Waiting on line: Manhattan’s least favorite pastime. Yet, the queue which wound its way along Madison Avenue in the early morning of August 22 consisted not of anxious theatre-goers in dire need of tickets, foot-tapping executives pining for gourmet pizza, or tired techies two days in to a three day camp-out in front of the Apple store. On this line were the incoming freshmen at Stern College for Women and their excitement was infectious. As the newcomers began making their way into Brookdale, student guides dispensed water bottles, information, and words of encouragement. After settling into their rooms and giving parents and friends quick, parting hugs, students made a beeline for Stanton Hall. Orientation had begun.
With their college careers an unmapped terrain, the students began by exploring the variety of majors offered at Stern College and sat in on presentations about their majors or minors of interest. Student guides then treated the freshies to a detailed tour of the campus. “Pursuing Possibilities: Women in Careers,” an event which took place later that evening, afforded students the opportunity to hear from women who achieved success in a broad range of careers. The women spoke candidly about the struggles and satisfactions of balancing career, home, and religious life. The evening culminated with “Popcorn and Panoply”—a fusion of fun, food, and Stern trivia.
Students arose early the next morning; there was still so much to learn and explore. Workshops about the computer labs, libraries, writing center, and university and residence life ran throughout the afternoon. A New York-themed dinner celebrated the best of the Big Apple and gave students a taste of the city they now call home. Caricaturists and calligraphists furnished striking pictures of names and faces – perfect décor for new dorm rooms. Bellies full from the barbecue, the students then journeyed to the world of Broadway, where Mary Poppins sang, dance, flew, and dazzled. Friday afternoon proved equally eventful as students, armed with their new metro cards, ventured to the Met and to the Union Square Farmers Market.
In a quick round of word association, the first Shabbaton at Stern would elicit “inspiring” and “meaningful.” Shiurim from Rabbi Blau, Rabbi Kanarfogel and Mrs. Schechter imbued Shabbat with tremendous Torah and learning. Shabbat afternoon activities included a midtown walking tour, bikur cholim with TAC, and a meet and greet with Dean Bacon and Dean Orlian. Motzai Shabbat was capped off with an ice-cream party and rounds of “human guess who” and Pictionary. The inspiration of Shabbat carried over to the next morning with a morning of learning which spotlighted “Torah and the 21st Century.” Following the shiurim, school buses carried students uptown to Wilf Campus for a “Welcome Bash,” replete with guided tours of the campus, lunch, and live music courtesy of the Moshav Band.
The 2012 SCW orientation united international students, transfer students, students back from Israel and students fresh out of high school. Whatever country or school they came from, orientation played an integral role in the acclimation process. “It’s harder than if you came straight from Israel because you know less people,” noted Kory Darling, a transfer student from Portland Community College. However, Kory added that Stern “does a good job of making you feel comfortable and planning fun events.” Elianne Neuman, who has begun Stern this semester after a year at Nishmat in Israel, echoed Kory’s sentiments. Elianne described orientation as a “good transition period” and commented that the “the school has so many resources and they really want to help us.” In the words of the Midrash, all beginnings are difficult. Fortunately, SCW’s multi-faceted orientation has equipped students with the tools to begin this new chapter in their lives with confidence and success.
Shalva Ginsparg is a first year on campus.