How a Virtual Summer Became Forever

May 20, 2021
Jessica Ilin

Saddle River, New Jersey, United States

Class of 2022

Read more from this author →

*Written by Jessica Ilin and Julia Daitz*

Summer 2020—We expected a summer of BBYO: marshmallows by the campfire, lanyards around our necks, and thousands of pictures with our newfound forever friends. Whether on Lake Como or at Camp Chi, we were ecstatic to experience the best summer of our lives, in different places. We would have never met or crossed paths, and we definitely would not be writing this right now.

But on May 14th 2020, all in-person summer programs were cancelled. A wave of shock and sadness hit us; little did we know, miles apart, we were feeling the exact same thing. As we scrambled for new summer plans, BBYO released their brand-new summer options. We’ll be honest, virtual BBYO summer did not seem too exciting. However, after pushes by peers and staff, we both took a leap of faith and tapped the registration button for Movement Makers 2A, a two-week leadership development program, inspired by ILTC, from the comfort of our own rooms (and our own beds).

No one expects to make friends on a virtual program. However, placed in the same breakout room, we hit it off immediately. Upon discovering the mutual friends we had, we were able to bond. The first night, having each interacted with various people during the day’s program, we decided to be bold and start a FaceTime call. The individuals who joined the call that night, are now some of our best friends.

These practically nightly FaceTime calls followed us into the fall and winter and remain present as we approach summer 2021.

We formed virtual friendships that were unbreakable—on Zoom, FaceTime, Snapchat, and iMessage. Yet it somehow took us 5 months to realize the two of us only lived 40 minutes away from each other.

That brings us to the first weekend of the new year. After COVID testing and begging our parents, we finally met for the first time. Our friendship became big hugs and screams, trips to krispy kreme and levain bakery, running around the city and blasting Taylor Swift.  Ever since that day, we have been rotating between New Jersey and New York City every few weeks.

With the help of COVID vaccines, we’ve now met most of the individuals who took a chance and joined our FaceTime that first Movement Makers night. From Saddle River to Hewlett, Dallas to Baltimore to Houston, the miles between us became none in Manhattan. Today, we can say that we’re forever friends.

Stepping out of your comfort zone allows you to take in all that BBYO has to offer. It is true that your best friend is somewhere but you must put yourself out there and look for them. Take risks, join calls, and speak up, because you never know if the person looking at you through a screen could be your person for life.

Summer 2021—Our next adventure is International Leadership Seminar in Israel (ILSI). We’ve come full circle from one summer program to the next, and, hopefully, for many more to come.

Jessica Ilin is a BBG from GJHRR: Northern who loves Gerber Puffs.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

Explore More Stories

Get The Shofar blasted to your inbox