Courtney Blumberg

The excitement was palpable in our Zoom call that Wednesday morning, as the cohort prepared to meet in person for the first time ever. Our private messages and Zoom breakout rooms were full of chatter about what it would be like to finally meet each other “for real.” The morning seemed to drag on forever, with the anticipation of the afternoon looming over us. Three hours later, I was ready to make the drive to Gann Academy where we were set to have our first in-person cohort meeting. As I drove, so many thoughts were swirling around my head. I was still processing the morning’s program on poverty and was also trying to imagine what it would be like to finally meet the rest of the group.

I worried the interaction would be awkward. I felt as if I knew everyone so well, and yet not at all. I had not seen a big group in months, did I even remember how to communicate without a mute and unmute button?

I was immediately comforted when I saw one of my fellow interns jumping and waving to me from the opposite end of the parking lot. Walking in together gave me a much needed boost of confidence. As I sat down in the circle, all I could feel was excitement and gratitude. After the incredible discussions we had over Zoom, I was sure that the conversations in person would be even more meaningful.

With each person that arrived, the excitement only grew. The energy we had, sitting on that farm was incredible. As we moved into groups to study Torah, I was able to read it with new focus and excitement. Reading passages aloud with my peers and passing ideas back and forth with my peers allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the readings than I would have had on my own. Our discussion of the Torah spiraled into discussions of laws and voting rights and the pandemic. Unlike in a Zoom group, our conversation grew in many directions, and we could continue talking for as long as we needed. We connected to the Torah passages, and we connected as people. I learned more about my fellow interns in those 3 hours than I did in 5 weeks.

After meeting in person, I understand how much I rely on others to learn. Through this internship, I have relied on my supervisor, fellow interns, and many others to help me grow. The opportunity has allowed me to hear so many new and different perspectives. Although working from my house all day can feel extremely isolating, I learned to rely on others to help me through it. Each intern in our cohort came from a different background, and each person brought something new to the conversation. I have realized the best way for me to learn is through listening and engaging with others.

I consider myself to be quite shy, so this realization is a huge step for me. At the beginning of the program, we all set personal goals. One of mine was to break out of my comfort zone by making at least a couple of new friends and trying to speak at least twice on each Zoom call. I think I have exceeded this goal, all through the help of my cohort. Instead of a couple of new friends, I can say I’ve made 14 new friends. I find myself excited to share my ideas and contribute to our group learning. For all of my future endeavors, I’ve learned the balance between listening and sharing, and how that creates an environment for learning. Seeing the drive and passion that this cohort has, I am inspired to go out into the world and be the absolute best I can be.

Courtney Blumberg
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