IGF gave me one of the greatest gifts of all: The opportunity to broaden my horizons and make lifelong friends from all over the US and the world. Having lived in Los Angeles my entire life, and with my plans to study abroad slashed unexpectedly by my university, this seemingly trivial opportunity was a priceless gift for me.
For one of the first times in my life, I met and got close with people whose first language was not English. For one of the first times in my life, I met and got close with people who were not raised in a large, metropolitan city like I was. For one of the first times in my life, I met and got close to people, fellow Jews, who could not practice their Judaism as freely as I could. For one of the first times in my life, I was surrounded by a sea of different languages, cultures, experiences, and lifestyles--and I loved it. Previously, I held an indifferent viewpoint on such things. But IGF immersed me in a new world that left me thirsting for more.
As such, upon my return to the U.S., I made sure to continue the IGF legacy at home. I became increasingly involved in numerous multi-denominational community organizations, I applied for (and was accepted to) a Public Diplomacy position at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, and in my free time, I enrolled in a local foreign language course. There is no doubt in my mind that IGF gave me that extra little push needed to take the jump and make these lifestyle adjustments that left me feeling more fulfilled than ever before. I credit IGF for helping me open many doors that seemed closed before. However, looking back, I realized that it was not the doors that were closed, but rather my eyes were closed. IGF helped open my eyes to a new world of opportunity, diversity, and beyond.
As an added bonus, some of my most cherished friendships are the ones I acquired during IGF. Although IGF was only a short six-months (now it's ten!), it was in that time that I made some of my most meaningful and lasting friendships. It's interesting and even rewarding to know that I have a heart and a home not only in Israel and Los Angeles, but all over the world.