By: Akiva Koppel  | 

From the President’s Desk: SYMSSC — Autumn in the Heights

Now that the Jewish holiday season has ended, we have returned to school with almost half of the fall semester still ahead. Some students around the country, in other schools, would probably be devastated if they woke in mid-November to learn that they still had an entire half semester ahead of them. I, however, am looking forward to a high-intensity, compressed semester lasting just two months. It is almost as bracing and invigorating as the cold weather that is certainly on its way.

While some students respond well to an accelerated semester when the chagim are late, others seem to flounder. Those who might be new to YU or who have not found extracurricular activities may be at special risk for remaining alone on the sidelines as the activities around the campus continue to ramp up.

There are many in the YU community who have not yet started to participate in some of the programming that is waiting for them, and I am concerned that some of us isolate ourselves in our dorm rooms between classes and study sessions, allowing boredom to set in. Ennui can lead to performance problems at school and, as a leader, it is my job to help inspire other students to be active around campus. People who are bored have time and ability to be creative and plan future activities, but instead waste moments and hours that they will never have back. People who are bored spend time with interests such as frequently refreshing Facebook, checking sports scores that they already know, or shopping online for stuff that nobody will ever buy. Bored people just whittle away at time when they could be learning something new, enjoying time with others, or being active outside their rooms. Moreover, boredom can lead to unhappiness and to other unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking, or excessive eating. It can even be associated with depression or other psychological problems. I feel that the number one key to excitement and a feeling of fulfilment is doing something that you love to do, and boredom is the enemy of fun and enjoyment.

As we commit ourselves to our coursework, we owe it to ourselves to become fully involved in the rest of the YU community that is available to us. We may not have the same patterns of foliage and other hallmarks of autumn that other college campuses around the Northeast have at this time, but we have an autumn spirit, drive, and desire that could rival any campus full of leaf peepers. I for one have rejoined the Maccabees’ fencing team, and I am looking forward to some good tournaments and camaraderie. I am aware of some terrific clubs and other teams that are beginning to get busy as well, and this is the perfect time of the year to find a new area of interest to explore. As the weeks pass, we will all find ourselves with less and less time outside, but we still have a steady set of two months of uninterrupted time for school, campus, and community. The clubs and teams are a terrific antidote to boredom and isolation.

If you have not yet gravitated to a club or organization that fits an interest of yours, here are some suggestions you may want to consider:

Exercise: The YU fitness center isn’t the fanciest gym known to mankind. However, it certainly has everything necessary to get a full body workout. Additionally, exercise for those who aren’t engaged in exercise programs can yield many extra benefits, including stamina improvement, weight control, stress reduction, and might even help prevent certain diseases and health conditions. The YU pool, one of the most underutilized facilities on campus, also provides an excellent workout option.  For convenience sake, the basketball gym, the fitness center, and the pool are all located in Rubin. It’s so worthwhile to make the trip when you have opportunities to engage in any of these options, plus it’s the same building that also has the cafeteria!

Club opportunities: The rule in student council is that no club or society may bar entry to any of their events. As such, we have many exciting speakers and events coming up that are worth attending. Ben Shapiro, a famous Jewish journalist who was recently rated one of America’s most influential Jews, will be speaking here soon. That is an event not to miss. And there are many other excellent opportunities across campus that will fit into different interests. Keep your eyes peeled for flyers around campus as well as promotional emails through the “ystud” system.

Given the expectation that the Fed will raise interest rates this year, and given the surprise outcome of the presidential election, the markets may become more dynamic than ever. This is an exciting time to study markets with friends and classmates. Joining one of our many business-related clubs and getting to know other classmates in a more relaxed setting can help you better understand the behavior of the markets.

Hiking: We are near the end of autumn, and now is the time to get in a little hiking where you will be able to enjoy the foliage in all its refulgent splendor. Breakneck Ridge, the tri-state area’s best easy hike, is a simple drive or train ride away, up in the Hudson Valley in Cold Spring. A Sunday morning hike with some classmates will treat you to captivating views of the Hudson River from 800 feet above, as well as a view all the way to West Point. If you do not have the time to get up to Breakneck Ridge, Ft. Tryon Park or even Central Park offer some superb foliage opportunities as well.

Shabbat on Campus: For many years, our campus emptied out for the weekend, with most unmarried students running home or to the homes of friends. Now, however, the weekends are a bit more of a happening scene. Many of us stay in the Heights, eating in each other’s apartments or on campus. Kiddush clubs (generally post-shacharit social gatherings with drinks and nice shabbat food spreads) around the YU community have never been so superb. Remaining on campus for Shabbat eliminates the rush and the pressure that many of us feel at the end or the beginning of the week and is a great way to meet new people and relax with others.

I hope to see you out enjoying an activity or two that you have chosen to try for the first time. You will be happier for it, and we as a community will have more chances to make more friends. Remember, as Warren Miller always said about skiing, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.”