With the first semester of college behind us, many freshmen are wondering how it went by so quickly. The late-night pizzas, the cram sessions, and the crying sessions all melded together to create the whirlwind that is the first chapter of the “college experience.”Integrating yourself into the campus world can be difficult, but for Jewish students, there are all kinds of resources to enhance your experience. Here are seven tips for taking advantage of all the opportunities ahead (and, don’t worry, they’re not all about where to go to pray, if that’s not your thing):
1. Take advantage of free food.
I love food, you love food, and the Jewish people have created some of the most delicious food on the planet. If the dining hall isn’t cutting it and by a week into college your wallet has become just for show, check out the many amazing free food opportunities offered by Jewish organizations on campus. Bagel brunches, challah-making, and late-night snacks at Jewish campus organizations are ways to fill your stomach without emptying your wallet – and also get some great Jewish food you might be missing from home. (This isn’t to say Hillel or Chabad can rival your mom’s matzah ball soup, though.)
2. Go to meet-and-greets.
It can be hard to meet people on a new campus, but no matter where you go, you can always find some Jews to have a nosh with you. Jewish organizations on campus host a variety of events targeted at new students, and the best part is they usually have free food, too! (See tip #1.)
3. Ask for class recommendations.
If you don’t have an older sibling or friend who went to the college you’re attending, it can be hard to decide which classes are good and which ones must be avoided. To steer clear of bad classes, ask older members of an on-campus Jewish organization for advice. They’re more than happy to help and could even end up passing along their notes.
4. Find services that match your style.
Stranded at college for the high holidays? Services may not be everyone’s favorite few hours, but it can be comforting to engage in the same traditions you had at home, and Jewish organizations on campus often offer a wide range of services. Find the one that fits right for you, grab a few friends, and stare at the Hebrew in the siddur pretending you can read it.
5. Check out the Jewish institutions you wouldn’t normally try.
Although one Jewish organization sometimes dominates a college campus, there are usually many different ones to try. Chabad, the Jewish Resource Center (JRC), and Hillel are just a few of the common choices found across the country, and they each have great opportunities to get involved. Sample activities from each of them, or go where the free food takes you to find your best fit.
6. Take advantage of study hours.
Finding somewhere to study on campus can be a struggle, especially around finals time, but many Hillels offer study hours where Jewish students can come and study in a quiet environment. Not only do you get a quiet study space, but you can meet more people and they often provide snacks to keep you fueled while you prepare. If you just go for the free food, no one will blame you either. Everyone needs a study break.
7. Take leadership in the community.
Finally, if you find an organization you like, get involved! There are so many opportunities for leadership, and you can help create a great Jewish experience for the next generation of students.
Jillian Gordner is a first-year English major at the University of Michigan.