Last summer, after my junior year at Stern, I spent a month in Israel on YU’s Counterpoint program. One of my goals that summer was to draw more because I wanted to develop my skill and find my artistic voice. I would wake up early every morning to draw for an hour before breakfast. Later, I would show my peers on the program and they would smile. “You have such a style! It’s so distinct,” they’d say. It was amazing to see how my simple curves and bright colors could bring others the genuine emotion of happiness. I felt the power in my fingertips and the fulfillment, that my art could reach people much further than just a pretty picture.
Drawing every day that summer taught me a lesson that I’ve taken with me since on the power of human connection. Each and every one of us holds a special power to uplift one another. Whether it be through subduing a friend in need with a calm voice, or pumping up each other with words of support, or dropping everything to grab some fro-yo down the street, or brightening someone’s day with a colorful picture, we all possess specific capabilities to bring light into other people’s lives. This lesson changed the way I viewed Stern College and after the trip, I came back for my last year of Stern College with a renewed fire.
There is a sweeping culture of shame that accompanies attending YU. From the outsider who didn’t choose YU, we are the lame Jewish school, and how unfortunate it is that we will never go to “real college” or have a real “college experience”. Oh *insert name* goes to Stern? *scoffs* Why would someone ever want to go right back to high school? We are all familiar with this voice. Every time someone outside asked us how it was going and we answered “Oh, it’s okay, you know it’s Stern” we gave even more power to that voice and perpetuated our negative stereotype. I personally was an interesting case because Stern had been my dream school and I genuinely wanted to be here, but I learned about that negative voice shortly after arriving and engaging in small talk at parties during my freshman year. This negative stereotype left me surprised and disenchanted because that was not at all how I saw this place.
My naivety was shot, and I kept having similar conversations throughout the next three years. I would watch peers suffer and complain but would still yearn to show them the beauty that I saw in this school. I joined the fencing team and YAS and devoted myself entirely, even at the cost of being seen as the overly enthusiastic extra-curricular obsessed Stern-loving (I know, how could I possibly) girl.
Now, I am nearing the end of my Stern career with only two months until graduation and I can safely say that during my four years, I’ve surrounded myself with great people and enjoyed my time here. Yet, there are still times where I have found myself obsessing over trying to be the “perfect Stern girl”. I preached being different by really liking Stern while at the same time feeling the same judgement and pushing myself to be more like everyone else. I changed my habits in how I dressed and the activities I did to what I thought would make me more likable and accepted by everyone. I preached hard to be a certain way but fell harder to the judgmental voice on myself. This is a feeling and pressure that I’ve worked hard to come to terms with over the time I have spent in Stern College.
I am aware that we can’t ever fully eradicate the voice of judgement and negativity that exists on this campus. But I do think we can bring a new voice that combats the old one. Luckily, I have seen how Perspective has taken the invisible ideas we all felt but never dared to speak about and gave a voice for all those voices that we needed to hear out loud, but didn’t know where to start. For a campus that can feel so isolating like this one, we needed such a platform for girls to see how truly alike we are to each other and that we can all connect and laugh together. We bettered this campus and gave a new, real, and truly raw voice by speaking out and by being there for each other and discussing taboo topics openly. Although there will always be times where I fall for the judgemental voice, this new strong voice exists right by it’s enemy. Through our power of uplifting one another by sharing in such discussions, we popped the Stern bubble and freed ourselves from it.