This summer, with the help of a Jewish Studies travel grant, I was able to go to Israel. First, I went on Birthright with many students from the University of Washington through Hillel and it was incredible.

Charlotte in Israel

We visited Masada, the Dead Sea, bedouin tents and way more! It was too amazing for words. I had a really good time because we were able to get to know each other as a group really well and it was amazing having Israeli soldiers there too.

To this day, I’m still friends with the people I met and it was really fun to visit my soldier friends after Birthright.

After Birthright, I was able to study abroad at Tel Aviv University.

I took an intensive Hebrew language class called Ulpan and met a lot of fabulous students from Greece, England, Australia and Japan. It was wonderful because we were able to speak Hebrew in class and then practice it at the Shuk, which is like a neighborhood market. The shuk is possibly my favorite place in Israel because it’s a great way to get to know the locals.

One of the best parts of Ulpan were the presentations where I was able to practice the new vocabulary that we learned. I did a skit using vocabulary about the post office and it was hilarious. I’m utterly confident in my ability to buy stamps now!

Tel Aviv UniversityBesides studying at Tel Aviv University, I was also able to volunteer at the African Refugee Development Center, which helps refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and more places. It was wonderful because we able to meet really great people and talk about their experiences. I co-taught the Intermediate English class with my friend Max at ARDC on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Our students were amazing and each of them had incredible stories, one of my students was from Cote d’Ivoire and spoke French so whenever I couldn’t explain it in English, I would try in French.

One day, the beginning Hebrew teacher didn’t show up so the volunteers at ARDC asked Max and I if we wanted to teach the course. We both looked at each other with panicked eyes and we both shrieked that we had only been in Ulpan for a month or two. They told us not to worry and that we would only be going over the alphabet.

As soon as I walked in the class, I was greeted by the blank stares of twenty students. I said, “Shalom!” and then I realized that there was no whiteboard or working markers. I found some cardboard and a dark pen and started to write the alphabet on a make-shift board and the students were laughing at me for my persistence the whole time.

After going over the alphabet, I attempted to speak more Hebrew but I realized that my students knew way more Hebrew than me. They had lived in Israel long enough to learn how to speak Hebrew along with the many other languages they knew. I was super impressed and as I attempted to pretend that I spoke Hebrew, it was really hard to keep up with them.

Hebrew Class

After an hour of going over the alphabet and handwriting, I scurried out of the class to find Max to replace me. I couldn’t keep up the charade any longer. An hour of speaking Hebrew and very little English was completely different for me, I missed my Intermediate English class.

At that point, Max and I switched classes. It was definitely a day that we would never forget and after it, we were both really proud of our ability to speak Hebrew.

Check out my blog to read more about my adventures.

Want to see more articles like this?  Sign up for our newsletter!
⇒ Learn more about the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, our Sephardic Studies Program, or our Israel Studies Program.
Note: The opinions expressed by faculty and students in our publications reflect the views of the individual writer only and not those of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.