For my STEP Project, I studied abroad at Tel Aviv University for Spring Semester 2017. During the semester, I lived in a residence hall at Tel Aviv University and studied with international students from around the world. Once the semester ended, I decided to extend my time in Israel and worked an internship with the Tel Aviv Municipality Board of Tourism.
My time in Tel Aviv changed my perspective on many issues and themes. Because Tel Aviv is such an international city, I felt connections to a broader international community in a way I did not before. I thought about the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. I further explored how the world relates to Israel and strengthened my opinions about what Israel means to me.
I made friends from many countries around the world. I heard their assumptions, opinions, and knowledge about the United States which allowed me to think more deeply into my role as an American citizen in the world and about how the U.S. affects the world. Comparing countries, cultures, and customs made me think further about this. Being surrounded by people with so many opinions about Israel also affected me. I was able to engage with people of many backgrounds in order to have conversations.
Being in Israel may be considered a risk, at least by some. Terrorism is relatively frequent and conflict arises. However, during my time there, only once incident occurred in Tel Aviv. Many more things happened around the world and reading the news of this both saddened me but also reminded me that Israel is not portrayed accurately in the media. At one point, I was taking a small trip to Paris. I told my Hebrew teacher that I would be missing a day of class, and she immediately became worried for me. “Be careful,” she said. “So much happens in Paris. It’s not safe.” Clearly, such perspectives depend on your own situation. Many people at home asked my mom if she was scared for me to be in Israel. I told my mom on the phone multiple times that if anything ever happened to me in Israel, it would be the result of a bike knocking me down on the sidewalk (since riding on the sidewalk is all too common).
I had a sense of independence in Israel that I enjoyed immensely. Public transportation is extensive and Tel Aviv is walkable. I traveled all over the country, to cities such as Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Haifa. In total, I lived there for six months. In this time, I felt that I adjusted in many ways. I was comfortable spending time on my own. During the summer, I lived in apartments in Tel Aviv and was in the heart of the city. I used Hebrew as much as possible. I got used to needing to be as assertive as possible for Israeli culture.
I learned, through my transformation, that I can adjust to living in a different country. This is important for me because I am majoring in International Relations and do not know where I will end up one day. I want to be open to living outside of the U.S. I also learned that I can live with and be surrounded by people from other countries and cultures well. Overall, this experience further helped me internationalize my undergraduate career and I look forward to seeing how this will affect me more in the future.