The following interview of Hannah Cohen was conducted by Elan Karoll.

Elan: What were your thoughts before leaving on your Israel study abroad program?

Hannah: I went into the trip really just wanting to meet other Jewish people who felt the same way I did about Israel and make new friends. I also knew that since I was going to Tel Aviv my experience may not be as religious as my previous experiences going to Israel on an organized trip, which I was also looking forward to. I just wanted to get a little taste of what it is like to actually live there instead of traveling every day.

How did the experience of studying in Israel change you?

I definitely became more independent, especially not knowing Hebrew very well and having to figure out how to navigate on my own. I also see Israel a little differently than I did [in the past] because I had a pretty ‘secular’ experience in my semester there. I also personally did not like being away from home for so long so it made me appreciate being able to be close to family and friends back in Illinois.

Would you recommend other students study abroad in Israel, and if so, why?

Yes, I would recommend other students to study abroad in Israel. I think since a lot of people usually study in Europe, Israel is a completely different experience, which is cool. I think it is also great for people to get to see the every day aspect of living in Israel which is much different than what someone would see on Birthright or other youth trips. I would definitely say though that depending on what type of experience you want to have you should pick which city you study in. They are all very different. Studying in Tel Aviv versus Jerusalem or Haifa changes the experience and what you get out of it. People should think about which specific city they would want to live in when studying there.

Read more study abroad stories here!