By: Shuie Berger  | 

The Complainer’s College Conundrum

I’m a complainer. Not just in the “I’m Jewish so I complain a lot” sort of way, but more than that. I’m kind of known for it. Being the quintessential pessimist, I tend to look toward the bad in most situations rather than the good. I know that I am pessimistic, but I cannot help it. It’s a reflex.

Being the perpetual complainer, I spent my college career ragging on the school for various problems that I had or grumbling about issues I felt strongly about, in line with the theme of Judaism. (I can mention these because I already graduated.) Whether it was certain inconveniences about registration, bad teachers, unfair policies or the many other things I found issues with, I only dwelled on the bad. (I promise it gets better.) However, since I left in January, I have missed school. I am sure that many other editors who write these don’t get to say that. This unique opportunity has allowed me to tell all of you that however frustrated you are at the school or how much you think you hate it there, you’ll miss it when you’re gone. 

As I sit here writing, I cannot help but feel a bit weird. Toward the beginning of the year, a fellow student asked me if I would write “one of those end-of-year reflections that no one reads or cares about.” I never eagerly waited to read the end-of-year editorials, but I have read those from the last few years out of curiosity. I wasn’t even aware that people thought that way. I assume it might be the repetition of the articles and the seemingly aimless direction of the pieces. It might be something like “I wasn’t supposed to come to YU, but I am glad I did,” or “I never thought I would be involved with The Commentator, but it improved my YU experience.” It could be the inherent egotism of the articles, assuming the readers even care about your story. Someone might ask, “If the story is a recap of your time here, why should I care?” 

This is why I feel so odd about writing one of “these.” Each one of us that attends YU has different experiences, and I don’t think I could superimpose my own over others’. Unfortunately for you, I am going to do it anyway. I am going to bore you with details of my experiences, irritate you with subjective stories and bother you with unrelatable anecdotes. 

I have gained a lot from YU, and I never thought I’d say that. I, the person who would gripe about every little thing, miss YU. I now have the privilege to look back at my three and a half years there and pick out the things I obtained and improved upon. 

It started even before I came to YU. All I had known about it came from my brother, who had gone to YU ten years prior, and from YU and Stern Confessions (Hameivin Yavin). My brother is like me, so all he told me was the bad, meaning my impression of YU before I even went there was through the lens of a complainer. Additionally, my time management skills and work ethic were not particularly fine-tuned, as I mentioned in an article last year, so even academically, I was unprepared. I was cognizant of my disadvantage and the fact that the path forward would be challenging.

And it was. However, I learned a lot about myself. I learned about my study habits, my likes and dislikes and where my priorities lie. And thankfully, the teachers I had were, in my opinion, much better than my brother’s. I am thankful to the school and the teachers for improving the learning experience to a point in which it taught me well but wasn’t overly difficult. 

Like everyone else, I came into YU not knowing what I was getting myself into. I am not sure about the numbers, but I like to think that many other students, many of whom are from the tri-state area, visited YU in high school: a tour of the school, a few meetings with administrators, some basic school propaganda, etc. Many high school students have also seen the campus for the many events that YU holds on its grounds. I will also assume that many students applied to more than one school, because why would you limit yourself and put all your eggs in one basket?

I didn’t get a chance to visit the school or even see the campus. I also only applied to one school. This meant that I was banking on getting into a school I have never seen and of which my only knowledge came from my brother. I knew it would be different from his, not only because the teachers would probably be different, but also because he started YU with his two closest friends. I was not bringing any of my childhood friends and came to YU knowing very few people outside the other Gush alumni I met in Israel. My network was tiny, and I knew that. 

Over the last four years, I have met many new people and made friends with people I would otherwise have nothing to do with. Although I thought the CORE curriculum was unnecessary and overly complicated, it allowed me to cultivate relationships with some amazing professors and friends. It also was responsible for my title as the last music major at YU. I found a mentor and teacher in Professor Beliavsky, to whom I credit my love and understanding of music. He is truly a remarkable teacher and I have YU to thank for his hiring. 

I also want to thank Professor Beliavsky publicly for his dedication to me and my study of music. He changed the entire music major curriculum for me and took time out of his own week to teach me, just a single student. In my last semester, I took the Intro to Piano class, which ended up being one of my favorite classes I have taken at YU. Professor Beliavsky really cares about each and every one of his students, and his devotion to his students is his top priority. I will miss classes with him and learning from him, but I will always have what he taught me with me in life. 

I will also miss having many of my friends in one place. I would see many of them throughout the day, over the course of the week, and Shabbos was time to spend with them outside of the few minutes between classes. We tend to forget the convenience of having mostly everyone in our circles being within half a mile of us. I think about the number of people I am able to invite for meals on Shabbos and the friends I ran into daily. Since I graduated, I haven't had those interactions as often, resorting to Shabbos meals to see them. Some of my friends left last year after 3 years, but many more are leaving this summer, meaning that my friends that were within arms reach are dispersing to various parts of the country, leaving me with unread texts and almost non-existent run-ins. 

As I and my fellow graduates close out the YU chapter of our lives, I hope we can look back at our time there and realize what we gained. I criticized the school for years before understanding how impactful my experience at YU was. I came in with so little but left with so much. I know many out there felt the same going in, and I am sure most can feel the same leaving. We have an opportunity to appreciate what we achieved while at Yeshiva University, and we shouldn’t squander it. After inundating you with my story, I hope you’ll look back on your time here in the same way: as a complainer’s college conundrum.


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