Wisdom from Hillel veterans on how to navigate your first year of college
As students prepare to enter their first year of college, they may be anxious, excited, or a combination of both. Here is what Hillel students want incoming first-years to know as they prepare for the college experience:
Allison Bloomberg, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan, offered the following advice: “Say ‘yes’ to everything, even if it sounds bizarre!”
Bloomberg—who served on the Hillel International student cabinet this past year— majored in Judaic studies and psychology during her time at Michigan. In addition, Bloomberg was involved in Hillel, Wolverine Support Network, and greek life on campus before graduating in December 2020.
Before starting college, she wishes she’d known that “It’s okay not to know what you’re doing and it’s completely normal to change your career plan (multiple times).”
Abram Berry is a current first-year majoring in journalism at the University of Utah. Berry is involved with Hillel for Utah and enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends.
“College is just like it is in the movies—as long as the movies you’re watching are Scream 2, Legally Blonde, and season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Berry said. “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’ll be just like The Dead Poet’s Society.”
Zach Epstein is a senior at University of Texas, Austin who also served on the Hillel International student cabinet this past year. On campus, he was involved with Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, Texas Hillel, and served as a social entrepreneurship learning lab fellow.
“Interact with people who look and think differently than you; participate in clubs and groups that are different than the ones you grew up with,” Epstein said. “You will find the community you are looking for. You will play the sports and do the events you love. But the new experiences are the ones that will leave the biggest impact and the ones that will set you up for success in the world after college.”
Chloe Levian, a sociology junior at UCLA is involved with Hillel at UCLA, along with Bruins for Israel, and the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus. Levian had some suggestions for dealing with antisemitism in college:
“Please know that you are never alone, especially when facing antisemitism,” she said. “There are so many organizations on and off campus that are here to support you and give you the resources you need. Stand up against injustice and be a leader.”
Sofia Freudenstein is a senior at the University of Toronto who also served on the Hillel International student cabinet this past year. Freudenstein majored in Jewish Studies and Philosophy, and was a Hillel student leader at her college.
“Don’t just study— make use of your college’s theatre department, get a café job where you can speak with and learn about customers, go on long walks. Find an extracurricular, especially one that is a bit out of your comfort zone,” she suggests.
Megan Lucks is a senior chemistry (pre-vet) major and music minor at the University of Pittsburgh. Aside from being involved in the Hillel at her college, Lucks is part of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi sorority and the Heinz Chapel choir at Pitt.
“Make a bucket list of places to visit in your college town before you graduate, such as restaurants, festivals and local businesses,” Lucks recommends. “Take advantage of every opportunity you have to go to a museum, take a walk in a nice park, or get coffee with friends. College goes by quicker than you would expect.”
Ultimately, students agreed that college at times challenged them but was filled with moments of self-growth.
“Sometimes growing and learning is a bit uncomfortable,” Freudenstein said. “Lean into it. Going to college is about growing holistically as a person.”