Welcome Home

Welcome back students! We are excited some of you are here and the rest of you are coming soon! This has been a very fast summer and for many a challenging one as well. This year we welcome you all back, and for many for the first time with a heart of embrace and a place to call home. As you arrive take note of the people around you. They are your family. They have come, just like you, with hopes and dreams of a bright future. They have also arrived with anxieties about being accepted for who they are. Maybe this is also you.

These are years you have to explore what it means to grow maybe one way and then maybe another. These are times you have to wonder about who you can be and how to live fully into who you already are. Emory is a place we as a community have committed to explore together the uniqueness of everyone’s discoveries and transitions. Our office is directed towards the religious and spiritual dimensions of your whole self, but does not neglect any one part of you. You are fully accepted and acknowledged by each of us. With the collaboration of campus ministers, rabbis, and religious life advisors from the five major world religions we seek to foster a practice of embrace across and for difference. We do this without requiring anyone to give up on his, her, or their own identities. You are encouraged to be yourself and flourish in doing so by being in relationships with those who are different from you.

Your differences are what make this community beautiful. They become part of the DNA of the college and the very thing that opens up opportunity for practicing authenticity and growth. As you arrive with all of your uniqueness and difference, arrive together. Arrive with hope that roommates and classmates, custodians and faculty, and everyone in between are all here to grow alongside you. Come with a prayer that because you have inherent value already, that you may be someone who can recognize and teach others how to see that value within themselves.

Be encouraged that you are not the only one encouraging others. Take heart that you are not alone and there are many others who are seeking to grow alongside you. Find practices early on that keep you connected to the people around you as well as grounded in your own self. Don’t become lost in the milieu of grandeur and excellence, but remember where you come from and share that deep meaning with your family. Make this your home.

5 Practical Steps to a Better You This Rosh Hashana

It’s that time of year again–everyone is optimistic at the endless prospects and opportunities of a new beginning. This lasts until we slowly begin to acknowledge our inability to commit to half of the things we planned on, dreadfully realizing the inevitable stress to come, by the third week of school. The rest of the semester isn’t looking too bright…

So how can we momentarily take a step back from our labs, papers, and pop quizzes and appreciate the unique opportunity we’ve been given that is the New Year? How do we recognize that the beginning of the school year isn’t only about making the most “ideal” schedule or finding the best shortcuts to class? Rather, it’s about working on ourselves and establishing goals and values to set for the year.

Introducing, Rosh Hashana.

Rosh, or head, and Hashana, the year, literally means the head, or beginning, of the year. This is the Jewish New Year. The holiday typically falls on the first two days of the Jewish month of Tishrei and is followed by a 10-day period of prayer, repentance, and self-reflection on the past year which culminates on the fast day of Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Now, while some might dread the long, tedious hours of sitting at their respective synagogues, counting down the pages of the Machzor, or prayer book used on the high holidays, others welcome this opportunity for self-reflection and awareness on how they acted the past year and how they’d like to start acting in the upcoming year. The beauty of this holiday is its significant focus on individual growth and self-awareness. The way we act and goals we make for ourselves at this critical time will set the tone for the entire year.

As with many things in Judaism, there are specific steps to the way we should repent–ask God for forgiveness–and begin to work on improving ourselves for the upcoming year. Here is a list of 5 practical ways we can all get closer to the best versions of ourselves this year.

  1. Don’t Push it Off

You’re never going to find the perfect time to get rid of a bad habit. Don’t wait for some magical sign to get you started. Don’t wait until you’re at a low point in your life. Start today.

  1. Baby Steps

 Don’t try to change too many things at once. When we take steps that are too large, we end up falling backwards. Work on one goal at a time as slowly as needed. It’s better to accomplish a goal slowly and confidently rather than sloppily and half-heartedly. You’ll most likely feel more accomplished knowing that you were thorough and took your time.

  1. List Your Goals

            Write down goals for the week, month, and year. This will give you a daily reminder of what you should be working on. Once you write things down, it becomes clearer what you need to work on.

  1. Talk to Someone

Let someone know that you’re trying to change. It’ll keep you accountable and motivated and provide you with the support you need.

  1. Eyes on the Prize

Stay focused on your goal. But, most importantly, reward yourself when you see a change. Personal growth is really difficult. We’re all pretty used to the way we’re wired and to change that, even a little, requires a lot of patience, discipline, and self-awareness. Give yourself a pat on the back when you feel that you accomplished a goal for a job well done!

So, here it is. 5 concrete methods for self-improvement and growth. Try to think about these things and reflect on the kind of person you want to be and the year you’d like to have. Even though GPAs and test scores are important to a successful college experience, self-reflection and personal growth are crucial for a meaningful life.

 

Shana Tova and Happy New Year!

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Rosh_Hashannah/rosh_hashannah.htm

http://www.aish.com/h/hh/rh/guide/7-Tips-for-Rosh-Hashanah.html?s=mpw

Becca Sirota and Jessica Nooriel

Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love College

My name is Peter Leistikow. I am a junior from Atlanta, Georgia. I am studying Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Sociology.

If you are a freshman, this is a conversation template you have come to understand and possibly despise. However, it does not define you. Although I have been solicited to offer some advice now that you have begun your college journey, I don’t want to be condescending, or give you a disingenuous view of Emory, as that is a job best left to your RAs. Rather, I want to tell you about my own journey and some lessons learned along the way that, ironically, even a well-written yet snarky blog post could not have prepared me to experience.

When I came to school, I imagine I was like many freshman entering campus armed with vague goals and a history of success, but very little idea of which way to turn for direction. Between the constant games, social obligations (unlimited swipes at the DUC means three breakfasts with three different groups of friends), and club fairs, it feels like you are always on the cusp of a new adventure.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to these initial experiences; either “be yourself” and stay the way you are, or “try new things!” and reinvent yourself in college. I offer you a third option: Be who you want to become. There is nothing wrong with letting go of old hobbies while in the pursuit of new ones, but you don’t have to be moving for the sake of motion or to simply feel like you are getting somewhere. For example, in high school I defined myself through a love of cross-country and track running, playing music, and going to concerts. When I came to school, I changed my time management, but not my passions. I still love to run on the weekends, but I won’t be doing another half marathon anytime soon. I don’t play in the school orchestra, but I still go to every concert for which I can afford a ticket, and I use comedic writing as a new creative outlet. These things fulfilled me, but they were not at the center of the person I wanted to be.

I was very careful in determining which college pursuits aligned with my values. For example, like many freshmen, I had grown up a the fraternity system; when John Belushi donned the “College” sweatshirt and downed a handle, it appeared as a stand-in for every popular college fraternity brother. However, I quickly found that the Greek system became a wedge in burgeoning dorm relationships, and while many succeeded in the high-octane atmosphere, many did not. I too tried to convince myself that joining a fraternity could be the path to a college career well-lived, but ultimately I found the experience not to be fulfilling, and I quietly dropped out of the rush process. Although I did eventually become an executive of a now-chartered coed honor fraternity, I will always regret feeling like the Greek system was the only place to go to find belonging in a campus brimming with students of diverse interests and backgrounds.

While it was easy to decide where to trim the fat, it was very difficult to find out what I would use to fill the void. What I found was that, to quote the great philosopher Taylor Swift, “what you’re looking for has been here the whole time.” Church, among other things, seemed to be reminding me that “you belong with me!” Indeed, I did belong in church, and I needed a faith that would grow with me as I did.

While I grew up in the church, certain events in high school had strained my faith, making me wary of beginning again in church once I entered school. However, once I met the people of the Emory Wesley Fellowship, I knew that this group could help me become the person I wanted to be. In fact, it was through their acceptance, love, and support and the study of the sermon series, and book of the same name, “When Christians Get It Wrong” by Adam Hamilton, that I was able to reconcile my religious beliefs with the biting realities of my past and my tumultuous freshman year present.

When I think back to freshman year, I remember most of all everyone’s prevailing desire to fit in and find acceptance. It took me a long time to realize I didn’t have to please my parents, my dorm mates, my church group, my coworkers, and myself all the time. In reality, all those people ever needed from me was for me to be the person I wanted to become.

Written by Peter Leistikow a Member of Emory Wesley Foundation.

http://emorywesley.org