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.
All of us international students bought blue overalls since it’s tradition at Swedish universities to wear overalls. The first time you are supposed to wear your overalls is at what they call your Overall Premiere. I talked to my Swedish friend about his Premiere and he muttered something about wine and buckets and not remembering anything so I was pretty excited for this day.
We bike into the forest to get to these soccer fields around 5pm and I am less than thrilled to be there because it looked like it was going to rain and it took forever to sort us all into teams. They did a very nice job of separating everyone as I did not know one or recognize one person on my team of about twelve. So you get a leader that is an ESN person and they carry around these cups and a bucket of wine. After everyone was assigned a team and we all said where we were from and what our name is they usher us all onto the field and yell at us to get on the ground and do pushups. I’m not sure what kind of qualifications you need to have to be an ESN leader but I think it includes child care training, being CPR/first aid certified, having a background in therapy and experience as an army officer.
So after we are done with our push ups we are instructed to act like a seal and then to roll to our left and to our right. We get a cup of wine after each “warm up”. By the time the games begin we are all feeling pretty good. Everyone keeps complaining about how there won’t be enough wine and I just want to be like JUST YOU WAIT. I swear, the name of these games is to stay alive. Of course we have a photographer in the group who insists on taking pictures of everything and everyone.
There’s this muddy center of the field where guys think its really funny to pick up people and carry them over to dip/roll them in this mud and I am sorry to say that about twenty minutes after we started drinking I was one of the victims. So before we even start these games I am covered in mud. We drink more wine and our ESN leader starts yelling at the top of his lungs this Swedish war song and we all try and repeat what he says but I’m not sure every word was pronounced correctly and we had no idea what we were saying. So we all have our arms around each other and start singing that song from the Titans that’s like “People wanna knowwww, whooo we areee, soo we tell them, we are group sevennn,” a much easier tune.
The first game starts and we have to stand in this line and spread our legs so that the person in the front can crawl through all of us. When it’s your turn, you chug your cup of wine, throw it down and scramble through everyone’s legs until the last person goes through. Your team wins if your last person goes through before the other team’s. We lost.
The second game starts and we each have to chug a cup of wine, run over to this bat, spin around with our head to the bat about ten times, and run back. People from both teams were running every direction and into each other and into the ground. We lost.
We take a quick drinking/chanting break before going over to the next game. For this game We all have to lay down on the ground and the first person in the line has to stand up, chug their wine and roll over everyone’s bodies to get to the end. I think we win this one.
For the next game we are told to put these tights over our face and there’s this tennis ball at the end in the foot so you have to swing the tennis ball with only your face and neck into this full bottle of water to knock it over. You drink before and after this one. I have no idea which team won.
I see a couple of my friends on other teams and we run over to each other and hug and are so out of breath from running and laughing that we can’t even speak. Pretty soon everyone is really drunk and really excited about finding their friends so that they can carry them over the mud. It’s like everyone is five years old again except they’re wasted. I was carried/dragged a total of four times and was covered in mud from head to toe. The ESN people are trying to make sure nobody is dying while trying to comfort the people who got knocked too hard in the head. You can barely recognize anyone. The games are supposed to go till 9pm but we only made it till like 8.
Half of my friends are blacked out and can barely stand and we are all taking pictures and throwing mud. There’s maybe 250 people and they are all getting tackled left and right and sliding around and stealing wine. I have never had so many bruises in my life. Now I understand why laundry is free here – my overalls had to go through the wash several times to return to their original color.
Only in Sweden. Only me