Learning How to Party: My Study Abroad Experience

Learning How to Party: My Study Abroad Experience

When I decided to spend a semester abroad in college, my only expectation was that I was going to have the best time of my life. I knew that I would come back wiser and years more mature, but I had no idea just how much of an impact my decision would have on me, and I wouldn’t until long after the semester ended.

In fact, I went abroad to escape. I wanted an authentic, unique, “live-like-a-local” experience away from the stress of everything happening at home. Knowing that I didn’t want to be the typical American college student who drinks their way through Europe, I opted to go to Be’er Sheva, Israel.

As the daughter of an Israeli woman, granddaughter of one of the first women in the Israeli army, having family and friends throughout the country, and having visited before and loved it, it was really no choice at all. Soon, the small college town in the desert felt like home and my diverse group of friends there had come to feel like my family.

I went abroad to escape. I wanted an authentic, unique, “live-like-a-local” experience away from the stress of everything happening at home.

When my mother asked me what I would be studying in Israel, I gave her the honest answer, “How to party.” I had to take advantage of the opportunity I had while it lasted.

The expectations I had for my semester abroad were far surpassed. I lived a cycle of going out all night, creating amazing memories, and getting very little sleep while maintaining good grades. I enjoyed staying out on the town, waking up early the next morning, enduring three hours of intense Hebrew class, doing homework and studying, lounging by the pool at the university sports center, having dinner and getting ready to go out again – and repeating it all the following day.

I fully embraced the music and my surroundings and had an unforgettable night.

Apart from bar hopping and clubbing, one activity I had really wanted to do was to go to a concert. As a lover of live music and rock shows, I wondered if that was something that I could enjoy in Israel too. With a stroke of luck, midway through the semester a popular Israeli funk/hip hop group called Hadag Nahash was playing at the club my friends and I frequented across town. I leaped at the opportunity to go. Having listened to the band before. And I was so excited to not only go to a concert, but a concert of a group I actually knew of.

The show started late and lasted until two in the morning, the place filling up with what seemed like hundreds of local teenage boys. This was a huge switch from the young adults I was used to seeing in the university social scene. The band delivered a great, lively performance, so I let loose and danced the night away.

It was a lot like the general admission shows I was used to back home, the only difference was that here, I had no idea what the singer was saying. In a strange way, it was even better. I fully embraced the music and my surroundings and had an unforgettable night.

Learning How to Party: My Study Abroad Experience

Israel showed me that there is always a fun time waiting to be had as long as you keep your eyes, ears and mind open. Whether it was going on a desert hike in record-breaking heat after less than two hours of sleep, stumbling upon a wine festival in the park, a moonlit hike in the Negev, a spur of the moment trip to Jerusalem, or making lifelong friendships, adventure was always just around the corner.

While parties and adventures are a natural part of being a university student, this mindset is a bit more unique in Israel. At age 18, all Israelis are drafted into the army and are required to serve for at least two years. Elsewhere in the world, this is the time when we’re typically able to live it up and explore our options; Israelis may not have that chance until years later. As an international student, university life in Israel was that much more vibrant and fun.

When I came back to New York, I faced what can only be classified as reverse culture shock. Readjusting to life as it was before was nothing short of difficult. I managed to fall back into a routine of classes, extra-curriculars, and a toned-down social life, but it always felt like something was missing; the piece of my heart I left overseas.

Several years later, I can still wholeheartedly say that studying abroad was the best thing I ever did for myself. Spending that time in Israel was a decision I never had to think twice about. I knew that I would probably only study abroad once in my life, and I can’t think of a better way to have done it.

When I came back to New York, I faced what can only be classified as reverse culture shock… I managed to fall back into a routine of classes, extra-curriculars, and a toned-down social life, but it always felt like something was missing; the piece of my heart I left overseas.

Studying abroad is much different from traveling on vacation or doing volunteer work. Going to school, doing homework and studying for exams all while exploring a new place is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to truly understand it and the people who live there. The entire experience from beginning to end, in and out of the classroom, was a valuable lesson.

My decision to study abroad changed my life and it changed me. The nostalgia for my semester in Israel often pains me, but that’s exactly how I know I made the right decision. The people I met, journeys I took, foods I ate, sights I saw, and lessons I learned will stay with me forever. I would not trade the fun, adventurous, thrilling ride of a lifetime for the world.

I kept a record of my journey as it happened, but I still jump at the opportunity to talk about my experience and I am confident that I always will.

Learning How to Party: My Study Abroad Experience

Learning How to Party: My Study Abroad Experience.

Have you traveled to Israel? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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About Lili Sajecki

AvatarBorn and raised in NYC, I’m a media nerd, language lover, writer and traveler. Constantly living with feelings of wanderlust and a strong curiosity about the world around me, I am always eager to learn about people and places very different from my own life and to tell those stories. Learn more about me on my blog and follow me on Twitter @shigahon.

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