Honestly moving abroad is a big shock. I definitely wasn’t entirely aware of it at the time, because internally everything seems fine, but it really was a crazy time. Luckily, you can prepare yourself for some of the challenges that you are going to face. For me there was one thing that perhaps served as the best preparation. Living in Denmark was the first time that I would be entirely responsible for feeding myself. As such I spent much of the summer with my parents in the kitchen learning how to fend off starvation. Although there are many different foods internationally and I didn’t have all of the resources I was used to, having basic cooking skills came in handy countless times. Not to mention that inviting people over for a homemade ‘American’ meal cooked by the guy from the ‘U.S.A.’ was consistently a great way to make friends. Making sure that I was able to cook food, and good food, was a key preparation I made to stay happy and healthy while abroad. It’ll also save you a lot of money on eating out! Although it’s pretty hard to avoid spending money anyway!
During my stay abroad in Aalborg, Denmark I lived with two french students also studying abroad, however, for longer periods of time. One of them, Jeremy, was the source of many difficulties throughout my stay in northern Europe. It all culminated late on one Tuesday night. It was his birthday, and the two of us along with some other friends were heading out towards the bars to celebrate. Along the way I mentioned to Jeremy that someone had said something negative about his friend from school, Matthieu. For whatever reason this set Jeremy off. He became angrier than anyone I’ve ever seen before, and the almost comedic attempts at angry English did not make it any easier for me to appropriately react. After suffering taking the full force of his wrath for close to an hour I finally attempted to leave him. He followed me and attempted to grab me to stop me from leaving. This is the story of the first and only fight I’ve ever been in. Four in the morning in the middle of a Danish street on a Tuesday, and I was in a brawl with one of my roommates. By the end he apologized and not much was hurt more than egos. However, when people talk about difficulties abroad, it is always Jeremy that comes to mind.
This is a photo of the street that I lived on. It was where I would catch my bus to go to school, the street I would take to go grocery shopping, out to the bars and clubs. This street was my world for almost 6 months. I remember when I took this photo thinking how alien yet amazing it seemed, all of the architecture and the narrow roads. Yet, by the time I left it really felt like I was leaving home.
I spent the fall semester in Ifrane, Morocco and it was an amazing experience. Here are a few pictures from the “Blue City” (Chefchaouen) and a tiny town called Akchour which is about 45 minutes away from Chefchaouen which is located in the northern part of Morocco. A group of five girls and I went hiking for about 5hrs and got to see two gorgeous waterfalls up there, one of which was 100ft tall! Northern Morocco reminded me a lot of the pacific northwest with the trees, waterfalls, lakes, mountains and coastline. One of my favorite things about Morocco was the large diversity of terrain and people within such a small country.
This photo was taken in Budapest, Hungary towards the beginning of my time abroad. This memorial, which consists of a row of old shoes with candles in them, is considered one of the hidden treasures of Budapest because there is no plaque describing what it is or its purpose. The story behind it goes back to World War II. During the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Jews were confined to the ghetto of Budapest. One day, one of the officers decided it would be easier to run the ghetto if there were less of them. They were going to die anyways. So, the SS officers lined up many of the adult males from the ghetto along the edge of the water and shot them into the Danube. This memorial was created as a subtle, everyday reminder and memorial for all of the Jews that lost their lives on this day and every other day as well.
Living in Israel, the effects of the Holocaust could be seen in every day life, in how the religious act amongst themselves, how the secular see religion, and the trauma that can still be observed in Israeli relations with outgroups. The effects were salient and tangible. Everybody knew somebody that died either in the holocaust or in the defense of Israel. Knowing the lives that fought and died for the opportunities they have today, the act of remembering, has become a part of the identity of every Jew in Israel.
I experienced this through volunteering at the local home for Holocaust survivors. This center is one of the largest of its kind in Israel and the world. It provides a space to rent for housing, a space for religious ceremonies, activities, and meals. I spent my time talking with survivors and listening to the stories they felt comfortable sharing.
This experience has been significant to my time abroad because it was one of several experiences that contributed to a greater understanding for my identity, what it means to be a Jew in the United States, and what it means to be a Jew in Israel. This journey is a continuous learning process that will lead me to different places and different conclusions as I grow.
I spent my fall semester in the incredible city of Prague, Czech Republic. I took thousands of pictures of my time abroad, but I particularly like this one. It shows the skyline of the historic Old Town district of Prague, with the Zizkov broadcast tower looming over every building in the city. Erected by the Czechoslovak Communist Party in the 1960s, the tower is still in use today. This picture shows an interesting juxtaposition between two important elements of the history of Prague and the Czech Republic and serves as a reminder that even though the country has managed to integrate politically and economically with Western Europe, its communist legacy is not forgotten.
I lived in lovely Kawagoe, Saitama, for the term of my study abroad. I was scheduled to leave Kawagoe the day after Christmas, and my school term had ended on the 21st so that I could spend it with my family. I have never been one to celebrate the mainstream holidays. In the train station, on the day before Christmas eve, I realized I would soon taste the Christmas candies of home, which I wasn’t looking forward to very much anyway. Because this feeling of homecoming meant that I would have to say goodbye to my host parents, new friends, and the country that had been my home for the past four months. Then, as I got off the train and up past the ticket kiosk, I saw the Saitama mascot, the happiest sweet potato around, wearing his Kawagoe samurai time tower on his head. As my extra special Christmas gift to myself, I hugged the personification of the place I had grown to love.
As a high school student, I reluctantly took Biology class. The only moments that I loved taking that class was when I learned of the different ecosystems around the world. I remember learning about the Galapagos Islands and thinking “I would love to go there someday”. Through studying abroad in Ecuador the first semester of my senior year, I was able to live my dream within a week of landing in Quito, Ecuador. While I was in the Galapagos Islands, I was able to see a variety of different ecosystems in one area of the world and on various islands. I was able to take this photo to the right while I was on a dinghy, bobbing up and down in the middle of the ocean. Can you spot the two penguins and the sea lion?
While I was in the Galapagos I was fortunate enough to have an experience that most people I know have not. I was able to be in an environment where in the same ecosystem there was a lake, shrimp, pink flamingos, hardened lava, cacti, and a very distinguishable sky line in the midst of the ocean. I was so utterly amazed that there were flamingos and lava in the same place, on an island in the ocean. I had to take a picture including all the elements of this amazing environment.
My trip to the Galapagos Islands was a great start to my adventures in Ecuador.
The beautiful underside of the roof covering the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe, a recreation of the Elizabethan theatre made famous by Shakespeare’s work. As a groundling, I paid £5 (~$8.00) to stand in the Yard within two feet of the front of the stage. Yes, the play was nearly three hours long, and standing for the entire time became a game of how still you can be so you don’t notice the nagging pain in your lower back, but the experience itself was unlike any I’ve had in a theatre before. I went for a performance of Richard III on a cold day in October, and during the performance, the relationship between actor and audience, though in a very large space (the Globe seats 3,000), had an immediacy and an energy that was a joy to experience. Over the course of three months, I was able to attend thirty theatrical productions, ranging from Shakespeare to Hip-Hop storytelling, for very reasonable prices. And though not all of them had that same immediacy or energy, the sheer number of shows was astounding, and the variety inspiring. Being surrounded by a culture that values the theatre as much as England’s does was a wonderful change from America’s, and gave me a taste of what a society that values the arts can be.