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Part IV: Adjusting To College


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When I explained that as an Orthodox Jew there were certain behaviors I would never involve myself in, she laughed heartily, and yelled that information across the crowded room to her supervisor who told her that she should “tap me.” I turned so red with embarrassment that I actually thought my blood donation might be refused because I looked ill.

I used to hang out at the conference table in the student activities area after I had become a well-known student government leader. One time when I was working on a student government project, one of the senators decided she was going to say hello by draping herself over my shoulders. That was quite a shock, and I didn’t know what to say. After a few awkward moments I looked up at her and asked: “Can I help you?” She walked away.

In reality, though, I was right to be worried about this as a new student. I had limited experience interacting with women, and I suddenly found myself in classrooms with attractive and (in my view) inappropriately dressed women who were supposed to be my peers. It gets very cold in Chicago, and I had already been shocked by what the women wore in the dead of winter. And then there was summer. I never outgrew that discomfort as a college student, but that was actually a good thing, as I was able to maintain my full level of halachic observance without any real challenges.

Although there weren’t halachic issues, growing up in a homogenous community and school system also left me unprepared to interact with the culturally diverse population at NEIU. But more on that next time.

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.

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