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Ellen Garfinkle

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Global Studies and Political Science/Middle Eastern Languages
Program: Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Term: Spring 2022


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose study abroad, because I knew it was something I wanted going into college. I think this is a perfect time in life to live and study abroad, and I knew it was an opportunity that I could not pass up. Studying abroad allows you to immerse yourself in your studies and learn in a completely different environment, which is super refreshing. I selected my program because of my language studies. I study Hebrew and Arabic, so I knew I wanted to be in the Middle East where I could practice and improve my language skills. Since there is only one country where people speak Hebrew, this made my decision pretty easy.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned how important it is to put yourself out there. I went on this program not knowing anyone and went to a place that is very culturally different from the US. Despite this, I made great friends, traveled most weekends, and learned a lot about adjusting to a new place. I stepped out of my comfort zone by speaking the languages as much as possible and not being afraid to jump at any opportunity to meet new people, even if that means on a bus ride home. Stepping out of my comfort zone in this way was extremely rewarding, and I could not have asked for a better experience.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
While studying at the university, I got to meet local students that also studied there. I took part in a "Buddies" program where I was paired with a student who was from the area. I loved my buddy and she invited me to a 4 day camping trip with all of her friends over spring break. This was my first time camping, so it was definitely an interesting experience. I got to really practice my Hebrew this weekend, ate great food, played a lot of backgammon, and swam in the Jordan river. This memory is telling to how friendly and caring Israelis are!


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Give yourself time! Things can get really overwhelming at times and life might feel really weird. It's important to let yourself adjust and recognize that it really isn't easy to go abroad. If you put yourself out there and recognize your strengths, you will succeed. Soak up every moment! It goes by fast!


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
Being a woman in the middle east is definitely different than in the US. The culture is more forward and there are places where modesty is much more important. This meant being more conscious about what I was wearing some days and bring assertive when needed.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Just be ready going in! Know to expect differences and get to know the areas you walk around.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
Friends and student help people at the University