September 15, 2019 | 79° F

Jeremy Berkowitz

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When I first got to Rutgers in 2013, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my time. Sure, I had a hobby or two, but I know now that creating Humans of RU has absolutely steered me in the right direction. Meeting so many of you has been an incredible honor and a real pleasure, and it has made this huge Rutgers community seem small, welcoming, interconnected, and really, genuinely human.

This project represents the conversations we should all be having here on campus, acknowledging and exploring the incredible diversity that exists here, and sharing our stories with one another so that we may learn outside of the classroom too. It really makes a difference.

I plan to take that with me as I continue my work as a photographer and as a journalist; As one of the many Scarlet Knight alum and as just one of the many humans of Rutgers University. I have grown so much because of this. Thank you all for coming with me on this ride.

- Jeremy Berkowitz

“For four years, I stubbornly worked toward a vision for myself that I later found out was not going to come true. I was working to become a mechanical engineer, but I made some unwise decisions and lost focus and motivation. I stayed in a pretty unhealthy relationship for longer than I should have, which ended up taking away a lot of my focus from academics, sustaining friendships, and maintaining self-care. Last semester, even though it was supposed to be my final semester of undergrad, it was actually the beginning of a new path for me. So now I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. I have found healing in coming back to the things I’m really passionate about; integrating art, science and environmental justice into my new major. I’m still battling with the feelings of being left behind, watching those I started this journey with move on to the next chapter of their lives, but thinking about the new opportunities to mentor younger students keeps those feelings of loneliness at bay. I’ve just gotta be honest with myself and run with the lessons I’ve learned here so far, and remember that I haven't truly failed unless I've given up.”

“My brother has been an addict his whole life. And in fifth grade, he really started pressuring me to do drugs. I always hated that my brother did that to me. Now he’s out of control, stealing money from us and tearing my house apart. He doesn’t want to be helped. It’s rough, and for me, the only thing I can do is focus on school. I commute and spend a lot of my days here because it’s not that nice at home. I can only hope that my brother comes to some realization like I did, but I don’t know what else to hope for. My family and I are all left wondering what to do.”

“We met in freshman year of high school, and started out as friends. We were in the same Bio class and the same study hall too. I had a crush on her and she didn’t reciprocate, but in senior year, we went to prom together and started dating right after. We’ve been dating ever since, and it’ll be two years in May.”

“I don’t really have a specific place I call home. For me, home may be Singapore, which is where I grew up. But I was born in India and stayed there until I was four. After that, I was in Singapore until age 16. And I loved it. I was really interested in all sorts of things. I used to dance, I used to go for guitar lessons, and play badminton with my friends every day. But I wasn’t doing so well academically. I was really stressed out. I used to go to school at 7 in the morning, end at 2:30pm, and then take extra lessons and get tutored until 9pm. By the time I reached home, I would be so drained. But I would wake up again at 1am to study. My parents decided it would be best for me to move back to India. And that changed a lot of things for me. I stopped dancing, I stopped playing guitar, and badminton. I didn’t have any friends to connect with. I became a totally different person. I miss the person I used to be but now I’m here and I’m still trying to find my way.”

On Friday, a group of Rutgers students released a project entitled “UNherD,” which highlights the role of women in social activism movements. The project featured photos of 24 current students, accompanied by poems.

“One year ago today a really close friend of mine passed away. He changed how I see the world. Because of him, I got really into nature. We used to write poetry and we always used to talk about transcendentalism and the outdoors. I guess for me, working to save the environment, which I’m really passionate about, is my way to say a final goodbye. I’m just fascinated with how everything in nature is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. He helped me realize how important that is, and how happy it makes me every time I go outside. This is for him.”

“My uncle, he’s a math teacher in China. I used to be his student, and he wrote something in my yearbook once. I don’t really know how to say it, but he wrote… always be prepared for whatever’s coming. And I never really thought about it until now. When I was in middle school in China, I had the chance to go somewhere for a competition, but I was too shy and I lost the chance. I didn’t have the courage. Later on when I came here, I found that there are a lot of great opportunities that I need to be prepared for. I just switched majors from accounting to supply chain management, where the opportunities are more about working with other people. And since coming here I’m more prepared for that, for meeting new people in a different environment.”

(3/3) "Throughout the Summer, I went through intensive therapy sessions to recover, but returning back to Rutgers in the Fall was still very scary for me. It was almost traumatic. I wanted to let the people I trusted know what had happened and what I needed from them. I knew it was going to be hard, but I really wanted to push forward. Some people responded saying they wanted to do whatever they could to help. And initially, because of that, I thought I would return to a very welcoming environment here. But it was completely the opposite. A lot of my friends didn’t talk to me, not even a word. It made me feel even more isolated. But I feel a little bit better now. I’m graduating soon and I’m reconnecting with the friends I feel are most important to me. Overall I feel like as a society, we’ve become less and less caring and concerned about others. We’ve become so much more focused on our success and our own ambitions that we forget about the community around us that sometimes needs a little help and support. A simple ‘Hi, how are things going? I hope everything’s going well,’ can do a lot.”

(2/3) “It was the last day of school. It actually started off as a normal day. I had a presentation for one of my classes and that went very well. I had the opportunity to say bye to my friends in a club I was involved in and at the dorms too. But later in the day, the thought of people leaving for the Summer brought on that feeling of isolation again and I was reflecting on a pretty horrible year. It got to the point where my roommates moved out and I was the only one left, to be picked up the next day. I was alone and this inescapable feeling of despair and helplessness came over me. I tried reaching out to some people, but they weren’t available at the time. And when I realized no one was there, that’s when I took a knife to my wrist. I was in the hospital for a night and was discharged the next day. That whole first week was a blur to me. I put a lot of blame on myself and also asked myself what I did to deserve this. There was a bit of resentment too. If only my friends had been a bit more supportive. But it wasn't something that I talked about a lot, so I also understand why some people didn’t notice.”

(1/3) “During my junior year here, I started feeling very depressed. And it was the first time that I felt something like this. I really didn’t know how to react, and my first instinct was to talk to some of my friends about it. In doing so, I feel like I found a home confiding in some of these friends. But because of the stress of dealing with emotions like this, I also lost a very good friend of mine who said she wasn’t able to be my friend anymore and that she wasn’t able to handle it. And that was kind of the tipping point for me. I lost trust in a lot of people, because this was the person I could trust the most. I went through a very tough period of self doubt and I felt very isolated from my friends. I felt very silenced. And that silence put me off from receiving treatment from a professional. For a while those feelings bottled up, until May when I decided maybe I should try to end it.”

“I was one of those kids who was forced to learn piano. I dreaded playing. But then when I was eleven, there was this game called The Sims, I think it’s still around. I played the very first version, and they had these radios that you could put into the houses with classical channels, and I thought some of these pieces were actually quite nice. One of them really stood out to me, so I searched for the music. Took me a long time to figure out what it was because I had no idea where to begin looking, but it turned out to be a movement from a Mozart sonata. And from there I started learning on my own and listening to classical music. It’s become more than a pastime for me, music is my life. Music is a language. And I’m usually rather reserved, but as with any language, you need something to say. And if you have something to say and you can communicate it to an audience and affect those listening, I think that’s really special.”

“In September of 2014, Isabel (we call her Izzy Warrior Princess) was diagnosed with a spinal chord tumor. She finished chemo in January of 2016, so she’s been a year chemo free and her tumor is still stable. Originally, she had to get a biopsy. They had to take a little piece of the tumor out and that left her in really bad shape. A year ago, when we were at Dance Marathon, she was in her walker and couldn’t walk on her own. But I said last year that this Dance Marathon, she’ll be dancing and she’ll be up there on the stage on her own, and sure enough, she did it. For her to be dancing today, it means more than anybody would ever know if you haven't seen this whole journey. I don’t know what the future brings for Isabel, I don’t know what her disability is going to be like, I don’t know how people will treat her. But she has our support always. And beyond that, she has this tremendous community. If ever she feels alone, all she has to do is remember how many people have been there with her through the very very worst, and who are cheering her on at every milestone. And that’s what this is about. It’s about hope. Once you lose hope, you lose your fight. And we refuse to give up hope.”

"Last year was our first Dance Marathon. Kiana was battling Wilms Tumor, a form of kidney cancer, and was about 2 to 3 months into treatment and not one person treated her differently because of how she looked. She had the time of her life. She was not 100 percent, but she danced and played with 110 percent of her heart. She amazed us that day and showed us what true inner strength was. We are very happy to report that at this year's Dance Marathon, she is in remission."

“I have synesthesia so I think in colors. Everything has a color, including music and numbers. For me, it’s very numerical. Growing up, I was really bad at math because each number has its own color and its own personality too. Numbers don’t really get along in my head. But it’s also how I connect things. That colorful, visual representation in my head manifests itself into everything, and I think that’s why I really like painting. It’s easy for me to recognize what color goes where. It kinda just clicks.”

“My father works at the biggest bank in China. So I came to America and he tells me to study mathematics. Usually you would think I would learn accounting or finance, but I don’t know which part I like. So mathematics is a tool for my graduate school. That way I can choose finance, I can choose accounting, economics, or even physics if I like. But it’s difficult with the culture here. I don’t know how to make friends with American people. My father tells me that the easy way to make friends is at dinner, but I don't like the food.”

Happy International Women's Day to the Women of RU!!

“I went to a performance arts high school in North Bergen. It was the little school that could. It was in an old factory and it wasn’t the prettiest thing, but I was always surrounded by musicians and the music community, and it’s followed me into college too. I go to lot of shows here in New Brunswick and you really do feel like you belong in these communities. They’re just so welcoming and unique and necessary to facilitate creativity. And its not like the university made it. The schools don’t make it, the people make it. And I feel very rooted in that supportive, DIY type of community.”

“My mother grew up in the inner city, and she didn’t have much. She has always emphasized the importance of getting a degree so that we wouldn’t struggle like her growing up. She’s taught me not to stop until you get it, until you make it. She works so hard trying to pay term bills, taking care of my sisters, my brother and my niece. And she’s always been the type of person to work extra hours so that she can get us what we need. On my behalf, I want to work just as hard, I want to get that degree, and I want to become a physician assistant to help others. But my mother has always inspired me, so I want to do it for her too, and make her proud.”

(2/2) "My favorite card is the Wheel of Fortune card. It’s the card that signifies that everything's changing, and that everything comes full-circle in life. I think it was the first card I ever pulled too, so it's very special. For me, it symbolizes that no matter what problem I'm going through; and I've gone through dark times; the light will always come out, and I'll always be ok. But each card can represent something different for each person that pulls it. Tarot cards are very versatile. And that’s why I choose this method over anything else. People can read tea leaves, palms. But I find that cards always changing because people are always changing.”

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