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Peyton Hillman

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Geology-Environmental Geoscience, Environmental sciences and studies
Program: Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
Location: Kibbutz Ketura, Israel
Term: Spring 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I wanted global and travel experience, and I loved the middle east and knew I wanted to go back for a longer time. My Israeli fellow at Hillel whom I formed a great relationship with told me about the Arava Institute and how it is has been described as a life changing experience, and he would have gone there if he had known about it when he was younger. I looked up what the program entails, and everything about it seemed aligned with my values of environmentalism, peace building, and cooperation. But I knew it would also challenge me greatly and expand my knowledge about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I love to be plunged into nature, and the wilderness. I am a person who needs a strong loving community for support and purpose. I love traveling and meeting people of new cultures that I do not have the opportunity to meet here in the US. I learned how much I value communication- I wanted to master Hebrew and Arabic so badly while being over there so I could have more in depth conversations with locals. I also learned how much I love nature and want to pursue my passion to live sustainably, and also help provide people with the tools they need to live more one with nature.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
Doing Dabke dancing every time someone had a birthday! Also having Iftar dinners every night during Ramadan and tasting the amazing home cooked meals from the different cultures of people on my program.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Be very open to new experiences, new lifestyles, new opinions- everything. Just in general try to be more flexible and understanding. Try to learn as much of the native language of the country you are in before and during your stay. Talk to people! Don't be shy. Keep a travel journal to document your experiences and feelings- you'll look back on it and smile one day. Try to not be on your phone a lot, you will miss out on the little things. Stay in touch with yourself and your identity as well.


Would you do it again?


How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?
I learned many different perspectives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how to tell personal stories, and how to listen to other people without feeling the need to reply. I learned more about environmentalism in the region, and how people are taking action to be more sustainable in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. I learned negotiation techniques and conflict resolution skills.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Don't be scared to travel alone


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
My institute staff


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