Abroad in the Holy Land: A Study Abroad Interview from Tel Aviv, Israel
Sarah Ungerman, 21, is a passionate traveler who decided to study in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Despite all of her friends going to Europe, Ungerman wouldn’t have changed her decision for the world. Sarah and I caught up about the life-changing six months she will replay in her head forever.
Tell me about your living arrangements
I lived in student dorms in Ramat Aviv, right off campus with the majority of the abroad students. The dorms were about 10 minutes from the city and the beach and it was incredible. Ramat Aviv is a very upscale suburb of Tel Aviv and had beautiful apartments, parks, cafes and shopping. Because the produce in Israel is so amazing and fresh it was so fun to go to the market outside my dorm to get groceries to make Israeli salad, schnitzel, couscous, etc. I didn’t cook too often because seriously every single restaurant seemed like a must and so delicious. Outside of class I spent most of my time at the beach or out and about so I rarely spent time in the dorms.
Did you live like a local?
I definitely lived in Tel Aviv like a local but the city itself is very Americanized so it wasn’t that much of a culture shock for me. I became comfortable taking the bus and learning my way around the city but it wasn’t too different than living in any other big city. Also a lot of Tel-Avivians speak English so whenever I had questions it was easy. Every street sign had English, Hebrew and Arabic so I always knew where I was.
What were your favorite places to go?
Besides its stunning seaside beauty, the city itself is very interesting. It is almost like New York because each neighborhood is very different and has its own characteristic. My favorite places to go in Tel Aviv were Gordon Beach after class, Dizengoff street, which is one of the main shopping streets, Shuk HaCarmel (the market), the Namal (the Tel-Aviv port) that has amazing restaurants, and Jaffa which is the oldest part of Tel Aviv and an ancient port city.
I honestly could list a million places I loved to go because every single part of the city was so different and fascinating. I also loved being able to travel around Israel because transportation was easy and because it’s a small country nothing was far away! Nothing compared to being able to get on a bus to Jerusalem and be in one of the holiest cities in the entire world in only one hour from my leaving my dorm. Also the Tel Aviv nightlife is unbelievable and some of the most fun nights and memories of my whole life. In the winter season there are different clubs and bars than the summer season. This is because most clubs in the summer are outdoors and some are even right on the beach. There were a lot of different types of scenes but everybody in that city knows exactly how to have fun.
What was the most amazing cultural experience you had?
I had some really incredible cultural experiences but one of my most moving experiences was being able to experience Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut, while being there. I’ll never forget it because I didn’t get an hour of sleep. People were partying in the streets all day and all night and I have never felt so much pride in being a Jew or being where I was. There were Israeli flags hung up on every single street light and the vibes in the city were incredible.
What do you think are the Top Five Places in Israel?
(1) Go to Jerusalem, there’s no place like it. There is no other place you can hear church bells, the Muslim call to prayer and Jewish services happen all at once within such small distance of each other. It one of the holiest places and most beautiful places in the world.
(2) Lay on the beach in Tel Aviv. It is complete paradise. The food in the city is beyond incredible, everyone is always outside being active or laying on the beach at all hours of the day. The beaches are clean people play music, surf, paddle board, and tan for hours. It is also incredible to walk/run up and down the boardwalk- the views of Tel Aviv’s skyline are stunning. Also Tel Aviv has the best sunsets I have ever seen.
(3) Eat the best hummus in the world in Jaffa. A restaurant called Abu Hassan, has hands down the very best hummus in the entire world.
(4) Float in the Dead Sea. Because you actually float!
(5) Go to Eilat, which is considered the Vegas of Israel. It’s Israel’s most southern city and has some of the best resorts and beaches. It’s a very tropical city!
(6) Hike in the south or the north. If you’re in the south you’re in the Negev Desert and if you’re in the north you have beautiful mountainous cities.
How has studying abroad impacted your personal growth?
Studying abroad in general is a growing experience for everyone. But Israel really taught me a lot about myself, culturally, religiously and academically. I tested my limits, tried new things, and allowed myself to really immerse myself in a new culture. I rarely ever said no and that was the best way to learn. I came home with a better understanding of my personal faith and a better understanding of others’.
Would you suggest someone who isn’t Jewish to study abroad here?
Yes!!!! Israel is for EVERYONE to experience. It’s a modernized, gorgeous, democratic state that lies in the Middle East. Everyone is welcome, and is a melting pot of so many religions and cultures. There is honestly no place in the world like it and there were many non-Jews who studied abroad on my program. People come form all over the world, Jew’s and non-Jews, everyone needs to see Israel’s beauty.
Anything else you think I should know about your abroad experience?
In a place like Israel, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to do everything I wanted to do because there’s too much for one semester. But that’s the best part. There was never a dull moment and every day was something different. Also if you’re looking for an abroad experience that allows you to experience a city that is also paradise, Tel Aviv is your answer.