Very different college experiences

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

I am officially old. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet up with a college friend after an absence of almost 20 years. We sat on my bed in the hotel room where I was staying and talked into the early hours of morning. It reminded us of our college days. It was as if time had stood still.

I contrasted this and our shared memories with a discussion I overheard in the airport. A co-ed was talking about leaving for school. She was discussing her shopping expeditions. She purchased new bedding and a new wardrobe. She was concerned about where she would get her hair cut and nails done for sorority dances. She had not only contacted her roommate to be but they had met one another and gone to dinner. 

This is where I felt old and judgmental. When packing for college, I took extra sheets from my mother’s linen closet. My roommate and I spoke once. I had a small television and refrigerator and she was bringing her coffeemaker and cooking pot for mac and cheese. We were very different individuals who with great effort made it work.

I learned to take a train home on holidays or found a few privileged students who had a car and could drop me off in Buffalo on their way to Cleveland. 

Because I was on a scholarship, I had a choice my freshman year. I could work in housekeeping or the kitchen. Work on campus was mandatory each year. At times, I found additional work in town. 

Sitting with my friend last weekend reminded me of how fortunate I was, not to mention how I had aged.