Once I had made the decision to pursue a PhD, I attended a number of grad-school application workshops during my senior year. I also spoke to advisors in the English department and in the honors program.
At some point, someone advised me to apply for a Marshall Scholarship, which would allow me to do a graduate course in the UK. I was all for it – I had missed out on my chance to do a semester abroad as an undergraduate, and this would be perfect.
Although I hadn’t told my parents when I was considering going to Leeds for a semester abroad, I told them about the Marshall scholarship. This time, I wasn’t just considering it – I was applying, like it or not. So they had to be told. They didn’t like it.
I identified two one-year Master’s programs that would be amazing for me – going away for two years would be too much for my parents.
Both programs were appealing to me for their content and requirements, and they had the added bonus of being near large Jewish communities. Leeds has its own Jewish community, and I had already been in contact with the Chabad rabbi there. And Bangor, Wales, is close to Manchester.
Before settling on these two as my options, I calculated travel time between Bangor and Manchester, emailed the program to find out if it would be possible for me to be on campus only twice a week, and looked into how much it would cost to have a weekend apartment in Manchester and another apartment in Bangor.
I hated it. I hated that I was limiting the academic experience because of some notion that I couldn’t be Jewish without a community.
So I considered what it would be like to live only in Bangor, to go into Manchester for yomim tovim like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, to buy kosher food in Manchester whenever I was there. I looked into a service that offered deliveries of kosher food from Manchester to neighboring areas.
I was still in the process of figuring out logistics and of writing my application essays when I graduated college. That summer, I went to Israel for a month-long program at Neve seminary. I had planned to go with a high school friend, but she got engaged that winter, so I was left going alone.
I was glad that it worked out that way.
To be continued…