Celia Goldfarb is a Fall 2015 EIE alum. Today, she gives some advice to the Fall 2016 students, who will be leaving for Israel at the end of August.
You’ve already taken the biggest step in the process, made what will most likely be one of the best decisions of your life, and decided to embark on such an incredible journey of independence, leadership, and religious and cultural discovery. If you’re anything like me, you’re incredibly excited, anxious, and eagerly counting down the weeks, days, hours, and minutes. And to make the most of this journey that is so unique to each person, I will give you some advice that I wish I had gotten.
#1: Pack as light as you can
(Saying this actually scares me, because if you’re anything like my brother, that means you will condense four months’ worth of stuff into a backpack.) Beyond what the minimum weight and the seemingly scarce packing list says, you will go shopping. And even if it makes the pre-EIE you scared, the post-EIE you will thank you. You don’t need to bring nine pairs of shoes. I promise.
That being said, the packing list is there to help you. If an item is on the packing list, it is there for a reason. Make sure that if you decide to try to restrain yourself from overpacking, you are still packing enough clothing to get you through the week.
#2: Just do it
On Jewish History or tzedakah field trips, there are often opportunities to explore further or optional adventures you can take along the way. TAKE THEM. Just please, take them. I know there are times when you’ll be tired and just want to rest, but the extra explorations were often my favorite parts of the trip.
Just remember that even if you’re tired, you went to Israel to have unforgettable experiences and to try new things. I promise there will be enough time to rest and sleep, but there will not necessarily be another opportunity for you to army crawl through a tiny, dark cave, half-filled with water, and then climb up a ladder and come up through a pothole on the top of a hill. It is the little adventures you take and the opportunities you seize that make EIE the best four months of your life, so PLEASE, take advantage of them.
EIE is one large adventure filled with infinite tiny ones, so SAY YES TO ADVENTURE. Always. Step out of your comfort zone, do something you wouldn’t do if you were at home, conquer a fear, and just say yes. Embrace adventure. Make everything an adventure.
#3: Embrace Judaism
Among my classmates, I was right in the middle of “how Jewish” I was before EIE. I was active in my NFTY region, but I never went to temple at home. When I came to EIE, I was intimidated by the fact that many of my classmates were more knowledgeable and overall “better” Jews than me. But soon after EIE began, I realized it didn’t matter. I embraced services; I was active in Jewish History class, even if I had the answer wrong or even if it required me to ask a “dumb” question. I worked hard in Hebrew class (I literally spoke no Hebrew when I arrived) and got moved up a level. I got over my mental block of being scared to become the “super Jew” that my classmates in America would think I was. I stopped being a Jewish American and became an American Jew.
Three hours of Jewish history a day can be a lot. TRUST ME, I know. But I am so incredibly grateful for all that I learned in that class. Not only do I embrace the information I learned, not only do I actually find ways to make it relevant in America, but since I spent so much time with my teacher and so much time with each person in that class, we became so incredibly close and endured so much together. Embrace even the Jewish parts of the trip, even if you’re not necessarily an active Jew at home.
#4: Embrace your classmates (and madrichim)
This is something I wish I knew more than anything else. You are going fall semester, which is consistently a smaller semester than the spring semester. You will be living with a relatively small group of people in a foreign country for four months. Take that opportunity to form a connection with each and every person, both students and counselors. You should be able to look back after four months and think “my trip would not have been the same without each and every person here.” The legacy of the trip will only be as incredible as the connections you made on it.
#5: Take Pictures
Lots of them. Hundreds. Thousands. With everyone, everywhere. Remember everything.
With that I wish you luck, love, limitless falafel, perpetual laughter and smiles, unbreakable bonds, unforgettable adventures, and memories to last a lifetime.
Behatzlacha and L’shalom,