Samuel Italiaander

Student in Athens, Georgia

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My name is Samuel Italiaander. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia to my lovely parents Ellen and Scott. Going into ninth grade, my parents sent me to Yeshiva Atlanta, an orthodox Jewish high school. This was a huge culture shock in that I had never had a formal Jewish education before high school and all of the sudden I was thrown into an extreme circumstance. Coming from a non-observant background, I faced a lot of challenges in a difficult period of my life. I had to grow accustomed to praying every morning, wearing a yarmulke all day, and attending high level Talmudic classes. Most of my teachers, even in secular subjects, were rabbis, and the entire atmosphere of the school kept religion at a higher standard than general education. This drastic change helped me grow a lot as a person. At a point in life, as a teenager, where I naturally struggled with my identity, I had to overcome adversity and quickly adapt to a new lifestyle and new culture. I learned a lot about not only Judaism, but also about myself and a lot of my advantages and limitations as a human being. The vast array of new people I met and new experiences I experienced helped me further grow my foundation and expand my knowledge on life. After the tenth grade, I transferred out of Yeshiva Atlanta. Even though I would consider the my first two years of high school as an overall good experience, the orthodox community wasn’t the best environment for myself or my education. The biggest challenge I faced that led to my decision to transfer was the overwhelming pressure that was put on taking a gap year in Israel after senior year. Over 90% of the kids in the high school took gap years and I had always known that I wanted to go straight to college. I felt that the outstanding emphasis on religion wasn’t helping me succeed in or accomplish my goal effectively. After transferring, I received the best grades I had ever earned, and I believe it is what got me into my dream school: The University of Georgia!