Reflections on My Time at Hebrew University
By Sarah Parnes, Toronto
I travelled to Israel for my first time in the summer of 1993. I had just finished my final year of high school and I went with a few friends on an organized six-week tour and kibbutz experience. I fell madly in love with the country, extended my stay by two weeks and cried when I had to leave. I knew I would return.
I applied to the Rothberg International School’s Undergraduate Program (1994-1995) and never looked back. It was an experience of a lifetime. I made so many friends from all over the world and was lucky enough to have had experiences that have shaped my life.
I remember lectures coming alive, walking through the Old City of Jerusalem while learning about what we were seeing, immersing myself in the language and the culture, exploring my Judaism and who I am as a Jewish woman.
On my very first day, as I walked from the residence to my ulpan class on the Mount Scopus campus, I remember thinking to myself, “Sarah, never take this view or this year for granted.” It took my breath away and I think about it often.
When I returned to Toronto after 11 months away, I felt like a different person. I am still in touch with many of the friends I made that year. I see the Toronto crew often – my kids go to school with a few of their kids – and I follow and message many of my Hebrew U friends on social media.
My year living abroad powerfully shaped my view of Israel and Jerusalem and my connection to my own identity in the Jewish community. I am forever grateful.
Sarah Parnes leads the healthcare research and consulting practice at Research Strategy Group in Toronto. She has two sons and still loves hiking.