Taking a Risk for the Greater Good

By: Shira Kramer  |  October 22, 2023

By Shira Kramer, Features Editor and Social Media Manager

The beginning of senior year in high school can be a stressful time. Maybe you were picking what college to go to, which gap year program to choose, or maybe you had no idea where to go the next year. 

When college decision time came around for me, I was disappointed to say the least. Since before I can remember, I’ve had a Columbia University blanket covering my bed. Obviously, Columbia missed the blanket memo because they rejected me. Or, what I like to rephrase as “they wanted to save me for law school admissions.” 

As a Baltimore resident, University of Maryland was a clear second choice. UMD is a selective school and I received admissions to a top tier scholars program there. Therefore, the decision to press that tiny red button that confirmed my acceptance was an easy one. 

The end of senior year for high school students is supposed to be fun and relaxed. 18-year-olds party and celebrate, finally deciding what they are going to do for the next four or five years. It was exciting for me too. While UMD was not my first choice, I decided to make the most of it and be happy.

If you had mentioned Yeshiva University to me back then, I would have been confused. My parents told me that it was either Ivy League or UMD. I had no other choice, so why would Yeshiva University even cross my mind?

The beginning of freshman year of college is supposed to be exciting. With hopes of fresh starts and independence, college newbies walk with pride. While I began the school year in College Park just as hopeful as everyone else, by Yom Kippur regret hit me like a truck. 

It was so hard taking off for the holidays. While some students went home, many terps (the UMD mascot that is basically a ‘scary-looking’ turtle) went to classes without their laptops. They decided that missing class was too hard and it was a price they weren’t willing to pay.

The realization that in order to fit in I would have to forfeit relaxation on Shabbos and Yuntif scared me. Everyday, I walked the long sidewalks of UMD’s hilly campus feeling hopeless. 

While my classmates went to frat parties and football games, I wondered if I could really handle a huge secular college. My graduating class of 65 at Beth Tfiloh, was nothing compared to the 47,000 students in College Park. 

Shockingly, I realized that I actually missed learning Torah every day. That’s when I began to think about how I could get college credits and enrich my Judaism at the same time. My first thought was obviously going to Israel. Then I looked into starting a chaburah (a small learning group) with some of my friends on campus. 

When both of those plans appeared faulty, I began reminiscing about the good times in high school where secular and Jewish studies were combined in my daily learning. During high school, I was heavily involved in NCSY. Chapter president, regional president, national board member… you name it, I did it.

In NCSY, we had many gap year fairs. Even though I wasn’t looking for an Israel program at that point, I remembered a different table at the fair that might be a solution to all of my problems. As I thought back to the fair, the dark blue table called to me. Hmm…Yeshiva University. Why didn’t I think of that before?

Deciding to transfer was not easy. Telling my parents my decision was even harder. Sharing the news with my friends was a killer.

It took time for people to feel happy for me. But, the most important thing was that I found my spark of hope again.

Now, I’m here. I’m in Midtown. So, I ended up in New York City after all. Take that Columbia! Yom Kipur has passed and the hope is still with me. 

So, my advice to the new students on campus is: Don’t worry too much if things aren’t feeling great right now. We all end up in situations that are right for us. In my opinion, YU is the perfect place to learn and grow.