A Respite to Remember

Senior spends first semester abroad in Israel


Senior year is an eventful and memorable time for most; for senior Emma Sandler, however, this time has been uniquely significant. Hoping to surround herself with more Jewish classmates and experience hands-on learning at new heights, Sandler spent her first semester abroad in Israel.

“My dad had sent me an email [that] I was looking at when I was with my aunt, and she had told me that her friend’s daughter had just gotten back from the program,” Sandler said. “I thought it was cool, looked into it, and then ended up signing up and getting accepted.”

Although this move required a lengthy application and preparation process, Sandler believes she found the immersive experience she was looking for — each day as a student looking slightly different. 

“Our Israel studies class would take us on day trips, and then sometimes we would have overnights if we were doing long hikes or something,” she said. “All the trips that we went on coordinated with the curriculum of our learning, so if we were learning about the Bible period, then we’d be visiting places in Israel relating to that period, so it was very hands-on with traveling and getting to experience different environments, not learning in just a square classroom. We would sit on the grass outside of a random mountain and have class there.”

Sandler went on numerous personal excursions like beach days and overnights in Tel Aviv, but she also enjoyed spending time on campus with her six Israeli madrichim, which were the dorm counselors who she said were “basically her parents” during her time abroad.

“We hung out with them a lot — they would teach us Hebrew, we’d teach them English,” she said. “They were a really great resource for us [and] they planned some activities for us, which was good.”

The experience of living abroad without her usual support systems gave her a glimpse at what the college experience would be like.

“I went on the program not knowing a single person, and the college that I’ll be going to, I won’t know anyone either, so I feel confident and comfortable making new connections with people on my own and branching out,” Sandler said. “I think the program also prepared me to have a really good amount of independence. I think I’ve really grown and matured from my time there being without my family and my usual friends, and I gained a lot of independence being on my own for four months.”

Among the classmates she met from the US, most were from the West and East coasts.

“There’s not a lot of people from the Midwest because not a lot of people know about the program here,” she said. “I think part of my reasoning for coming back and wanting to talk about it so much is to get more Midwest people to go because it’s a great opportunity that people don’t know about.”

Although learning aspects of Judaism is a large part of the program, Sandler believes this is a valuable experience for any person, regardless of religious involvement or association.

“I would 100% recommend this experience, both to Jewish and non-Jewish students,” she said. “The program is eye-opening, and it will change your perspective on a lot of current events going on. I think when you get to see the way of life and the culture in a different country, you gain an appreciation for what you have.”