Manuela Rosero, UW 2016, shared her experience of five months studying abroad in Israel at UW-study abroad exchange partner Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Manuela graduated with a Biology major and Jewish Studies minor and intends to attend medical school.
My time at Ben Gurion University on a UW-study abroad program was absolutely amazing! I had only visited Israel before with my parents, and being there by myself, studying abroad at an Israel university located in the middle of the desert—one of the most beautiful places in Israel—was an incredible experience. I felt like the experience allowed me to really appreciate the country by living in the culture and soaking it all up.
When I arrived, I was required to take 120 hours of ulpan. It was really important to learn Hebrew because not many of the people in Beer Sheva spoke English, so otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to communicate with one another. I speak Spanish, so I could get away with that with a few people, but for the most part, it was all Hebrew!
Hebrew was also useful because my three roommates in the dorms were Palestinians who spoke only Hebrew with me. On one of the last days there, one roommate and I spent nearly two hours speaking in Hebrew about a blind date that her parents had set up for her and how she felt about arranged dating and marriages. It was an exhausting conversation on some levels but also exhilarating!
I took many courses that I enjoyed. My favorite class was called “The Israeli Mosaic.” It was held off-site in Sde Boker. We had close access to artifacts and primary documents there; I started to feel like perhaps I knew Ben-Gurion better than his wife did! I also took courses called “Jewish Heritage” and “Sites and Rites.” For “Sites and Rites,” we visited both Har Herzl Military Cemetery and Yad V’Shem. These were both places I had visited previously with my parents, but being there with my classmates and having solid academic grounding about both locations made the experiences even more meaningful.
I also had the incredible opportunity to pursue an internship in Beer Sheva with a BGU biology professor who was investigating what happens when wasps lay eggs in cockroaches. The professor is hoping to apply the results of the study to help neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. As a pre-med student, I was very excited about the work. I was responsible for handling the wasps and cockroaches, and I really felt like a full part of the research team. I worked up to 4 hours a day there, Sunday through Wednesday, and again had the opportunity to practice my Hebrew, although all of the scientific language was in English. They even invited me to come back to work there if I want to do an MA at BGU!
I loved everything about my time studying in Israel. I loved the courses. I loved my classmates. I loved the beach. I loved the north. I loved the desert. I loved the different people I met from all over the world. Simply put, it changed my life. I can’t wait to go back!
Links for Further Exploration
• Read more about applying for Opportunity Grants to fund study abroad.
• Read articles by former winners of Jewish Studies Opportunity Grants, who have traveled to Prague, Jordan, Israel, the Black Sea, and elsewhere.
• Learn more about UW-approved Study Abroad programs.