Throughout my life, my Judaism has always been extremely important to me.  I was involved in youth group through middle school and high school, so naturally I wanted to get involved in my Judaism once I got to college.  The way I have been able to do that is through Hillel at USC.  Last year I served as part of the Shabbat committee as the Shabbat Chair, where I focused on preparing dinner and events related to Friday night Shabbat services at Hillel.  This year, I was selected to be a Freshmen Engagement Fellow, and also I serve as a member of the Social Programming Committee.

Being a Freshmen Engagement Fellow is essentially like being an orientation advisor for Jewish Freshmen.  I was a counselor at a program called FreshFest, which was an overnight program at a campground where Jewish Freshmen came to meet each other and get to know older students at USC so that they could ask questions and have mentor figures once they got to campus.  Each Freshmen Engagement Fellow  (FEF) is paired with another, and then matched with a group of Freshmen who they interact with both at FreshFest and throughout the year.

A photo of me and my FEF Partner, Ricardo!

Throughout the year, my partner and I plan casual events for our FreshFest group, like trips to the beach or trips to Yogurtland, to check in with them and see how their years are going.  It’s a really fun job because we get to meet new people and introduce them to the things we love the most about USC and Los Angeles!

Being on the social committee is also a great way for me to be involved because I get to plan events that are open to all Jewish students at USC.  This is exciting because I constantly get to meet new people, and I also participate in fun events that I’ve helped to plan.  Some events we’ve done in the past include Westwood takeovers, where we go to In-N-Out and Diddy Riesse, trips to the beach, pottery painting at Hillel, and various other casual hang outs at both Hillel and places around LA.  We meet frequently throughout the semester to check in with each other and discuss future events that we have planned for this semester.

Hillel has been a fantastic way to connect with Judaism on campus, but beyond that it has been a way for me to connect with other people on campus.  My Freshman year, I went on FreshFest and the people I met there have become some of my best friends here at USC.  Since I came all the way from Orlando, I was worried about how I would transition into life here.  This organization helped make my transition to USC so much easier by giving me a home and a family away from the home and family I have in Florida.  Now as a member of the student board, I hope to give that same experience to other people.  

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2015, Learn more on her profile here!