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April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
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Part VI: Academics


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I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I had to have my mother help me with those first two term papers. Yeshiva lingo, my default colloquial language, worked well in yeshiva, but the mix of Hebrew Yiddish and English is unacceptable in the college word and I had yet to develop the skills necessary to express my ideas fully in English. I dictated the basic concept I was trying to express, and my mother put those thoughts into neatly typed words.

As an aside, the language barrier was the most difficult barrier for me to overcome in college. It took years until I had fully removed the yeshiva lingo as my default form of expression, making it more difficult to participate in class discussions.

In the end, the World History professor decided to be lenient with her students, likely because she was looking for a professorial appointment, and didn’t want negative evaluations haunting her (although I assure you, she received nothing but negative evaluations and never taught at NEIU again).

I did well on my final exams and papers and I received “B”s in both classes. I had done it. I survived that first semester at college, and there were no more questions about my future. I would finish my course of study and graduate, albeit having to put in a lot more effort than I had expected. I assumed I would complete my time in school as a relatively quiet and passive member of the college community. That, however, would also soon change.

Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a social media consultant and a freelance writer currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/

About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/


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Just a few months ago, I was having a difficult time getting a refund for a missing product processed via the customer service call center at a major retailer. After spending hours on hold and having my request denied, I sent a Tweet to the company’s Twitter account.

I have a background in counseling, and I can say that the biggest mistake that I ever made was refusing psychological help after we lost the twins. I was trying to keep my tough-guy facade going, and convinced myself that I could deal with the pain.

We had suffered through an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My wife had to go through labor and deliver our children to their deaths, and I was unable to save them or even give them a little warmth while they died.

Special Note: It is an unusual phenomenon that many bereaved parents share. We can almost see our age-adjusted children in our sukkah or running up to us during a family simcha. As quickly as they come, those visions seem to disappear as we go through the life cycle. They are hard moments made harder by the thoughts of not only what could have been, but what should have been.

I had to believe that things were going to be ok. They just had to be ok. We had gone through so much, had sacrificed so much and were doing everything the doctors told us to do. I remember speaking to a hesitant professor in my Ph.D. program about getting an incomplete in her class. The conversation stands out in my mind because, looking back, I can see how odd it must have seemed as I matter-of-factly told her I was too busy for coursework because my twins’ amniotic sack was bulging through my wife’s cervix.

On our first day in the antepartum unit, one of the nurses mentioned how critical every moment of pregnancy really was. “One minute in is worth two minutes out (in an incubator).” We weren’t really expecting a premature birth, but her comment put a fine point on the importance of the care my wife was receiving.

The best way to describe our emotions the morning of our major ultrasound was nervous excitement. We had survived a serious scare with a threatened miscarriage a few weeks prior. My wife was on bed rest at home, but we had no real reason to assume there would be any new problems.

It was only after we celebrated the great news that we were expecting twins that we saw the first sign of problems. First of all, my wife was losing, not gaining weight, even as the babies continued to grow normally. Soon after, routine blood work revealed that my wife was suffering from gestational diabetes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/part-iv-academics/2012/04/26/

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