Staying Ahead when You're Forced to Fall Behind

Being a university student is tough as it is. Throw clubs, a social life, and a plethora of responsibilities into the mix, and the hardest part of the college experience becomes the sheer ability to balance it all against your academics. And for some of us students, the first few months of school present the massive challenge of having to miss class. As an Orthodox Jew, I have already missed multiple classes for holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and day of Judgement as well as Yom Kippur. These holidays hold immense significance in my life, and going to class on these days was never negotiable. But once I arrived on this campus, I found myself questioning these values for the first time in my life. Skipping class was going to be complicated and I couldn’t help but ponder the worth of my religion against the material I would miss in my lectures.

And yet, I chose to take the plunge towards spirituality, spending the days praying in the Synagogue and sharing meals with my friends.

The idea of the Sabbath stems from the Bible, when God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. To parallel this structure, Jewish Sages composed a set of guidelines for their followers to observe on the Sabbath and on holidays, including the cessation of cell-phone usage, writing, and television. On such days, I turn my electronic devices off and distance myself from all work besides minimal studying. But when these restrictions begin to fall in the middle of the week rather than the usual Friday night to Saturday, keeping up with my course load becomes a lot more confusing. Compromising my personal values to guarantee more time towards assignments or perfect attendance never seem necessary until the moment I sit in Synagogue on the holiest day of the year and find my thoughts drifting to the work I have to make up tomorrow. Still, I'm forced to resist my temptations and tell myself that my beliefs allow for a​ mental health break that will only prove beneficial in the long-run. The conflict of having to pick one or the other, when you know you deserve both, is infuriating.

When recalling her experience missing Chemistry lab for the observance of Yom Kippur, one my freshman friends told me, “My professor claimed it would be unfair to secular students if religious students are exempt from lab due to religious observance. When I contacted someone about my conflict, I was told to either switch to a different lab time for the semester, or take the class a different semester. Given that the other lab times conflicted with the other courses I am enrolled in, the director of Hillel, Tilly Shames, helped me get in contact with a dean of students in the School of LSA to ultimately be excused from the lab.” Stories like my friend's show up all across campus during the span of our holidays, but thankfully, the University understands religious needs and allows for concessions to be made. But the bigger challenge is always convincing myself that I would be fine and reasoning that students miss class all the time, whether for travel or sick days, and that, just like them, I too would be alright

Spoiler alert!!!! I spent each of the holidays in Synagogue and had meaningful experiences, and I WAS OKAY! I passed my midterms, took advantage of office hours and math lab, and am still on track to being another University of Michigan success story!

College is truly about finding oneself, and compromising one’s values should never need to be part of the equation. ​ Self-exploration is not only important but also necessary! DO NOT forget who you are just because life has become more stressful along the way. There is always a solution and remember forever that your spiritual needs are never the problem.