From a young age I had always been obsessed with travel and experiencing different cultures outside of the United States. I found myself most fascinated with geography in school and would constantly research various regions of the world on the Internet during my free time. When I was 16-years old I was able to experience the trip of a lifetime: a 5-week-long adventure in Israel through my summer camp, Camp Tevya. Although our itinerary was nearly completely full, I occasionally found free time to roam the streets of Jerusalem and Tzfat; mostly to find the best, cheapest shawarma joint but also to have some sort of meaningful thrill that the other kids on my trip didn’t have. Luckily for me, I’m bad with directions and got lost in Tzfat at 10pm with a 1030 pm curfew. A family saw me clearly distraught, panicking and confused as to where I am and where I should be going and guided me back to my hostel. After that warm encounter with a generous family I knew that going back to Israel would be a necessity of mine.
Over the course of the next four years before returning to Israel I made it my goal to try and learn Hebrew, along with getting straight A’s in school and joining the football team. I didn’t achieve any of those goals, but I was able to land a spot on the Nevada Community Birthright-Israel trip this past summer, so I would optimize that as a valuable tradeoff. Although my Birthright-Israel trip was a 10-day version of my first time in Israel, I believe it has been the most rewarding journey of my life. No longer a 16-year-old, hormonal-crazed teenager I found it much easier to pay attention and really benefit from the educational aspect of my trip. As a 20-year-old college student in Israel I found myself researching Yitzhak Rabin on my free time, discussing with guides their experience with conflict in the region and casually writing in a journal so as to not forget the important information I received. The connection I felt to Israel after learning so much, meeting so many amazing people and experiencing a beautiful culture triggered an epiphany that made me switch my study abroad program from Lyon, France to Haifa, Israel.
At first my mother—like most Jewish mothers—was worried about my decision to study in Haifa. There are so many reasons that caused me to study in Israel for the 2016 spring semester. I believe the University of Haifa has excellent programs for my major and I wholeheartedly understand that Israelis are quite possible the most inviting, pleasant people I’ve been around. But the majority of my decisions are encompassed by one word: change. I hope I’m able to grow as a person from my experience in Israel, and I’m hope I’m able to change the lives of people when I study abroad in Israel. One thing I hope to achieve in my life is to benefit the state of Israel in some way, shape, or form. How I will do that? I’m not yet sure, but I know it will happen eventually.