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Shaping Traditions: Alex Meilech ’18

“Just as I bring my traditions into Hillel, I will bring the traditions I learn at Hillel to my next chapter in life and beyond.”

Alex Meilech ’18 has experienced tradition – from Lexington, Virginia to Buenos Aires, Argentina

I walk across campus as the sun is setting, hurrying from physics lab prep to make it to Hillel in time to help set up for dinner. It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, and I’m always tired after a long week of school – who isn’t? As I open the front door, I can hear people in the kitchen, students working together to prepare our weekly Friday night Shabbat meal. I relax, shrug off my backpack, and head in. After the table is laden with food (Make Your Own Pizza, Burrito Night, Breakfast for Dinner), we all gather round to light candles, drink wine, and eat challah.

My earliest memories are of running around under the table with my cousins during my family’s own weekly Shabbat dinners, and now I am one of the “adults” putting together these celebrations for fellow students and community members, my Hillel family. As we pray together in Hebrew, I am reminded, with a mix of appreciation and awe, that fellow Jews around the world are all doing the same thing.

When I went on Spring Term Abroad to Argentina, I had the privilege of visiting a synagogue in Buenos Aires, the oldest synagogue in the country, for a Friday night service. Just like at Hillel, we spoke Hebrew prayers that I’ve known since childhood. (And thanks to learning Spanish, I also understood the discussion there – mostly!)

What I’ve learned through Hillel is that college is not a bubble, as we sometimes make it out to be. These activities are the same worldwide, whether you are in college or not. Just as I bring my traditions into Hillel, I will bring the traditions I learn at Hillel to my next chapter in life and beyond. And this is a great lesson for me: the same holds true for everything I learn here at W&L.

One of my majors is chemistry-engineering, and as I start to prepare for my post-grad future, I know that I’m not planning on being a chemical engineer. So why am I learning about thermodynamics and physical chemistry? This is a question I often ask myself in the middle of an arduous night of practice problems… But I remember that while I may not be doing this specifically in the future, it makes me a better thinker, a lifelong learner, and a problem solver, shaping who I am.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” I like to think he was talking about Shabbat meals at Hillel.

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A little more about Alex

Phoenix, Arizona

Chemistry Engineering and Anthropology with a pre-med focus

Extracurricular involvement:
Hillel Engagement Chair and Work Study; Physics Lab TA; Peer Tutoring in Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Sociology; Mock Con New Mexico State Chair; Hospital Emergency Room Volunteer Greeter

Why did you choose your major?
Chemistry-Engineering is a great mix between chemistry, which feels like learning a foreign language, and engineering, which appeals to my problem-solving side. Anthropology teaches me so much about other cultures, giving me a critical lens with which to view my own culture. The two majors, one very right brain and the other very left brain, work in tandem for a unique perspective.

What professor has inspired you?
Professor Bell – she is so generous and brilliant, and she introduced me to anthropology my freshman year!

What’s your personal motto?
Go boldly in the direction of your assumptions.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Pronto – toasted Caprese sandwich.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Five minutes early = on time.

Post-graduation plans:
I plan to go to medical school.

Favorite W&L memory:
During a snow day last year, my friends and I went sledding at Woods Creek using inflatable turtles.

Favorite class:
Richmond Term with Dr. Wubah, a Spring Term Afield class where we shadowed doctors in Richmond. It gave me a great feel for a day in the life and confirmed my goal to become a doctor.

Favorite W&L event:
Mock Convention, especially the first time I walked into the full convention – I got chills with how realistic it was. My own political beliefs aside, it still blows my mind that the future president spoke to our school.

Favorite campus landmark:
The Colonnade. There’s no better place to sit down with a book when it’s 70 degrees and sunny.

What’s your passion?
Reading – everything.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I’m a U.S. and South African citizen.

Why did you choose W&L?
I wanted adventure. I’ll always remember walking onto the Colonnade, all red brick and white columns, hushed in a blanket of snow – I’d never seen anything like it before. And I knew this was the place for me.