My typical summer day before the Manhattan Multicultural Summer Program began at 12:00 noon and consisted of watching as many movies I could and eating as much junk food as I could until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I’m so glad that changed, although I must admit, at first the thought of waking up at 6 in the morning every day and taking an hour-long train ride made me groan. And I thought of the people around me. I was so scared. What if I said something totally stupid and ignorant that offends them? I wasn’t a discriminating person, but when it came to knowing about different cultures and religions, I was a bit lost. I wasn’t sure how to speak to them, how to address them, etc.
My Experience My experience in this program has been a truly remarkable, and memorable one. I have learned such an extended amount of things about the world around me. My experiences visiting the United Nations, Unicef, The MDG headquarters, and various museums has opened my eyes to a whole new world of global partnership and has broadened my horizons of knowledge. I grew as a person mentally and emotionally. It’s definitely amplified my passion and desire to help the world, and make a difference. Meeting people who share that same inspiration and drive was an amazing experience itself. As small as the group was, every single person had a different culture, different family situations, and different lifestyles.
Before coming into the program, I was bored. I was either going online to chat, just watching T.V. or playing basketball until I was exhausted. I didn’t hang out that much with my friends because I didn’t even think about it. I was lazy and didn’t care about what day or what time it was. All I did was taking confidence away from me. My social skills were horrible and my self-esteem was really low. I was nervous about getting to know new people, pessimistic about trying new things, and I was just angry at myself at all time. I also had a huge fear about speaking publicly. When I came into the program, everything was so different from my expectations.
The people I met there were so much different than I thought. Everybody was nice to me and I felt really comfortable. I felt like I could be myself and be accepted as that. Now I feel like I know more about the difference between my religion and the religions of the other members of the group. Honestly I didn’t know anything about the Jewish culture, but I knew a little bit about Muslim culture. We all have different ways of thinking, living, worshiping, but I think there is only one God. Humans are all the same. The stereotypes that I heard about my co-members were mostly wrong.
Fresh from graduation, everyone expected me to use my pre-medical background to work in a health science field over the summer. But Summer 2007 was different. I was not in lab or working on a research paper, yet I was still enriching my mind.
When I first heard about the Manhattan Multicultural Summer Program, I was reluctant to engage myself in a habitual activity that involved getting up early (for me, early meant any time before noon). I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle it – getting up, getting ready, getting there… All of this, coupled with the fact that I wasn’t too confident about my (limited) knowledge about the problems and tragedies of the world, made me quite anxious. What if they discussed some unheard-of disease ravaging some far-off country whose existence I was unaware of until that precise moment? What if they dissect the forces behind every acronym known to mankind; WHO, ECA, WFP – the possibilities were endless.
Throughout my life, my years have been divided into essentially two parts. The fall, winter, and spring were school seasons, and the summer months were spent in various camps. There were day camps, sleep away camps, and several travel camps, through which I toured both the east and west coasts of the United States, as well as Israel. These programs, albeit diverse in style and nature, lacked a certain diversity in its participants; despite coming from around the country, all the campers were, like myself, modern orthodox religious Jews. That, in part, is what made this past summer’s program so unique.
I joined the program on the 3rd week and attended the 4th Annual Youth Assembly Program. Manhattan Multicultural Counseling gave me the opportunity to experience the real world. It doesn’t just show you the world you know, a whole different spectrum that you can’t even fathom. On the first day of lecture, all I was thinking was “this was the worst mistake ever.” Why would I be recommending this program? I am doing this for a simple reason; exactly one hour after I said that, my opinion completely changed. You learn many things from this program, from the simplest of etiquette to building a water filtration system. This program inspires you and takes you to the edge of your seat.