For my STEP project, I studied history and International Studies at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel for six weeks in the summer of 2017. I used the money to pay for my transportation to and from the country.
This STEP project in Israel played a valuable role in changing my view on the world. Having never been to the middle east before, I did not really know what to expect of the region. The only impressions I had were negative but at the same time I knew most of that was an exaggeration created by the US media and their portrayal of the middle east focusing primarily on terrorism and corruption. During my time in Israel, I noticed the ever present religious tension and heightened state of alert among its people, but was also able to appreciate everything that makes the country a place full of life. I always appreciate the beauty in things, and Israel was a country full of amazing food, people, experiences, and opportunities for locals and tourists alike.
During my time in Israel, I managed to add to this growth on my world view through the relationships I had with my fellow students. I traveled with two of my best friends from Ohio State, and met another student from Yale who was our other roommate. Two out of these three people were of Israeli descent, so they had a leading role in helping me really see and understand everything that Israel has to offer. A big aspect of this was the religious ties in Israel. With these two friends also being Jewish, they made excellent tour guides and provided meaningful insight on trips to holy sites such as the western wall in the old city of Jerusalem.
This experience was enriched completely by my travel to Jerusalem itself. The old city was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The entire city is essentially one large market with vendors selling everything from food to off brand clothing to knick knacks. Paired with the intense military presence and religious divide between the quarters of the old city, my two days in Jerusalem were a definite highlight of my time in Israel while simultaneously serving as a formative experience to shape my worldview.
One key interaction that helped shape my transformation of my worldview was my interaction with the student counselors, called the Madrichim. These are essentially the Israeli university equivalent of RAs in american colleges. The Madrichim made many of my amazing experiences possible through planning and leading trips all around the country, hosting parties, and being a resource to talk to about anything during my time in Israel. It was because of all the effort put in by the Madrichim that I was able to get so much out of this experience.
This transformation of my worldview is incredibly valuable to my future. One of my main goals for myself is to one day live overseas. My time in Israel is one of the most important experiences in my life that has not only prepared me for life abroad, but fully cemented in my mind that it is something that I definitely will pursue in my post graduate career. Hopefully, it will not be my last or even my most meaningful experience abroad, I fully believe that this experience was just a foundation of greater things to come.