The Extracurricular Activity: Babyish, Or A Gift?

By: Sara Schatz  |  August 12, 2019

By Sara Schatz, Layout Editor

At the start of the summer, I was visiting a few friends at their respective colleges in Israel. During my stay, I was fascinated by the obvious and significant discrepancies between their college experiences and mine. One of the main noticeable differences was the lack of extracurricular activities at Israeli universities. By comparison, most of my free time at Stern is consumed by extracurriculars.

After bringing that point up, my friends looked me in the eye, and with oblivious patronization questioned, “But doesn’t that make college feel like a continuation of high school?”

This question isn’t a new one. It’s the classic question anyone asks when discovering that I attend Yeshiva University. Initially, like many people, I did not want to attend Stern. In high school, my friends viewed Stern as the university for the stereotypical Jewish girl who did not want to grow up. As a developing teenager, I did not want to be a stereotype. I wanted to be an individual. 

It’s been a year since I began my journey as a college student and three years since I left high school. As my narrow-minded teenage years continue to fade, I have been left with one observation: Stern is precisely the place to foster individuality.

In 2016, journalist Melody Warnick, embarked on a journey to discover why the average American relocates 11.7 times in their lifetime. She analyzes this phenomenon through an environmental term coined the “place attachment theory”: the emotional bond between a person and a place. This raises the question – should our priority be searching for internal or external bliss? I believe we should focus on discovering inner peace wherever we are, as opposed to seeking it in various external locations.

Yet how does one do this at Yeshiva University?

While everyone at YU is different, there is one common denominator that unites us all – student organization through extracurricular activities. Our papers publish just about any opinion, opening forum after forum to raise diverse and pressing arguments. Our student councils strive to make the school as bright as possible. We all have the power to participate, although we don’t have to. At YU, one has the option to live freely as the Jew they desire to be. 

I believe our vibrant community is that way because it is familiar to its members, not despite of it. In a 1976 Tradition article, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik notes that “[t]he very instant we pronounce the word ‘community’ we recall, by sheer association, the ancient controversy between collectivism and individualism.” As a community, the epitome of our controversies involves this dichotomy. Yet the key word here isn’t “controversy,” it’s “community.” If one focuses too much on the controversy in their lives, they will never find peace.

Thus, I have three propositions as the year begins:

  • Get involved in something. Don’t allow the few active students in school determine your college experience. Get out there and write an article, run an event, start a club…something! The possibilities are endless. 
  • Be optimistic. An impactful side effect of becoming too comfortable in a place, is cynicism. If you’re going to complain about an aspect of the school, speak out or do something about it. You actually have a voice in this place, so utilize it.
  • Don’t use schoolwork as an excuse. Okay, some may deem this unfair of me to say, because I’m not a pre-med student. However, I firmly believe that squeezing in one extra outlet, especially when it involves improving one’s community, is essential in changing one’s attitude. 

Though our school runs on its students, we still somehow find it simpler to stick to our comfort zones and focus on ourselves. However, we mustn’t forget, nor take for granted, that we were given the gift of community, which can be expressed through extracurricular activities. Thus, let’s all take a vow to give back a little this year. It will not only benefit the school, but our own senses of self, as we journey through some of the last years of our lives when bureaucracy does not affect our choices. 

Photo: Sara Schatz