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Park Scholars Tell Stories

First-year Park Scholars share their experiences with the transition to collegiate life at IC

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Posted by Matt Fee at 4:26PM   |  Add a comment
challah bread

by Samantha Weil '17

At the orientation for the Park Scholar Program upon arrival at Ithaca College back in August, Dr. Fee told us multiple times that the Park Scholar Program is designed to help us find our passion, and we are strongly encouraged to find what issues we are passionate about. This emphasis of the program in addition to the move to Ithaca pushed me these past two months to really think about what I am passionate about.  

Moving to a new place has also made me appreciate home more. In Saint Louis the thriving Jewish community surrounded me. Judaism is the foundation of who I am, but it was not until I reached college that I realized how important a strong Jewish community is to me. A Jewish community is home and thus I have sought out many of the Jewish organizations on campus. From the Hebrew Club, to Hillel, to Challah for Hunger, to the Student Alliance for Israel, there is no shortage of ways Jewish students can become involved.

Every week at Hebrew Club I brush up my rusty Hebrew speaking skills and eat some Israeli food. Over the weeks, my vocabulary has slowly returned and I have learned a great deal about nuances of Israeli culture through speaking with the many Israelis involved in the club.

Through Challah for Hunger I not only get to bake challah but give back to the local and international community simultaneously. On various Thursdays, I baked challahs in the Terrace Dinning Hall Bakery. These were not boring Challahs. Rather than make traditional three braid challahs, I was able to learn how to make four braid challahs and round challahs. The next day, I had the opportunity to sell the challahs in Campus Center to raise proceeds to fight hunger need.

Hillel was one of the first groups I joined upon arriving at Ithaca College. From Bagel Brunches, to Shabbat services, to holiday services, and Kabbalat Shabbat, Hillel has been a great place to connect with other Jewish people. The fresh life of the Hillel program with the vision of the new director is very exciting. Seeing the Jewish community and having a vision for how to make it stronger reminded me of my passion for fostering an engaging Jewish community. To me, fostering a strong Jewish community on campus is working towards the survival of my religion and culture. I am really looking forward to getting more involved with Hillel and helping an even stronger Jewish community come to fruition on Ithaca College’s campus.

Finally, the Student Alliance for Israel has really allowed me to pursue my passion for Israel advocacy.  While I sought out my own opportunities to engage with Israel and advocate for its existence in Saint Louis, there was not a large amount of my peers who wanted to engage with Israel on a regular basis. Thus, I have really enjoyed finding a group of people who are also passionate about Israel. Building off of the current events updates and social events, I am excited to work over the next four years to build up the pro-Israel atmosphere on this campus.

By completely changing my environment, I was able to reflect on who I really was before coming to college and who I want to build myself to be over the next four years. For me, missing home became missing the Jewish community that impacted so much of my daily life in Saint Louis. Thus, with the opportunity to find my passion has allowed me to remember what truly motivates me and gives meaning in my daily life. These first few months have reminded me of what I am passionate about leading up to now and I am excited to continue pursuing these passions and finding new passions in the next four year.


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