- I have a stronger Jewish identity.
Spending four months studying Jewish history in Israel, where the history was made, helped me form a better connection to Judaism and provided me with a deeper understanding of the meaning of being Jewish. Studying 4,000 years of Jewish history gave me a platform to start building and formulating my beliefs and opinions. I completed Heller High with a greater appreciation for my Jewish traditions and a desire to continue my Jewish education for the rest of my life.
- I met some of my closest friends.
Heller High introduced me to some of my best friends. The four months we spent learning and growing together allowed us to really get to know each other. These friendships are ones I will have for the rest of my life. Most weekends during my semester I would leave to stay with my family in Israel. Every time I left I would miss the group even though I would only be gone for 24 hours. When I returned to the kibbutz each time I would be greeted as if I had been gone for a year. I am so fortunate to have made the connections I did.
- I am more self-directed.
Studying abroad during high school provided me with the perfect platform to gain independence in a safe environment. Heller High gives students a lot of freedom to make their own decisions. While there is an abundance of support from the faculty, a lot of decisions are left up to the students. Learning how to be independent and self-directed are two skills that will set Heller High students apart from our peers when we move on to college. The little lessons like learning how to eat right or when to do our laundry will be second nature for us in college thanks to Heller High.
- I have a connection to Israel.
Prior to Heller High, I had only been to Israel once. My first trip was 10 days and every second of the day was packed with sightseeing. While that trip was an incredible experience, I didn’t truly get to take it all in. Four months gave me the opportunity to explore every aspect of Israel. The tiyuls each week weren’t rushed and gave me the chance to really dive into the history at each site. Homestay during the holidays gave me the opportunity to see the everyday life of Israelis. Gadna (basic army training) showed me what every citizen experiences when they go to the army. All of these experiences provided me with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Israel.
- I am prepared for the future.
Like I mentioned earlier, Heller High has made me feel very prepared to go away to college. I am confident that I will have no issue acclimating to the new environment. This independence and confidence will allow me to focus more on academics and getting to know people when I get to school and worry less about how I will make it on my own. On top of being prepared for college, I feel like I have a better direction for my future. I know I will pursue a career in international business. Also, I want to continue my Jewish education for the rest of my life.
Lauren Carrier is URJ Heller High (Formerly NFTY-EIE) alum. She attended in Fall 2016 and is a rising senior from Naperville, Illinois. She was a camper at URJ OSRUI and belongs to several clubs at her school including the Feminist club, DECA (business club) and HOSA (medical club).