University of Haifa International School Student Blog
As soon as I found out I was accepted to the University of Haifa for my study abroad program, I thought nothing could make me happier. I was leaving the country, leaving Elon, for a semester knowing that I would not only take complete advantage of getting to know my extended family, but also exploring and immersing myself in Israel and its culture. But then I found out even better news. My family was going to visit me over my brother’s winter break. Granted, their visit was my two-weeks-left-in-Israel marker, but nonetheless, their visit turned out to be incredible.
They had an idea of what they wanted their schedule to look like and left it up to our relatives to fill in the gaps–which they did! It was incredible how little time to themselves my family had! They landed, spent the day with me, in Jerusalem, went to Masada and the Dead Sea, Akko and Rosh Hanikra, spent time in Tel Aviv, and of course, the big family party. Essentially, every minute of their trip was booked. When did they have time to rest or breathe? On the 12 hour flight back to the US, obviously.
My dad knew all of his cousins and their spouses, but matching kids to parents was where my help came in. For my mom and my brother, meeting the family and seeing Israel was a brand new experience. This was the first time my mom and my brother had been to Israel, and the first time in years since my dad had been back.
Now, I call home all the time. Like probably 3-4 times a week, if not every other day at least, so my parents have an idea of what I am doing, where I am going, and who I am with. When they came to Israel and met my friends and got to travel around, they put names to faces and places and created their own memories. They loved my friends and loved getting to know cousins that have taken such good care of me over the past months. In fact, seeing my family throughout the week that they were here was so meaningful to me that I couldn’t spend the last day with them in Tel Aviv. I refused to spend the night where they were staying and refused to go to the airport with them. I knew I at least would get emotional–regardless of the fact that I would be home in TWO WEEKS–and yet still could not stomach the idea of going to the airport with them and going our separate ways. So I returned to Haifa early in the morning and wrote a paper for one of my finals.
My semester here has been more meaningful than I ever imagined. To share some of this experience with my family brings tears to my eyes and is something that I cannot describe in words. I am forever grateful for my experience, for what I have learned, for the people I have met, my extended family, and for my family. I have such mixed feelings about leaving and knowing that it will be a few years before I return. But there is no greater gift than knowing that my family could share in part of my experience and have their own experience in Israel as well. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.