Q: What is your full name, where you are from, University in the states and University/program here?

My name is Emily Berkowitz and I’m from California. However, I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada and went to UNLV where I majored in Secondary Education and British Literature. I am currently getting a Master’s in teaching English to speaker of other languages at Tel Aviv University.  

Q: Why Israel?

Two years ago, I finally went on my Birthright. It was my first real trip abroad and after that, I was hooked. A year later, I decided that I wanted to get my Master’s degree for teaching and I was shopping around for the right degree. When I found out Israel had the program that I wanted, I decided to take the plunge. I dropped everything and went on a big adventure.

Q: What was your favorite moment this far in your journey?

I don’t think I can pick one individual moment. However, the most memorable moments for me have been Shabbat dinners. When you move somewhere new and you have no friends and you feel so isolated, you realize that everyone here is just like you. They are doing something new and feel the same way you do. I started having Shabbat dinners right away with my new roommates and some other international students and all of a sudden, the adventure was not so scary anymore because we realized that we were all in this together. We were each other’s new family, and it was going to be okay. 

Q: What was your program like, what made it different from studying in the USA?

My program was very very different from studying in the USA. It was definitely more independent work and I learned to manage my time appropriately. It also gave me the opportunity to go on some cool field trips to different schools and to learn more about where I was living. 

Q: How do you think studying in Israel has helped you on your journey to a meaningful career and future?

After making it here, I feel that I can make it anywhere. Living is Israel has been a definite challenge: not speaking the language, having to figure out everything by myself, going through a large amount of culture shock, etc. Now that I have proven to myself that I can and will be successful when I put my mind to it, I feel well-prepared for whatever life has to throw at me. I know now that I don’t have to walk on the beaten path. I can make my own path and it will be a great one. 

Q: You opted in to learn about adaptive leadership as a part of Masa University Leadership track. Can you tell us about what you’ve learned in the track and what your take away is from the track?

I’m a high school English teacher. I chose the Leadership track because leading is my job. The most valuable thing that I learned from this track is how to look at a situation from every possible angle. By doing this, you can truly lead and help others. 

Q: Any advice for incoming students or newbies to Tel Aviv?

Learn at least a little Hebrew before your Ulpan and be prepared to adapt to Israeli lifestyle! This involves getting in verbal arguments with strangers at the grocery store on a weekly basis, but also smiling and laughing with the same person 10 minutes later. You may not understand what I’m talking about now, but soon it will all make sense. 

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