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Finding Your Way

I want to share my experience of when my daughter Jessica, '16, started her journey as a Blue Hen.

Sending your first child off to college is one of those milestones that a parent looks to with a mixture of excitement, hope and fear.

I think most parents share a number of the same desires and dreams that their college-bound sons and daughters will:

- be happy and have fun

- get involved in activities and find their niche

- achieve academic success and graduate, hopefully in four years!

- find a good job or get into a good graduate school

- make friends and possibly find love

I had more apprehensions because, to be honest, the University of Delaware was not my daughter Jessica’s first-choice college. In fact, she hadn’t even visited UD before applying.

It was not until April 2012, when she was deciding among colleges, that we even set foot on UD’s campus. But it was that visit that set in motion what turned out to be an amazing college experience. Thankfully, it was a beautiful, sunny day. After a campus tour, we stopped at Hillel.

There we met some of the staff and students and heard about Freshmen Fest, a move-in early program that would help ease the transition to college life. Students told us how it helped them become more familiar with the campus and that it's where they met their best friends. That all sounded great, but honestly, the best part for me was going to be avoiding the added stress and hassle of the campus-wide move-in day.

After much deliberation, Jessica decided to attend UD, and we got her registered for Freshmen Fest. Jessica was glad she participated, but she didn't meet her best friends at Freshmen Fest. Her involvement with Hillel wouldn't really start until a year later.

In her first year on campus, Jess found her way to one or two Hillel events that interested her like making a chocolate sukkah and attending High Holiday services, but rarely ventured to a Shabbat dinner or anything else. While my husband and I made suggestions—particularly after looking at the Hillel website or receiving an email—we didn’t push her.

In the spring of her freshman year, she joined a sorority. Imagine our surprise when we learned that a number of her sorority sisters were “regulars” at Hillel. With this connection, Jessica began attending some events and dinners, including Passover seder.

In the fall of her sophomore year, she continued going to events and then learned that some of her sorority sisters were considering going on a Hillel-sponsored Alternative Spring Break trip. Jessica—who has a passion for international travel and was already planning study abroad trips to Italy and Greece—learned that she could go to Buenos Aires for a spring break of learning and helping others. So, together with UD Hillel staff member Nicole Wasilus and about twenty students, she went and had a transformative experience.