Before I came to Memphis, I didn’t know how to drive. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had gotten my license approximately 18 days before the program started, and had never driven without a parent in the car except that one time I drove myself to the dry cleaners.
And then I came to a city approximately 1,000 miles from my hometown of Philadelphia, that had no subway, lots of highways, and buses people warned me never to take. My parents left me the car and their keys, and I was left in a new place with a new job and a new apartment, surrounded by 15 unfamiliar faces.
Now, looking back on that day, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. Besides being able to drive confidently by myself to East Memphis from downtown Memphis, I’ve come out of this summer with 15 of the greatest friends the TI Fellowship could offer and a part-time job working remotely with Gaskill Strategies, the company where I interned.
This past week was the perfect culmination of our growth as Fellows after this past summer. From getting to present our success as a group to our parents and bosses, to sharing a meal together and realizing how close of a group we became, this week presented many times to reflect on the past summer.
At Havdallah before our last dinner together, some found their favorite part of the summer to be the Jewish discussions we had with Temple leadership, while others liked their jobs or the excursions they took with friends.
For me, it’s hard to pinpoint one part of this summer to call my favorite. I’ve been extremely fortunate. I was placed in an internship that challenged me as well as called upon my strengths. There are now three billboards that I have designed in the Memphis area. I also have the opportunity to continue working with Gaskill Strategies in the fall.
Fortunately, I also had a roommate I adored, and someone I never would’ve met without the Temple Israel Fellowship. Together we discovered the struggles and perks of being independent adults (if anyone wants to teach us how to cook, we’re still accepting applications).
And lastly, I had a network of friends willing to go on crazy adventures with me, from Sun Studios to New Orleans to Graceland to favorite obscure Memphis BBQ destinations. At first, those of us who weren’t from Memphis bonded in our newness to the city, but by the end of the summer I found myself counting down the days ‘til I return to Memphis to visit my new Memphian friends like a seasoned local.
Now that I can drive everywhere and know the proper use of y’all, I feel confident that Memphis is a place my life may one day take me. I know I’ll be taking pieces of Memphis back to Philadelphia with me this fall. Y’all better get ready, I’m hitting the road, self-assured and thankful for all my exceptional experiences from a summer with the TI Fellowship.
The Temple Fellowship made my summer great for a number of reasons. One of the most impressive parts of the Fellowship, is how 16 people from different backgrounds and hometowns were brought together to become close friends in just 10 weeks. The various activities and dinners that we had together definitely brought us closer, resulting in friendships that will last well beyond this summer.
This past weekend, we had a Shabbat dinner where we got the chance to share the great times and experiences we had during the Fellowship. Each of us spoke about our favorite things about Memphis, our internships, and our Jewish experience. Each fellow presented a unique perspective about his or her time in Memphis, and displayed to everyone the great success of this summer’s program.
In my presentation I decided to focus on the close friends I made this summer. During the first few weeks, I admit to being cliquey, spending most of my time with my roommate, and the other men of the fellowship. As the summer went on, I can say that many of my best memories were with the out-of-town fellows that I initially did not get to know. I credit this to the many programs and events that we had over the summer. For example, while I was initially not enthusiastic about picking up trash outside of the Temple Israel cemetery, this event brought me closer to the other 15 fellows and resulted in some good laughs and memories. Not only did the Fellowship offer me a great internship, apartment, and Jewish experience, it also resulted in some great new friends from around the country. This past week captured it all: from going to Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken with Rachel from Jackson, to jumping my car with Michele from Philadelphia, I am grateful and excited with all of my new friends and connections I gained through the Fellowship.