Forearmed is Forewarned

By Dasi Lefkowitz

“Mommy, make me a ticket to come home right now! Yes, I know it’s been only two days but I want to go home. This is a huge mistake. I have to get out of here. No, I can’t calm down! I’m leaving right now! What did you say? No, I am not waiting until the morning. I don’t want to stay here another second. No, there’s no one I can speak to.”

So your daughter got into your dream seminary, the one you and she were hoping she would go to for years. You spent the whole summer shopping and packing…and shopping some more. That is not the conversation you expected to have when she arrived. What’s going on?

As a therapist practicing in Jerusalem, I have the privilege of meeting countless seminary girls, although obviously the ones more likely to be having a hard time. Add to that some Shabbos guests and it gives me a nice sampling of the crowd each year.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of panic, anxiety and social insecurity. Many girls wonder, “Why am I even here this year?” The responses to this question include a variety of non-answers such as “I thought it would be different,” “My parents really wanted me to come,” “It’s better for shidduchim” and “All of my friends are here.”

Some girls are so homesick that they are unable to be in the present and benefit from their experience in Israel.

Where is all this coming from? Why does the anticipated best year of their lives turn into a nightmare for some girls?

My experience has shown that it boils down to a combination of unrealistic expectations, a dearth of life skills, inadequate support in Israel, and at times an underlying psychological or emotional problem. Social issues tend to crop up too, especially for girls who were comfortable with their group of friends in high school and suddenly find themselves at a loss in a new and complex environment. Depression and anxiety that were hiding under the surface can also burst into the open due to the additional stress of being away from home.

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