International Students Discover a Home Away from Home at Yeshiva University
“One of the most important aspects of college is diversity,” explained David Levy, a Yeshiva College student, who, along with Eddie Nuvakhov of Syms School of Business, produced The Community, a short documentary about international students on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus.
During a Shabbat meal on campus a few months ago, the two realized that the 11 people seated at their table originated from nine different countries. “We knew then that we had to show the greater YU population the unique community that exists on our campus,” said Nuvakhov, originally from Russia.
As of spring 2011, Yeshiva University’s entire undergraduate population consists of approximately 250 international students on both campuses from some 25 countries around the world. These countries range from Italy, Panama and Brazil to Canada, Tunisia and Uzbekistan.
“I never heard of Stern College for Women before,” said Tsipora Husiman, who hails from the Netherlands. “But during a visit to the States, I sat in on a biology class and a Jewish class and was really impressed that they were both on such high levels. It was really cool to be in a Jewish institution after having grown up in Amsterdam, a place without many Jews.”
Huisman found the Writing Center on the Beren Campus to be helpful in her transition, as well as her various advisers and teachers. “The teachers here treat you as a person and not as a number.” In Huisman’s three years at Stern College, she has not only become a fluent English speaker but has also been a member of the tennis team, a peer mentor, a student ambassador for orientations and open houses, a Beren campus tour guide and a two-time winner of YU’s science poster board competition.
“When I first came, I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anyone,” said Husiman. “Now I have tons of friends, am doing well in my studies and am applying to medical school. I’m not only happy here; I feel comfortable and grounded.”
Sasan Peimani, a business management major at Syms School of Business, escaped Iran with his family when he was 10 years old. “Being a religious Jew and getting a good education in Iran was a very difficult thing to do,” said Peimani. “As a result, my parents decided that it was time for us to move to America so we can start a new life filled with happiness and freedom.”
After the family moved to Florida, Peimani met Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, who was then rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue. After several discussions with Rabbi Brander, Peimani opted to attend YU. “One of my favorite parts about Yeshiva is all of the great friends I have made–friends who I know will be my close friends for many years to come,” said Peimani.
Recruited from Kfar Saba, Israel, for the YU men’s basketball team, the Maccabees, Chen Biron was similarly appreciative of the friends he has made at YU. “I’m happy that there are good people around me because that’s what is most important,” said Biron, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and current Syms School of Business student, majoring in international business.
As an Israeli, Biron found aspects of YU with which he was easily able to identify. “My favorite part about YU, aside from the basketball games, is the chagigot [celebrations]. I love them. Even in Israel, I didn’t get that experience with everyone dancing with each other and the Israeli flag. It really warms my heart.”
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ayala Raichlin feels that being a student at Stern College has given her the opportunity to develop her passions. “I came to Stern for the academics, Torah and dance,” said Raichlin, a junior pursuing a possible career in dance therapy. “I was able to get involved in the Stern dance show my first semester and choreograph the Stern musical my second semester. I now head the dance show.”
Raichlin has not only become an active member in the Beren Campus community, she is also involved in the larger Jewish community as a regular volunteer for Chai Lifeline and working as an NCSY adviser for the New England chapter.
“Being at Stern has been a positive experience,” said Raichlin. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I can achieve. This environment gives you so many opportunities: volunteering in a hospital, choreographing and always meeting new people. YU has given me much more than I would have ever thought was possible.”