The first time I had the opportunity to experience Jewish community was when I started my studies. The community I ended up in was really, really small. Also, the people who actually came to services were all old (read: over 60) and all male. So I didn’t really fit in. I think I didn’t talk to anybody for the first year or so (not even the rabbi, he never approached me). A few times there were some students or young people doing an internship with whom I had contact for a few months, but all of them disappeared relatively quickly from the synagogue. I should have gone to Saturday morning services where there were more people, also women, but I didn’t know that. Anyway, I’m not sure this would have helped, as there still wouldn’t have been any people below 40.
I had lots of work to do for my studies, I felt that I was way too young to make such an important decision, I didn’t feel I belonged in that community, so I didn’t attempt to talk to the rabbi or anybody important. Still, I went to Friday evening services nearly every week, I kept shabat, I ate vegetarian (kosher would have been impossible in a shared flat with non-Jews) and I read everything about Judaism that I could find. But I wasn’t really thinking that I would convert someday.
Looking back, I think I was right in taking my time to decide, but it definitely wouldn’t have hurt to get some sort of formal process started or at least I should have talked to the rabbi. Still, I learned a lot during this time, about navigating the service in Hebrew, about explaining Judaism to non-Jews. But it was pretty lonely and I’m a bit surprised that I actually stayed there for so long.