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Global Education

Experiencing Israeli culture

By Tamar Gaffin-Cahn and Meredith Hills
Published: December 2008

Sitting in our dorm, we are surrounded by other teenagers from across the United States, Canada, and Australia. There’s music coming from laptops, guitars, and a bongo that someone bought from a local store. This type of scene is common to Alexander Muss High School, located in Hod Hasharon, Israel, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

We decided to take two months out of our junior year at Newton South and Newton North to study abroad in Israel.

We start off the day here with a five-hour class, with one 45-minute break, in which we learn about Jewish and Israeli history dating from 4,000 years ago to modern times. A few times a week we go on either a day trip or an overnight trip to places that we have learned about in class. In the afternoon, we participate in lessons from home, either from a private tutor or in classes of up to three other students in order to keep up with our schoolwork and not fall behind for when we return to the U.S.

We also get to enjoy free time throughout the day and evening, during which we are able to explore nearby towns or just hang out around the campus. We do not feel like tourists who are being shown the greatest attractions of a hot destination; we are living in a boarding school with other Israelis and participating in daily activities that Israeli teenagers our age do.

We decided to go abroad for many reasons, but mainly because there are few chances for an opportunity like this during a lifetime. We are lucky enough to be able to really experience true Israeli culture as American-born children.

While junior year is intensely stressful, we have found an environment in which the emphasis is placed on learning rather than evaluation. We are having an amazing time immersing ourselves in a culture so different from what we know, and we most definitely recommend that all students with similar opportunities take a couple months out of their lives to explore a new culture.

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