iThere is no doubt that studying abroad is both a transformative and rewarding experience. With this being said, committing to one destination for five months can be a daunting task; there are so many incredible places to choose from! In this article, I was lucky enough to be able to speak with a Tulane student about their experience In Tel Aviv.
Q: When visiting Israel, what are some activities/ places that are highly recommended?
A: “Israel is a theme-park of history—the nature is beautiful and the country is full of one of kind spots. I highly recommend Masada, the Dead Sea, hiking in the Golan Heights, going to some of the many parks in the Negev and snorkeling in the city of Eilat.”
Q: Why did you choose to go abroad in Israel?
A: “While there are so many chances to go to Israel through American led programs, I feel as if these trips have rushed itineraries. While I am sure that these trips are fun, I wanted to experience life in the Holy Land to the fullest extent possible. Fortunately, not only was I able to find a 5-month program that granted me the chance to experience Tel Aviv and its many going out/cultural opportunities, but I was also able to travel around all of Israel AND was still within reach of my friends abroad in Europe.”
Q: What city was your home base? Where in the city did you stay?
A: “Tel Aviv was my home base; I stayed in the north of the city in a suburb called Ramat Aviv. I was actually expecting to be closer to downtown Tel Aviv and its cultural centers but Ramat Aviv a bit farther away than I had anticipated. In the end, it was only a 30-minute bus ride or 15-minute cab ride away from key city spots but the cab drivers were awful. I had so many negative experiences with cab drivers in Tel Aviv and will openly call them scumbags (LOVE UBER AND LYFT THOUGH!).”
Q: How challenging were your classes? Was it difficult to balance working and playing?
A: “Compared to Tulane, my classes were poorly taught and easy. There was no Tulane program– just a liberal arts program through Tel Aviv University (which made transferring credits a pain). I took a few econ-centered classes, a Jewish studies class and a creative writing class. I found one of my classes to be interesting but overall the professors were of low quality. This is not to say that they were not smart individuals but the poor class structures were not comparable to academia at Tulane. To be honest, I only had one good class with this professor who is for sure a certified badass: ( https://www.ted.com/talks/benedetta_berti_the_surprising_way_groups_like_isis_stay_in_power ). In terms of balancing work and play, I never really had any issues. The light workload allowed me to go out more and hang out with my friends at our dorm. There wasn’t much of a balance between work and play. Play definitely won.”
Q: What was the biggest adjustment that you faced?
A: “I was actually the only Tulane student to go abroad to Tel Aviv. I am good at making friends but the first few days of knowing no one in this new college environment was brand new for me; it seemed easier to get to know everyone my first few days at Tulane but I am possibly biased. I would say another challenging adjustment for me was attempting to practice my Hebrew around Israelis. BUT, since any educated Israeli speaks great English, as soon as I would attempt to speak Hebrew, they would immediately say: ‘stop achi, just go to English’. “
Q: Do you think that studying abroad in Israel made you a more spiritual individual?
A: “Well, I came back with a Hebrew tattoo soooo…….. But, in all seriousness, Israel will make you a more spiritual person if you seek it out. I chose to seek out spiritual experiences and found that they are more than abundant in Israel. For example, I started to attend a local English-Speaking Torah Study while I was there. Not everyone that I was friends did this but if becoming more spiritual is something that you want, you DO have to put yourself out there. At the same time, the existing Jewish cultural roots are encouraging and will naturally push anyone to engage with their faith. I was fortunate enough to encounter SO many meaningful experiences that all contributed to my heightened spirituality. For me, going to the Western Wall and saying the Sh’ma was a transcendental experience. Also, when my Dad visited me, we had the chance to celebrate the Jewish holiday of “Simchat Torah” together in Jerusalem. Dancing with Torahs surrounded by loads of Jewish men singing and dancing in circles for sure made me more spiritual. Also, going to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur where I was able to walk down the largest highways in the country with NO cars are on the road was spectacular. No cars. NONE.”
Q: During your time abroad, where else did you travel?
A: In addition to traveling around all of Israel, I visited Aqaba in Jordan, Barcelona, Munich (for Oktoberfest) and Venice/Rome, Italy. I loved Italy and its food, however Barcelona takes the crown.
Q: Was it ever hard to live on a budget in Israel?
A: Tel Aviv and Israel overall is VERY expensive. I am blessed to have supportive parents and personal savings but I do not recommend someone that is looking for a budget friendly country. Go to Budapest or Prague for better exchange rates.
Surely, Israel attracts a certain type of student. If you are someone who is open minded and looking to become a bit more spiritual, Israel can be a great abroad destination for you. There seem to be so many different types of people in this country; because there is not one stereotypical Israeli person, it is so possible to learn and grow from so many perspectives and values. Also, since there is SO much to do and see in such a small country, it definitely seems that Israel attracts the adventurous!
COVER GRAPHIC: Emery Gluck