Southbridge 2014

BGI Undergraduate fellowship kicks off with a weekend seminar at Southbridge, MA

BGI Undergraduate Fellowship kicked off this year with its annual weekend retreat (September 12-14) in Southbridge, MA.  Twenty-four fellows, all of whom are undergraduate students at Brandeis University, gathered together for a weekend full of meaningful, intellectual and fun activities. The two-year undergraduate fellowship program integrates academic study at Brandeis with BGI extracurricular programming designed to enhance connections to the Russian-speaking Jewish world. At the retreat, programming was uniquely designed to meet the goals and learning objectives of both, first and second-year fellows, while providing multiple opportunities to build a meaningful and resourceful learning community.

Hannah Germaine, first-year BGI fellow, reflects on her experience:

The weekend of the BGI retreat began just as one would expect. While the veteran members comfortably sat down, speaking to each other as if they were all one family, the sophomores clumped with those they already knew and wondered if they too would be like the others. This schism was quickly erased, though, as ice breakers and activities commenced. By the end of the first few hours, we were all not only acquainted, but friends.

It is very difficult to remain secluded in an environment like the one the BGI Fellowship creates. It seems that even the most introverted person will have his walls broken and will share his thoughts. That first night, after all the activities, after sharing a Shabbat meal, we were able to sit as a group and talk about complex topics that normally a group that has only been together for a couple hours would not breach. This closeness that was achieved not only lasted that night, but lasted the length of the weekend. As we delved deeper into discussions of our childhoods, our identities, what we perceived Judaism to be, all topics that pushed us as individuals farther from similarity, the intimacy never lessened. We continued to feel comfortable around each other, even to the point of singing Russian karaoke the night before leaving.

Now that the retreat is behind us, I know that we as a group are still as close as that weekend made us feel. We may all be scattered across the Brandeis campus, but it seems that every time any of our individual paths cross, we smile. It may not be clear to those around us, but the smile we share with each other is one deeper than a mere smile to a passerby. The smile we share holds all the memories of that weekend, even the incredible cookies, and looks to the next time we can come together as a family and continue our journey through BGI’s incredible program.