When you leave for college, many adult responsibilities start to emerge on your radar. Some are universal: learning how to do your own laundry, trying not to start a fire in your dorm room while you make a microwaved dinner, and adjusting to your newfound independence. For many students, approaching this independence can include an exploration of their spiritual and religious lives. At Penn State, Jewish students have the opportunity to connect with their roots through Penn State Hillel. VALLEY got the chance to sit down with Emily Rosen, a senior at Penn State and dedicated member of the Hillel community, to learn more about her experience with Hillel as an integral part of her life in Happy Valley.
When Emily was growing up, she spent her summers at Emma Kaufmann Camp, which provided her with the opportunity to connect with her Jewish culture and community. Upon arriving at Penn State, Emily saw an avenue to extend this immersion through the Jewish Life Fellowship with Hillel. Through her exploration of life’s big questions with Hillel’s Jewish leaders, Emily found herself drawn to their dynamic drive for service and leadership. After becoming Vice President of the organization during her freshman year at Penn State, Emily found her home away from home in the spirit of the Hillel community.
Determined to help other students navigate their own spiritual journey as they made the transition to college, Emily became a Campus Engagement Fellow. Reflecting on this experience, Emily expressed, “Hillel helps me stay connected to my Jewish roots, which is a fundamental part of my identity. To me, Judaism is more of who I am than just what I do. I try to embody that every day by promoting Jewish ideals like kindness, compassion, and supporting others — wherever they might be in their personal journey. Through my involvement with Hillel, I have opportunities to attend Shabbat dinners, celebrate high holidays with my peers at Penn State, and have amazing conversations with truly enlightened Jewish leaders.”
Last month, the Hillel community celebrated the grand opening of The Gutterman Family Center for Jewish Life. Emphasizing the monumental nature of this milestone, Emily mused, “Hillel started out as a hallway at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, so it’s a significant upgrade to have our very own building, a place that’s dedicated just to us. Having a place to gather together, whether to celebrate our Jewish culture or simply be in community with one another, allows us to further develop our identity as an organization and as individuals.”
As she reflected on her own transition to college life, Emily offered advice for incoming freshmen. “Don’t be afraid to take the first step in a new direction when you’re looking to engage with your culture and understand your roots. Whether it’s with Hillel, or with other student organizations at Penn State, there are so many amazing opportunities to get involved. Most times, it just takes one leap of faith to start an incredible journey.” While it can be scary to dive into the unknown, overcoming fear can be the first step in finding your identity. Tag us on Instagram, @VALLEYmag, or Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, to share your journey!