The summer that changed my life:
On my last full day, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, a bit excited, and a lot grateful.
I’ve been forced out of my shell coming to a whole other country that I knew nothing about. I didn’t speak the language (and admittedly, still don’t), and had no expectations for what I’d experience being alone for 7 weeks where not one person knew my name. I feel…liberated. I’ve grown up in so many ways, and I am perfectly happy with the way I’ve spent my time and the risks I’ve taken.
I don’t ever speak negativity aloud, no matter how big my fear or worry, because it makes it all the more real. So, I never admitted how utterly nervous I was as I was planning this trip all on my own. My flight, my accommodation…I wasn’t even sure how I’d get from the airport to my studio on the first night. My mother was shocked at how little I leaned on her during the planning stages; she insisted on finding something to help with
(as all mothers do) and ended up making me a nice, fully-equipped first aid kit (that I didn’t need thank God, but I appreciate it mommy). I internalized my concerns, and walked boldly in the direction of my dreams, with faith and God by my side. I just knew that the stars aligned to get me here, and would carry me through. And that they did.
I’ve done so much more than I thought I’d get the chance to. I’ve been to various corners of the country; I’ve gone to more museums than anyone would have the attention span to visit. I’ve been fussed at in Hebrew several times, only for them to discover I had no idea they were asking me to move aside. I’ve communicated with a retired physician in Spanish (because his English was limited)—who would’ve thought I would employ those rusty skills of mine all the way over here? I’ve tried foods I couldn’t pronounce, I’ve eaten meat from which I didn’t know which animal it’d come from (and I have 0 regrets—shoutout to this bangin immune system of mine). I’ve grown a new love for salad and veggies (Israeli seasonings bring everything to life). I’ve pushed my way onto buses like the locals do. I’ve walked miles in dry, 100 degree weather. I’ve gone bar-hopping (and discovered an Israeli song that I love, even though I don’t know what the words are). I’ve spent too much money on cheese-stuffed pastries and pita bread and hummus. I’ve gotten lost wayyyyyy more times than I’d ever tell my mom about (she’s a big worry-er). Google Maps is officially my best friend and the realest OG. I’ve met fellow Americans. I’ve met people from Cameroon, Belgium, France, Fiji, Guyana, and everywhere in between. I’ve realized that many people around the world know various languages and I’ve been inspired to learn more. I’ve written, and re-written, and re-organized a literature review more than I’ve ever edited a paper in my entire life. I’ve also given a strong presentation to a panel of public health professionals on breastfeeding and breastfeeding support *pats self on back*. I’ve learned about Judaism, Islam, tolerance, peace, co-existence, and brotherhood. I’ve spent more time alone than I ever have. And it felt sooo good. I’ve learned to make things happen for myself, to stop making excuses, to get my ass out of bed and go on adventures no matter who will or won’t accompany me. I regret nothing. I’ve seen public health at work in a country that’s got a lot of it figured out. I’ve reached a new level of respect for religion and spirituality. I’ve seen history come alive before my eyes. I’ve learned
(and forgotten) history. I’ve been water-rafting and wine-tasting. I’ve had to convince a multitude that my name actually is Israel. And I’ve explained its meaning a God-awful amount of times. I’ve discovered the blessing that is iced (translation: slushied) coffee. And I could really go on forever.
My strongest encouragement to anyone reading this is to take a chance on yourself. You’re more prepared than you know. You have everything you need to move forward. You don’t need him or her or them to validate your strength. Learn to be flexible and open-minded. It makes life that much sweeter and fulfilling. Your mind controls your physical being a lot more than you realize; think anxiety and fear and your body will respond accordingly. Learn to be alone, and love it. It’ll make you a better peer in the long run. Wait on no one; life isn’t waiting on you. Use where you are and what you have to reach another. Stop complaining and spend less time on things that don’t really matter.
Get out of your rut and routine. Try something new, God got you boo boo.
I love you all for joining me on this journey. Thank you to: The Kuvin Foundation for funding my trip, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine faculty and staff for being supportive every step of the way, my peers for serving as constant inspiration, Dr. Deena Zimmerman and Dr. Chen Stein-Zamir for coordinating my experience and trusting me to be involved in research, the International Master’s of Public Health staff for inviting me with open arms, and my family for literally everything.
Be blessed y’all.
Peace & love (& Israel & Israel & Israel in Israel),
The I.T. Factor