I have never been one to do things the "regular" way. So when it came time to start my time in high school, I knew that I would have to make my four years stand out. I come from a suburban, upper-middle class town, and had grown up with the same kids, held the same friend group, and went through the same motions of daily life for nearly 15 years.
I was aching to do something different, exciting and step out of my "cocoon" life. High school is a time that adults recollect on as the “best four years of your life” or refer to as “the glory days.” I knew that for me to truly be able to say that I needed to find a way out. After finishing up my freshman year, and spending my last summer at my beloved sleep-away camp, the end of my childhood was truly marked and I was being pushed into the next stages of my life. It was at this time that an older camp friend had reached out to tell me about a semester abroad she completed in high school.
Four months, away from home, in Israel. It sounded like a dream and I couldn’t sign up fast enough. After finessing my way through the series of essays and few phone interviews, I found myself accepted into the program and leaving in January of 2015. The experiences I had and the people I met was unlike anything I could’ve ever encountered back home. It may be cliche to say that, but I truly mean it.
Some of my best friends to this day are from that semester, and three years later I can call them at the drop of a hat. Studying abroad in high school was something that set me up for success in the rest of my life and I never truly realized it until I started college this past fall. Living entirely on your own can be scary and hard for many people, as the first time they really do that is in college. But for me, I had already done it...so what anxiety was there to have? I not only gained knowledge about Israel and its rich history, but being in a foreign country practically on my own taught me lessons I couldn’t learn any other way. I had to learn how to advocate for myself, and find my way, literally and physically.
Being only 15 at the time that I left, one of the youngest on the trip, I found to be highly beneficial because the majority of my friends are one to two years older. These are valuable connections to have when attending college as they are already established on campus and can “show you the ropes.” Yes, it did look incredible on college applications because about only 120 students a year go abroad to this program. But I didn’t do it just for that because that would be a total waste. Completing this semester is something you should do if you want a change, if you need a break from home life, or are looking for some adventure.