Meet Your 'Bus Driver'
My name is Sydney, I am 19 years old and a rising sophomore here at Wake. Besides Hillel, I am also involved in Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity on campus as well as the 1834 Campaign, a student fundraising program.
I am a rising Junior majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Education and Counseling. On campus, I'm involved in Greek life, and I am on the executive boards of two organizations -- Hillel and Ambassadors in Admissions. I have held a number of positions in Hillel, most notably President and Chair for our Pre-Orientation Program, MazalWAKE. For Ambassadors in Admissions, I serve as a tour guide as well as a tour guide trainer.
Listen to Our Playlist
Add some fun to your virtual road trip with our 'Road Trip to College' playlist created by all the 'bus drivers'.
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Reach Out To Sydney
Do you have questions or want to learn more? Feel free to direct message me @s.rojas_.
Reach Out To Jessie
Do you have questions or want to learn more? Feel free to direct message me @jessie_birnbaum.
Why Wake Forest?
What do you love about your school?
Sydney: I love the combination of small liberal arts academics and the lifestyle of a large university. The class sizes are small and the relationships with faculty and peers is incredible, all while exuding the sport and spirit of a large division 1 school.
Jessie: I love all of the support that is available at Wake Forest. You really get the sense that the faculty and staff care about you and want you to succeed. There are so many resources on campus -- whether that be the Faculty Fellows assigned to freshmen dorms, the Learning Assistance Center, the Counseling Center, the Office of Personal and Career Development, or the numerous advisors you'll be given in your time at Wake. The professors truly care about their students and it shows. I have been to two of my professors houses, have multiple professors' phone numbers, and lived abroad with a professor in England...they want to get to know you and support you!
Why did you choose your school when you were a senior in high school? Walk us through that process.
Sydney: I grew up a Demon Deacon fan, so I have always had Wake Forest on my "college radar". After interviewing and touring fall on my senior year, I fell even more in love with Wake. The intimacy of small classes made the academic transition seem less daunting, the campus was gorgeous, and of course the lifestyle appealed to the "big campus" draw I was interested in. Wake Forest had a combination of every aspect of college that I was looking for; it was the perfect home for me to excel while enjoying the "traditional" college experience I desired.
Jessie: When I was a senior in high school, I had specific qualities I was looking for in a school -- strong academics, small size, warm climate, and in California. So, when my college counselor recommended I look at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC, I thought she was crazy! No way would I move that far! However, after starting to research Wake, I found that it really checked all of the boxes for me. Wake is not only incredibly strong academically, but it provides a fun social atmosphere with its D1 athletics and school spirit. The Wake professors and students' stories blew me away on my tour of the school, and I decided then and there to apply ED1. It has been the best decision I have made and I don't regret any part of it!
What has been your favorite class so far? Tell us about it!
Sydney: My favorite class my freshman year would have to be the First Year Seminar (FYS) course I took in the Spring. My FYS was very niche, it was taught by a Middle Eastern Studies professor on the Arab world. It was a super interesting class because it gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a class that was not the "basic"/ gen. eds. most freshmen take. There were only about 13 people in the class and it took place in a "round table" discussion format. The class was super insightful and a great opportunity to experience a small, niche class at Wake Forest.
Jessie: My favorite class was my First Year Seminar course, "Learning from Play." In the framework of being a liberal arts institution, one of the core requirements for all freshmen is to take a First Year Seminar. Although it's a requirement, all of the classes are very different and quite unique. For example, there's one class called "Math Puzzles and Games," one titled "Think Like a Lawyer," and mine, which was about the educational benefits of play. In class, we had different units like learning about virtual reality, board games, and even "gamified" a part of our lives! I loved the class so much that I took two more courses with that same professor, and it inspired me to become an Education minor.
What fun traditions do you like to partake in at your school?
Sydney: The best part of Wake Forest has got to be the long held traditions and history! Even though some of our sports teams *cough basketball cough* aren't stellar, the traditions around every event is awesome. From singing the Alma Mater after a victory with the football team, to T-Ping the quad after soccer, basketball, and football games, you can always expect some kind of celebration after any Wake Forest victory. The fun traditions are unlike any other college campus and make Wake so unique.
Jessie: Wake has so many fun traditions that really make up the school and bring out its motto of Pro Humanitate, or "for humanity." My favorite tradition is Project Pumpkin, an event where local kids from Winston-Salem come to safely trick-or-treat on our campus. The kids (and Wake students) absolutely love the event and look forward to it every year. There is a fun theme -- such as space or Zootopia -- and everyone dresses in crazy costumes to bring out the spirit. Student organizations create booths and the Winston-Salem kids come by each booth to play games and collect candy.
Tell us about Jewish life on campus. How have you been able to engage with this aspect of your identity while at school?
Sydney: Although Jewish life on campus is somewhat small, the community is strong and always there. There are so many opportunities to share a community, culture and religious practices, regardless of "how jewish" you are. Everyone in the community is so welcoming and will always have your back, regardless of how involved, or "uninvolved" you may choose to be.
Jessie: There are many ways to be involved with Jewish life on campus! Most notably, students can join Hillel, Chabad, SSI, and/or AEPi (if they are male). Jewish life is very welcoming, and we have created programs to get students involved right away, especially with our pre-orientation program, MazalWAKE, and our new First Year in Hillel (FYSH) program. A unique part of Jewish life at Wake is the ability to get to know Jewish professors and administrators quite well. Our Dean of Students is Jewish and invites students over to his house every year. Our Chief Diversity Officer has a Jewish family and many of our Jewish professors come to Hillel to support students!
Share your favorite road trip song that we can add to our college road trip playlist!
Sydney: Banana Pancakes- Jason Mraz
Jessie: Someone to You by Banners
Jewish Life On Campus
Hillel connects with students at more than 550 colleges and universities across North America and around the world, creating lasting connections with students, inspiring and training them to become leaders and build their own communities.
Check out Hillel’s Guide to Jewish Life at Colleges and Universities.
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