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New Students Embark on Their YU Journey as Undergraduate Orientation Kicks Off

This week, Yeshiva University will welcome hundreds of new students to its Wilf and Israel Henry Beren Campuses as they settle in for their first year of study in fields ranging from biology to marketing, political science to Jewish education, mathematics to studio art and beyond. The students’ backgrounds are as diverse as their interests: this year’s incoming class includes natives from across the United States and countries around the world, including Switzerland, Argentina and France, among others. But all of them are united by their decision to inaugurate one of the most important periods of their lives here, at the only institution where they can receive an unmatched academic education and launch their professional careers while deepening their understanding and commitment to Judaism.


Wednesday, August 21 marked the beginning of Fall 2013 Orientation, five days jam-packed with exciting activities and information sessions designed to help first-time-on-campus students make themselves at home here. Interactive walking tours of both campuses, led by student guides, introduced newcomers to key locations, staff and resources dedicated to their personal and academic success, while sessions such as “Where You Are; Where You’re Going” on the Wilf Campus and “Pursuing Possibilities: Women in Careers” on the Beren Campus offered a sampling of the many avenues of study available at YU.

Throughout Orientation, an emphasis on YU’s unique mission—integrating Torah and academic study into a holistic educational and identity-forming experience—prepared new students for the rigorous intellectual task of studying in a dual-curriculum environment. Shiurim [lectures] such as “Balancing Talmud Torah and College Studies” and the panel discussion “Infuse Torah into Your College Experience” set the tone for their undergraduate careers. Local service missions later in the week will also give students the opportunity to visit patients at the New York University Hospital, help restore a local park or volunteer at a soup kitchen, highlighting the crucial role giving back plays in a YU education.

Still, the fun and excitement of new beginnings are major components of each day. Beren Campus students got a chance to relax and bond with Student Life staff, student guides and student leaders at a Popcorn and Panoply Party and will participate in dinner and a show (STOMP) during a Broadway Extravaganza on Thursday, while Wilf Campus students head out with their rebbeim and professors for another authentic New York experience as they watch the Brooklyn Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees and ride the roller coasters at Coney Island’s Luna Park. The fun will continue with trips to Museum Mile and a tour of the Union Square Farmers Market on Friday, as well as a YU Fit Boot Camp Workout, an intense group exercise with an ACE-certified fitness instructor to introduce students to the new YU Fit health initiative on campus.

Orientation will culminate in a special Shabbaton hosted on each campus featuring faculty members, engaging programming and a warm community atmosphere—just a taste of what students can expect from Shabbat on campus in the months to come.

Student Resources

As new students become part of the YU community, there are a host of innovative resources available to help them navigate their college experience.

Quick Sheets, a palm-sized fan book, will be made available to all new and returning YU students on the Beren and Wilf Campus. The reference piece contains useful cards listing operating hours for libraries, cafeterias and shuttles, as well as important contact information, eruv maps and other details students need at their fingertips.

Yeshiva College recently revamped its core curriculum to allow students broad exposure to multiple academic disciplines and teach them to engage in sophisticated ways with cultures beyond their own. Get to know the ins and outs of each new category and course offering through this easy-to-navigate website.

“New to YU,” a one-stop website with information on everything from class schedules to dorm rooms, is the perfect place to go when students don’t even know where to start. Whether they’re looking to become more involved in student life or just need help getting around New York City, the site is full of helpful links and tips to get students off to a great start.

Still have questions? Students can call the Office of Student Life helpline at 212-960-5411 or email answers@yu.edu with any issue, question of comment about any aspect of life at YU, whether that’s “How do I find a chavrusa?” “What is the shuttle schedule?” or “Where do I share a new idea?”

For true insider tips, check out advice from current student leaders and alumni about making the most of your YU experience.

During Orientation, students can purchase seforim at the Student Life Center, located on the corner of 187th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. It’s a good idea to get acquainted with the Center early on in your college career—during the year, it’s the home of student government activity and event planning, and a great way to get involved on campus.

Nowhere But Here

On Wednesday, YU President Richard M. Joel captured his first words of welcome to new students on the Beren Campus with Google Glass, inviting them to imagine shaping their college experiences through a different lens: Torah values. “Education is not just downloading information,” he said. “It’s creating an environment where we converse with you to enable you to pursue any career or profession you desire in a values-oriented way. You’re a partner with all of us in this sacred community where you can work together to make a profound difference in the world.”

Dr. Karen Bacon, the Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of Stern College, agreed. “Each new entering class brings its own unique energies and talents to YU. This year’s class promises to take full advantage of all we have to offer and in turn contribute to the dynamic growth of this University—the excitement on campus is palpable.”

Adam Berman, of Stamford, CT, was excited to get started. He has already seen the difference YU students have made in his own hometown as part of the Center for the Jewish Future’s Torah Tours. “It made a big impact on me when they came to my shul, Agudat Shalom—I was thinking about my year in Israel, and they gave me great advice,” he said. Now considering a math major, Berman is hoping to get involved with the CJF himself.

For Aaron Kurtzman, YU’s reach extended all the way to his home city of Omaha, NE—his local rabbi, Jonathan Gross, is a graduate of the YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and frequently brings high school students all the way out to the Wilf Campus to meet with the Yeshiva University Political Action Committee (YUPAC). “I’ve been here with my rabbi several times and loved it,” said Kurtzman, who was also attracted by the unique access to advanced Judaic studies that YU offers. “I’m hoping to major in political science and maybe become a lobbyist.”

Max Noah Dechter, of Woodmere, NY, plans to study psychology at Yeshiva College and possibly pursue a joint career in psychology and education in Israel after he graduates. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to afford to come here, but the staff made sure that I could,” he said. “I can’t wait to sit and learn in the beit midrash in the Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center at night with so many other guys. Nowhere else can you find this source of Torah and ruchniyas [spirituality] in a college setting.”

Adeena Ratner ’73S, ’75BR, of Brooklyn, NY, was dropping off her youngest daughter, Chana, at Stern College, which she termed “a family tradition”—her son, two other daughters, sister and father also attended YU. “Some of the happiest years of my life were at Stern and I want my children to have that as well, the deep connection to their heritage and good friendships that will sustain them throughout their lives,” she said. “I’m still in touch with my college roommates.”

It’s something of a tradition for Julie Barel of Boca Raton, FL, a new student at Stern College, as well. As she moved into her dorm on the Beren Campus, her brother Ben was settling in uptown for his first year of study, too. “I’m excited to study in New York City, make great friendships and become independent,” she said. Ultimately, Barel hopes to become a social worker.

Stay Connected

With hundreds of on-campus events and activities each semester, there’s always something happening at YU. Whether it’s a film festival, lecture, philosophical debate, sporting event or concert, there’s something for everyone. Visit the Events Calendar to see what’s scheduled this week.

Keep up with the latest University news and announcements throughout the year by visiting the YUNews blog. Students can also connect with the University’s official social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Flickr, Foursquare, Instagram and iTunes.

You can  also connect with YU wherever you are with YU Mobile, a new app available for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android, which enables you to do everything from planning your semester with our course catalog to browsing the YU Library catalog and finding campus locations through the map portal.

And don’t forget to keep up to speed with Orientation Week activities by following Student Life on Twitter at @yustudentlife.