Studying abroad can change your life I know this, I’ve been trying to spend as much time living in different places around the globe ever since I got my first taste out of the US as a teenager. Each new culture, each mountain is an augmentation of my soul. But, I’ll also say this, in the desert of Israel at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies more opportunities to learn and grow have culminated in one spot than I have ever seen or heard of.
In this semester or year long academic program offered to both grads and undergrads it’s all there: a thorough environmental education combined with peace studies, living together with Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and other foreigners, on a kibbutz communal living center, surrounded by the solace of the pink and yellow desert. The small institute atmosphere takes care of you, and you really get the individual attention that many universities can no longer offer their students. In no proverbial way, there is certainly a sense of family in the lifestyle and experience.
But indeed, you are kept busy. Between four or five classes, the Peace and Environmental Leadership workshops, meals in the communal dining room, and events such as culture nights, talks with your Jordanian friends, potlucks, trips, and pub nights it’s amazing that you have a chance to smell the desert flowers.
In the morning though, sometimes, I would climb the little mountain right beside the kibbutz overlooking the Arava valley. From there I could see the date fields spread across the desert and the nearby kibbutzim, absorbing the contrast of the green trees and the sandy browns. It was those moments that I remembered why I came to Israel to ultimately lean more about who I am, in the context of all of the uncertainty around me and in the world today, to find a bit of inner peace, and to live the dreams that I have always dreamed.