Spending five months in Israel! More specifically, spending five months in the Best City in the World—Tel Aviv.
I’m the first to admit that I may be a little bit biased, but honestly, spending an entire semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University was an incredible experience that I would not trade for the world. Setting aside how amazing it was to spend nearly half a year in the Holy Land (more on that in a bit) and how cool it is to live in another country (we’ll get back to this one as well), I just learned so much. My Hebrew improved exponentially, my knowledge of Judaism grew beyond what I had previously thought possible, and I learned so much about Israel—as a state and a nation—that I never would have even thought about before. Perhaps most importantly, however, is that it made me even more passionate about learning about these things.
When you think of Israel, you probably think of the Kotel and men with tall black hats and women with long skirts. This, generally, is not Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the world’s leading start-up city; it is where there is a bar or club on nearly every other street corner; it is where you can get to the beach in under 30 minutes from almost anywhere in the city. Tel Aviv is a desert with palm trees. However, Jerusalem is a one-hour, 19-shekel bus ride away. Travel for a couple hours either north or south and there are more desert hikes than I can count. The culture differs so drastically by traveling just for thirty minutes that you would think you are in a different country. But such is what makes the Holy Land what it is—unique, special, indescribable.
When you go to Shuk HaCarmel as a tourist, you tend to stay towards the front where English speakers and IDF t-shirts are readily found. When you live in Israel, however, you often find yourself in the back of the shuk, where Israelis barter in quick Hebrew and where most of the delicious produce is. You get to know the bus system. You go to museums and restaurants and tiny hole-in-the-wall coffee shops that hundreds of people must walk by and never even notice. When you live in Israel, you start to think like a local. Caffe hafooch becomes its own food group, you know the ins and outs of every beach, and you realize that Aroma is overrated (sorry, but it’s true). Celebrating the holidays in the Holy Land where a majority of the population is Jewish in an unparalleled experience. There’s something about truly living in Israel that no organized trip can give you.
My experience was incredible. Living and studying in Israel is one of my favorite things I’ve done. And if you are thinking about also applying to Tel Aviv University, then you’re in luck! The Outreach Coordinator from Tel Aviv University International is coming to UD the first weekend of October. She will be joining Hillel for Shabbat dinner, and would love to speak with students about the program. If you’re interested, talk to me or any of the Hillel staff. We would absolutely love to help you out and give you the best semester of your life!