Semester student Charlie Le shares his experience at the Hebrew University!

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My name is Charlie and I am a 4th year student from the University of Waterloo, graduating with a double major in History and Peace and Conflict Studies. During my final year of university, I felt as though I was in a rut and the monotony of life was becoming unbearable. With graduation approaching, I yearned for new exciting experiences; for change, growth and to positively define my life.

With gratuitous thanks to the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, I was able to achieve all that I had hoped for during my semester abroad in Israel. One thing I learned is that nobody is ever alone when in Israel. No matter what problems you have, there is always a great community of people for support.

My fondest memories of Israel were not of experimenting with the amazing buoyancy of the Dead Sea or experiencing the diversity and warmth of a night out in Tel Aviv. It wasn’t about seeing the highlights of the Old City in Jerusalem or rafting down the Jordanian River by the Golan Heights. No, my fondest memories of Israel were of surviving the rough times with the people.

The hours of frustration spent with classmates trying to decipher Hebrew and the feeling of enlightenment as we began to grasp the language for the first time, together. That’s what I remember. Or planning an ambitious road trip with my roommates with the intention of seeing the entire country, but instead spending half a day learning to orient ourselves and getting accustomed to the symphony of car horns. Or even the chaos of going to the “shuk” in Jerusalem on a Thursday while the entire city races to buy supplies before Shabbat. It was times like these when I felt myself evolve. I suddenly developed an affinity for learning new languages and overcame social anxiety to practice them. I gained the confidence I needed to trust myself and my sense of direction. And finally the patience to just roll with what life has to offer and not to sweat the small stuff.

Israel is a multifaceted country with multifaceted experiences. No matter where you’re from or what religious doctrine you do or don’t follow, you can’t help feel part of Israel when you visit. The country will open your mind and push you in all of the right ways and you’ll leave feeling changed, having grown, and with remarkably positive experiences.

Charlie Lee attended the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University in fall 2011.

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