Name: Maggy Kay
Study Abroad Term: Spring 2015
Destination: Jerusalem, Israel
When deciding where to study abroad, what led you to choose your destination?
I have always wanted to study abroad in Israel. It wasn’t that I wanted to study abroad and then chose Israel. I knew that I wanted to study abroad here before I was even at Towson and made sure that all of the schools I applied to had study abroad programs to Israel.
Has your destination met your expectations so far? Why or why not?
Israel is amazing. I learn so much every day. I tried to approach study abroad without expectation because that way there is no limit on your enjoyment, but my experience so far has exceeded everything.
What has surprised you about the culture or lifestyle of your destination?
I do not think I will ever get used to not having a Sunday. In Israel the weekend is really just an early end to Friday through Saturday because that is when Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath is. Thankfully, I do not have class on Sundays, so I am able to still get my full weekend. When it is the weekend here all public transportation, restaurants, stores, basically everything closes to observe the Sabbath. It is nice to have a day of rest and to hang out with friends.
What challenges have you faced since arriving in your destination?
Language is definitely a challenge for me. While many people here do speak English, I am trying very hard to learn Hebrew. I have 10 hours of Hebrew courses a week, but I live with all English speakers, so I sometimes can’t practice my Hebrew as much as I would like. However, I am very good at shopping in Hebrew in the open air market.
What made you decide to study in Jerusalem over other locations, including ever-popular Tel Aviv?
Before I studied abroad in Israel for the semester I went on a program called Birthright, which is a ten day trip to Israel. I enjoyed my time in Tel Aviv, but it is very much a big city, and the “New York” of Israel. I instantly felt at home in Jerusalem and still do. Some people say that Jerusalem is the center of the world, and it truly amazing to see so many people with so many different backgrounds come to the same place.
Did you or your family have any safety concerns about studying abroad in Israel?
Of course, but I wanted to study in Jerusalem and in Israel. If I were to not study where I wanted to, then the people that cause these security concerns will win. I try to live my life as I want to live it while I am here, though I definitely do think about where I go, how I dress and who I talk to wherever I am going. Last Friday, there was another terror attack at the light rail station, maybe a mile away from I live. I checked in with my parents and told them that I was fine and actually sleeping while it happened and went on with my plans for the day.
Did you select your program for the coursework? If so, are you taking an Israeli/Jewish studies courses, and what topics are they covering?
I am in a program at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in their Rothberg School for International Students called the “Spring in Jerusalem” program. “Spring in Jerusalem” is an honors program in conjunction with Harvard University that has monthly lectures and requires you to take classes outside of the international school. I am taking two graduate level courses through this program, one called “Religion in Israeli Society”, and “Jewish Orientalism: Jews in the Orient.” I am also taking “Becoming Modern: An Introduction to Jewish History in the Modern Era,” and “Philosophy and Torah, Harmony and Dissonance: The Writings of Maimonides” through the undergraduate program.