Jordan R.:

When people go through a hard time, it’s especially important for them to have at least one person that they feel comfortable talking to. It might be a parent or therapist, a friend or a teacher. Someone outside yourself. I had a friend from high school who died four years ago and many of us realized afterwards that he was keeping all his troubles in and wasn’t talking to anyone about his issues. Rabbi Mendel says the Talmud says, “A prisoner can’t free himself without help from the outside” Shawshank Redemption aside, and that’s just as true when we feel imprisoned in our own minds. I’m appreciative of those who are there for me, and hopefully I can be there as a supportive friend for others as well. 

Isaac S.:

I got this before Shabbos from Rabbi Shaul Wertheimer of Queens College Chabad and director of the Ari study program which I attended one winter break. He used the atom bomb as an illustration. Basically, the scientists on the Manhattan project realized that ironically more power and impact could be generated by splitting the atom, the smallest of particles, invisible to the naked eye, more than if we were to smash large heavy objects. The same could be said of Avraham. He was an individual against the masses, he was alone in his belief, he was one person. But don’t underestimate the incredible power within us, if unleashed and harnessed properly tremendously outsized impacts can result! We might not be Avraham, but we also must realized the power of each and every person, the transformative role we can play in our communities, societies and indeed, the world! 

Jack S.:

After graduating with my undergrad and masters last year from UAlbany, I’m now thankfully working for a large NYC accounting firm. I’m new there, an associate in a very large firm. Coming back here got me thinking about the cycle of life that keeps repeating itself. Think back! Do you remember 8th grade when you were fresh off your bar-mitzvahs and the oldest at your middle/grade school, the big machers that the 5th and 6th graders looked up to? Then next year you were in high school, and you were a nobody. You had to start again from scratch, working your way up from the bottom. Finally you reach your senior year, applying to colleges, all grown up and… when you get to college, there you are – a freshman all over again. Learning the ropes, looking up to the juniors and seniors, finding your way. And the up and down cycle continues. Even after you build yourself up, earn your way, graduate from college, or maybe even with a masters, and you landed a good job – but there you are, the new guy again, the beginner, fresh out of college, you need to earn your stripes… 

Why am I sharing with you this cycle of life? Because as we spiral our way forward in life, it is always important to keep in mind and be humble about our place. When a freshmen sits down next to you, remember that not too long ago, you too, were a freshman, and in the not too distant future, you will be a freshmen someplace else again. And freshmen are not just freshmen. They were high school seniors last year and will be college seniors before long. It’s a big cycle of life, constantly moving, don’t get too wrapped up in the position you are in right now… 

Libby A.W.:

I didn’t go to school here and only got to visit UAlbany a few times while seeing my boyfriend during Covid. Look, when I was younger I had a plan for my life. I had things figured out, I knew what I wanted to do in life. But plans don’t always work out as planned. If you had asked me two years ago if I’d see myself working for a Jewish organization or finding my niche online, I’d never have imagined that. But while Covid created a lot of problems, it also had its silver linings. It would have been unlikely for me to have met my boyfriend without Covid. I don’t think my online foray would have been this successful without the lockdown. Plan A didn’t work out for me, but Plan B may be even better. Be open, explore, try things, think outside your box. You never know.