had a great time in the process. I could have started college exactly where I should have been. And hearing people around campus, even those that don’t regularly, or even ever, attend Hillel talk about how much fun it was, I definitely know I made a mistake. So if you know anyone joining the Blue Hen community this fall who is considering skipping out on Freshmen Fest, take the advice of a UD veteran and don’t.
Freshmen Fest welcomes over 150 incoming Jewish freshmen each year. The program allows the participants to move in two days early, connect with other Jewish students, hear from upperclassmen, become more familiar with campus, and form long lasting relationships. Learn more at www.udhillel.org or call 302-453-0479.