My name is Brittney Vega and I am a senior at Rutgers University. For the past eight months I have been interning in Marketing at Wilf Campus as part of a new program, which gives me the opportunity to stay overnight a few nights a week and volunteer while going to school.

The entire Wilf Campus, staff, and residents have welcomed me with open arms! Each morning I am greeted by friendly faces and well-wishers. To me, the community at Stein Assisted Living is one big group of loving friends. Having breakfast and spending time with the people here has been a wonderful experience that has really taught me a lot about life. I am able to see the joyfulness of the residents as we reminisce and talk about our lives and families. Many of them are overjoyed to speak about the pride they have in the successes of their children and grandchildren. I am very grateful for all the advice I receive and have found the residents to be caring and sincere in wanting the best for me.

When I first considered this program, I was unsure if I would connect with the residents. At first I knew no one’s name and I remember wanting to be able to say hello to everyone personally as I saw others do as they walked through the building. It didn’t take long for this to change and it made me so happy! I have loved becoming closer with people and stopping to say good morning and ask how things are going in their lives. In truth I am a little shy, so getting to know everyone really made me step out of my shell. I worked on my communications skills, learned how to start conversations and feel comfortable engaging with others.

I believe one of the most important aspects of this experience is the heartwarming advice I have received regarding school, work, and relationships. Many are very interested in what I am currently doing and planning to do post-graduation. The genuine thoughtfulness of the residents is something I cherish.

I also hear many stories about personal lives and loved ones and the longevity of their relationships. I met two couples at Stein Assisted Living who were celebrating their 69th and 73rd wedding anniversaries! I have never met anyone before who has been together for such a long time! They smiled and blushed as they talked about one another. I discovered that no matter how far you are into a relationship or the obstacles and barriers over the years, being happy is possible if there is genuine love for each other.

The residents also have a lot of affection for their families and friends. They talk about how grateful they are to have such loving children, grandchildren, and family as well as friends they have known for many years who come to visit and take them out. You can see in their eyes how happy they are when they get a chance to talk about them, what they enjoy and when they will see each other again.

I strongly connected with two residents in particular, Ellie and Barbara, who have each taught me very different things. Ellie has taught me patience and positivity. Anyone who knows Ellie could easily tell you that she has such a sweet heart. She tells me when I talk about life to just let things happen and helps me to see the positive side of everything. Barbara is a very sweet well-spoken woman. She loves to make jokes and encourages me a lot. She always talks to me about school and makes sure I am doing well in my classes. She truly brightens my day.

Before spending time at Stein Assisted Living, I must admit I had some preconceived notions. I thought the days would be monotonous and that people would keep to themselves. In fact, the opposite is true! There is a lot of energy and the residents are happy, active and interacting with one another. By volunteering I have seen how much the residents love and appreciate the programs, trips, activities and staff. What it really comes down to is that the Wilf Campus is home.

Through my experience I have learned a lot that I can incorporate into my studies, such as how to create flyers, market an event or get to the core of what people look for when picking an assisted living facility. But volunteering has also brought me real happiness and I have learned a lot about life. It feels good to make people smile and laugh. Knowing that I have been able to bring joy to the residents at Stein Assisted Living feels really great.