Corinne Brager ’23 reflects on semester abroad in Israel

Brager, who is originally from Richmond, Virginia, studied at the University of Haifa in Fall 2021.

Editor’s Note: Corinne Brager ’23 is studying arts administration and drama theatre studies. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Brager studied in Israel in Fall 2021 and write this reflection for Hillel Happenings, the newsletter of Elon Hillel.

This past semester I was lucky enough to study abroad at the University of Haifa in Israel!

I had always wanted to visit Israel but didn’t plan on studying there for an entire semester. However, when COVID became an issue and Israel seemed to be at the forefront of handling it, I decided that it would be the right choice for me.

And I am so thankful that I did.

At the University of Haifa, I lived among people from all over the world. My roommate was from China and my best friend from Switzerland. I was actually the only American in my apartment. This created a unique international cultural experience within my own household, in addition to the Jewish and Israeli cultural experience I had.

Studying abroad in Israel and especially during Hanukkah was so special because it was the first time I felt my Jewish identity so embraced and celebrated. There were hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) on every street, sufganiyot (delicious donuts) at every bakery, and everyone wished me a happy Hanukkah wherever I went! The experience really allowed me to strengthen my Jewish identity as a whole and incorporate Israel into that identity.

Luckily, all the courses I took at the University of Haifa were held in English. While I was there I not only took classes on the conflict, Hebrew, and Jewish philosophy, but I also took trips almost every weekend to different areas around the country.

I spent weekends in Eilat, down in the very southern part of Israel, in the Golan, in the very North, and traveled and visited everywhere in between. One of the best things about Haifa, and Israel in general, is the excellent public transportation system. I purchased a Rav-Kav card (Israeli public transport smart card), which meant I could basically travel wherever I wanted on the bus. I could get away for weekends and also just for day trips.

While I was living in Haifa, I got to meet people from all different backgrounds, like Americans who had made Aliyah, Jews, and Arabs. I got a deep cultural immersion that of course centered around food. I discovered that there are entire restaurants that make only hummus! I think I still have dreams about the falafel and shawarma I got to eat.

I think one of the best parts of studying abroad for such an extended amount of time is that it allowed me to not only develop the language skills and adapt to the culture but also to feel as though I have another home across the ocean. I know that no matter how long it is until I return to Israel I will feel as though I have a place and a family there. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I was given and the forever friends I have made.