The following interview of Alli Schwartz was conducted by Elan Karoll.

Elan: What were your expectations before studying abroad in Israel?

Alli: I expected it to be something out of my comfort zone, and I expected it to be something very different, which is why I went on the program. I wanted it to be something very different, I didn’t want it to be the norm. I love being thrown into a culture and not knowing a lot about it and just immersing myself in it. I expected it to be very hard, but rewarding.

What most surprised you when you got to Israel?

I was surprised how quickly I assimilated. I expected it to take a lot longer to get used to my surroundings, but in two weeks it was like I had been there forever.

What was the funniest thing that happened on your trip?

My best friend went on the trip with me, and she was on crutches in the beginning so she had to take taxis everywhere. I didn’t want her to go alone, so I would go with her. Every single cab driver asked if he could marry her. Like every single one. They always said: “You’re so beautiful, you shouldn’t have to be on crutches… let me marry you… let me take care of you… you’ll be off those in no time, then the real fun can start!” Most of them were joking, but some of them maybe not and I was glad we were together! Something else that was really cool was that after classes at Hebrew University in Jerusalem we would take the bus home, and you would see like a 4-year-old child helping their 2-year-old sister on the bus. It was like: “You’re both children, where are your adults?!” But it was completely chill, and that was just like crazy to me!

Did the experience change you? How?

Absolutely. It showed me what I want to be doing with rest of my life. I came to Israel knowing that I wanted to go into social work, but not really knowing what I wanted out of it. During my second semester in Israel, I lived on a youth village for immigrants and high school students called Kvar Hassidim. I worked at a gan [day care]. Day care in Israel is very different from in America. There’s a lot of systems that they just don’t have, and it showed me that I really want to help improve that. Also, I worked with many kids from families that didn’t have a lot of money. That showed me that I want to go into child protection and make sure that kids can grow up in stable homes.

What are the pros and cons of studying abroad versus studying on campus?

Pros are that I came to campus totally okay with being away from my family. I was also a lot more mature. I think that definitely helped with my time management. A con would be that I’m a year older than most of my friends, but for me personally that’s not a big deal. In my mind there are a lot more pros than cons.

Do you recommend studying abroad in Israel to other Illinois students?

I definitely recommend it! I chose Israel because that’s my culture, and my religion, and I have a lot of family there. That was really important to me. Studying abroad gives you so many opportunities you can’t get anywhere else!

Read more study abroad stories here!