Senior Stephanie Aseraph is a Family Studies and Human Services major with a track in Services to Children and Youth. She studied abroad during the spring semester of 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel, at Tel Aviv University.
Q: How did you choose your location for study abroad?
A: My family is originally from Israel and I grew up visiting almost every year. I developed a love for Israel that grew stronger as I grew older, and I always searched for opportunities to spend long periods of time there. During my senior year of high school I went on a 3 month long trip to Israel with my graduating class. That experience helped me realize that there was no other way I would rather spend a semester of college than studying in Israel.
Q: Did your experiences abroad meet your expectations? Exceeded them?
A: My experience abroad definitely exceeded my expectations. At first, I was not sure exactly what to expect. I knew that I loved Israel and that spending those months there would be meaningful, but I was not exactly sure of what the experience would be like. I had no idea that I would meet the people that I met and make the friends that I made. I was unaware of how quickly those who were once strangers could become family, and that saying goodbye would be so difficult. I realized that it is important to take advantage of communicating with individuals that one may cross paths with because each person has something different to offer. I learned so much just by engaging in conversations; whether it was with a taxi driver on the way to the mall or a sale associate in the store, I learned that I could walk away with more insight on topics I previously overlooked.
In addition to studying in Israel, I decided to give back to the community and volunteer. I began teaching English and Hip Hop dance to elementary school students living in a low socioeconomic status neighborhood. Volunteering my free time with those children was the cherry on top of my experience. Not only was I able to influence their lives, but they influenced mine as well. As they learned from me, I learned from them. I became so invested in being their teacher that it became heartbreaking for me to walk away from them as the semester came to an end. Each person that came into my life during those four months made leaving even more of a challenge. I didn’t anticipate that getting on the flight back home would be one of the hardest steps I would have to take.
Q: What challenged you while you were abroad? Why?
A: A challenge while abroad was trying to make time for everything I wanted to do. Although 4 months may seem like a long time, it went by in the blink of an eye. It was important for me to enjoy every day that I had by exploring somewhere different or enjoying time with the friends I was making. However, I had many family members that I wanted to spend time with before I left as well. Therefore I had to find the time to divide amongst everything I wanted to do and everyone I wanted to see. As the months turned into weeks and eventually became days, I felt that I managed to conquer that challenge and manage my time effectively.
Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of studying abroad?
A: I would tell students who have fears of studying abroad that there is nothing to worry about! I would say that studying abroad is an experience that helps people become open minded to new cultures, and if they have the opportunity to explore the world than they should not think twice! Studying abroad is an opportunity to develop relationships that one could not get the chance to acquire during any other stage in their lives. It is a once in a lifetime experience that opens doors to future endeavors, and may simply change their lives forever (because I know it definitely changed mine!).
Thank you for sharing your story with us Stephanie!