By: Shayel Chocron  | 

A Letter to the Freshman Class

Embracing my identity as a Latina within the Yeshiva University (YU) community has been a deeply enriching and occasionally challenging journey. Joining a cohort of Latinas coming from Panama and engaging with Latinas from diverse corners of the world has provided me with a profound sense of connection and the comforting ambiance of home. The shared purpose that drew us to YU has formed and directed our lives and tied us together. As we have come to know one another, I have felt a genuine sense of belonging, whether through celebrating Shabbat together, participating in various activities, exploring New York City or simply enjoying coffee and attending classes side by side. These shared experiences have consistently reinforced my sense of inclusion within this academic community.

Nevertheless, being a Latina at YU does present certain challenges, primarily revolving around language. Despite having been educated in an American school in Panama City, comprehending course materials and engaging in classroom discussions can occasionally prove more demanding for those of us who did not grow up speaking English as a first language. Communicating effectively and ensuring that one's thoughts and ideas are fully understood can be a complex endeavor, including pronunciation. However, the rewards of studying within a culturally diverse Jewish environment while forging connections with peers from different countries makes the endeavor entirely worthwhile. The journey, though challenging, ultimately offers a sense of growth and self-discovery.

Meeting new people, especially those who do not share a common language, can be daunting. The pursuit of meaningful connections and a deeper understanding of coursework can be intricate when English is not one's native tongue. Expressing oneself among American and international friends who may not speak Spanish can be challenging, as we endeavor to convey our true selves in a foreign tongue. The transition from the familiar comforts of home to the rigors of dorm life, laundry and cafeteria dining can be demanding. Yet, it is important to acknowledge that we are all navigating this uncharted territory together. 

Over time, one acquires a greater command of the English language, becomes more adept at self-expression and gains a better understanding of others' perspectives. People readily recognize that we are newcomers and are more inclined to extend compassion rather than judgment. In my opinion, allowing oneself the necessary time to adapt and evolve linguistically is crucial. The transition to a new environment can indeed be challenging, but it also offers a unique opportunity for independence and personal growth. By recognizing that life may not always be characterized by comfort or the company of many, we can embrace the chance to spend time with ourselves, learn new skills and ultimately become the best versions of ourselves. 

Effective time management can be a formidable challenge, particularly in a bustling active city like New York. The desire to forge new connections and immerse oneself in the vibrant city while diligently pursuing one's lifelong academic aspirations can create a delicate balancing act. My first semester in this dynamic city presented me with a personal struggle in mastering time management.

I soon recognized the necessity of judiciously allocating time to my major. It felt unrealistic to expect the best of both worlds. Consequently, I adopted a proactive approach to complete my assignments promptly, irrespective of my location — be it in the cafeteria, the library, the privacy of my own room or a cozy café. By immersing myself entirely in the task at hand and temporarily setting aside distractions like my phone, I ensured that my academic responsibilities were fulfilled promptly.

This approach, which entailed a commitment to completing assignments on schedule rather than procrastinating until the last minute, significantly contributed to a harmonious balance between my academic commitments and social engagements. Managing my academic responsibilities allowed me to enjoy the vibrant city and make meaningful connections with fellow students, enhancing my overall experience. We are students and we must prioritize our studies, but we are also in New York and should learn to take advantage of the unique opportunities that living here provides as well.

Yeshiva University offers an array of exceptional resources to assist students in various aspects of their academic and personal well-being. For those seeking support with their mental health, the Counseling Center provides professional services. The Writing Center offers valuable support to students and academic advising services are available to ensure effective class scheduling and course organization for each major. Each of these departments is overseen by a dedicated faculty member who facilitates meetings and aids students in optimizing their semester schedules. It is crucial to recognize that YU fosters a supportive environment in which both institutional resources and the support of peers, friends and classmates are readily accessible to meet your needs.

My journey as a Latina at YU has been a multifaceted experience, marked by a profound sense of belonging and the occasional challenges that come with it. Sharing this path with fellow Latinas from Panama and encountering an array of diverse Latinas from around the world has enriched my life with connections and a profound feeling of home. YU has become more than just an institution; it is a community where shared experiences, like celebrating Shabbat, partaking in activities and exploring New York City, have cemented our bonds.

The challenges I have faced at YU have only fortified the belief that, in embracing change and challenges we can uncover our most resilient, capable and authentic selves. The warmth of connection, the pursuit of academic excellence and the vibrant energy of New York have come together to create a remarkable chapter in my life's journey, one that I will continue to embrace and celebrate.


Photo Caption: Despite our diverse countries of origin and ways of thinking, we all stand unified.

Photo Credit: Clay Banks // Unsplash