it's cool if you feel like you don't have the same experiences tho
I am a very introspective person, so I feel the need to apologize for a blog post that doesn’t tell you about all my exciting adventures. Of course I went to some really cool places, ate tons of amazing middle eastern food, partied with some great Tel Avivians, befriended a lot of cats, and basked in awesome museums, I think that a more introspective account is helpful for a study abroad journey. Looking back on my semester abroad, it doesn’t feel as if I’ve grown as much as most people seem to express once back home. This might mean I have matured, however, just not in the same ways. Coming to Jerusalem, I thought the biggest obstacle would be the language barrier, but this proved to be far from true. I learned how to attempt my new language skills, even if people always responded in English. Really, just feeling comfortable enough to go grocery shopping or running to and jumping on a bus you really need was outside of my comfort zone.
What I learned was a great deal of confidence in shedding my fear of embarrassment, or looking like I don’t know what I’m doing. Of course I don’t look Israeli, no one is surprised I’m not from here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to embarrass myself and still try to communicate with locals to learn something or get what I want. I think I picked up a lot on Israeli practice in this way, by truly not caring. I asserted myself into all the messiest clumps of people and forced myself onto buses, shops, food stands, and trains without feeling self-conscious or rude; which was surprising, given my southern nature. Perhaps this just goes along with being in a big city, but it’s even more daunting when you feel like such an outsider who doesn’t really have the right to assert oneself.
I showed up late to a doctor’s appointment once because sometimes the buses happen to disappear on the schedule. I didn’t panic, because there’s always another line to follow and everyone in this country is always late anyways. However, the receptionist told me very flatly that I was too late to see the doctor. I still stood there and said that I was really ill and that the doctors have already misdiagnosed me twice before. She then squeezed me in the schedule nonchalantly, which honestly surprised me. I guess you just have to go for it with a confident and convincing demeanor. Complaining can get you places because Israelis know how to put up a fight. Along with my newfound attitude, I also started doing things I’d never done before. For instance, I watched multiple rabbis hock a loogie in the city center during allergy season, so I started doing it too when a sinus infection hit me. Guess what! No one cares about you!
Overall, I got the opportunity to cultivate my own experience, which included being as flexible as possible and letting my new environment wash over me. Things will definitely not go your way, but it's pretty exhilarating and hilarious most of the time. I feel a sense of confidence now that centers on the idea that I don’t matter at all. While it sounds dark, it’s incredibly freeing to decide to make your life and also your time abroad how you want it. I think my nihilist perspective and sense of humor fits well with Israelis since they tend to focus on the more important aspects of life within a tumultuous political situation.
Although I like to take pride in the fact that I have always been a flexible, adaptable person who is also good at intercultural communication, being abroad has made me understand that I can still get frustrated and awkward, although now I can deal and grow. This will be helpful at home as well. Being around people who are on two very different and emotional sides of a political rift has taught me that everyone has a valid perspective. I think I can bring home a neutral attitude that can maneuver and help discuss difficult topics, especially with the political climate in the States. With this, I also feel as though I can now maneuver any new city I'm in.