You Should Know … Julia Shpigel

Julia Shpigel
Julia Shpigel (Courtesy of Shpigel)

Julia Shpigel, 21, learned early on about hardships in the Soviet Union.

Her parents lived there, and hearing about what their lives were like in the Soviet Union inspired Shpigel to pursue a career in dentistry.

After growing up in Baltimore and graduating from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Shpigel decided to stay in Maryland for college. She studied biology and business at the University of Maryland, College Park for 3½ years and graduated last month. In August, Shpigel will start dental school at the University of Maryland.

Julia Shpigel lives in Baltimore and attends Beth Tfiloh Congregation.

How did you decide to go to dental school?

That had a lot to do with my upbringing and my parents’ upbringing. They were born in the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, there wasn’t great access to dental care. I heard a lot of the stories growing up. Very painful experiences at the dentist. My dad would show me, like physically show me, some things that happened to him in the Soviet Union that he showed to his dentists here in America. It was the wrong thing to do when you consider modern practices today. That led to a lot of pain and mistrust with the dental system here for a lot of Russian, Ukrainian immigrants in the Pikesville community.

That’s something that I really resonated with and felt like I could have a good impact on because I really understand the background that they have. So, I started shadowing a lot of dentists, and I really love the field. I love how flexible it is, how hands on it is. Pretty much every dentist that you speak to, they really love their jobs, so that really made me want to do it as well.

Would you say your identity is important to you?

Yeah, because that was a large part of the reason I ended up going to Beth Tfiloh. In the Soviet Union, they really weren’t allowed to practice their religion, and they experienced heavy antisemitism. I didn’t grow up in a religious family because it’s just not what my parents were used to. It’s not what they knew because of the way that they grew up. They put me into Beth Tfiloh where I feel like I was able to learn a lot of the things that I didn’t get to learn in my household. I think I have a strong connection with Judaism, which has really come to light recently with everything going on in Israel.

What’s something someone would be surprised to learn about you?

I like cooking. I’ve gotten into that recently because I lived in a college apartment finally with a kitchen and not a dorm. I really got into cooking once I had that ability to have my own kitchen and put together ingredients. It’s a different experience when you’re in college, and you have to learn how to cook for yourself. I think my favorite dish is probably not something I make myself. My mom makes really good Moroccan chicken, and hopefully I can learn how to do that.

I also really like traveling. That’s really fun for me when I get the chance.

Why do you feel like traveling is important to you?

It’s important to see the world. It’s also a really nice way to get away from everyday life and to reset. Sometimes when we’re home all the time or we’re in our daily routine, we feel like we’re stuck in a bubble. Things become natural and normal, which is fine. It’s really good to have a routine, but sometimes it’s also important to refresh yourself, and I think that traveling is a really good way to do that. I don’t like solo traveling. I think that traveling with other people is really important. It’s a great way to strengthen relationships with other people because you spend so much time with them.

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