When I think back to high school graduation, I remember feeling more than ready for the next chapter. I remember thinking I would adjust quickly and that the experience would be quite easy. Now that I’m three months into my gap year, I have a different view of myself. I’ve found that I’m not as “independent” as I thought I was. To clarify, I mean in the way that I rely a lot on my family and friends from home. Every time I’ve been away from home, I’ve never been homesick or really missed my family much. I think that might be because whenever I’m away from home I’m so busy doing things all the time that keep me distracted. This time around is very different because I’m simply living far away from home, so I have a lot of free time that I’ve had to learn to fill. Being away from home for this extended period has made me that much more grateful for my family and the relationships I have with them. Not to mention, I am so lucky to live in a time where it is so easy to keep in touch with anyone around the world. Speaking of free time that I’ve had to fill, I’ve found that alone time is essential. I live in an average college dorm-sized room, but instead of 2 people in a room, I have 4. I’m always surrounded by lots of people and noise, so I’ve come to value being alone whether that be on a walk or a rare hour alone in my room.
Not only has my view of myself changed, but my worldview has changed drastically. While living on a campus with so many international students, I have been able to see how people’s cultures translate into their personality and how they interact with others. I also realized how Judaism is something that connects Jewish people all over the world, no matter where they are from. It’s been incredible to use Hebrew to communicate with international peers since that is often our common language. Although each of us practice and express our Judaism differently, we all have something we can relate to. Additionally, on my trip to Poland, I visited the Jewish Community Center in Warsaw to learn about what they do and to donate necessities for Ukrainian refugees. While we were there, some refugees waited in line to receive a cup of soup and a piece of bread. I felt helpless and angry that these people had to leave their homes, family members, and friends to escape the war. Being there physically felt so surreal. Reading the news about refugees is one thing while seeing a crying Ukrainian woman walk out with soup in one hand and a baby in the other is something completely different. I realized how this one JCC is helping so many individuals and that human interaction and sympathy is extremely important. Although we may not have the power to completely change someone’s situation, we need to remember to be kind and help others as much as possible.