Student embarks on educational experience in Israel

Samantha Greenberg, Staff Writer

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Sophomore Emily Fridland reflects on her experiences in Israel. Fridland spent time abroad during part of first semester in an immersive program. Photo illustration by Samantha Greenberg

A smile appeared on sophomore Emily Fridland’s face as she recalled opening the e-mail that confirmed she would soon be uprooting her life. Fridland was thrilled to learn that she would be studying abroad at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel at the beginning of her sophomore year. 

“I needed a change,” said Fridland. “I knew that I didn’t want to just spend my four years [only going to] school at [Glenbrook North].”

Fridland made the decision to apply to the high school, which is attended  by international students, because it would allow her to study abroad and learn Israeli history while still taking her required classes from home.

According to Fridland, her parents were hesitant to support her attending a foreign school because of concerns they had regarding traveling logistics, such as finances and challenges she might face transitioning back to GBN after the program finished. However, her parents eventually came to believe the experience would be a great opportunity for her.

Fridland went to GBN for the first two days of the 2017-2018 school year to introduce herself to her teachers and gather the work she would need to complete while studying in Israel for eight weeks.

Effie Ostroff, Israeli programs director of the Midwest for the Jewish National Fund, said in a phone interview that Alexander Muss is a college preparation program for Jewish international high school students. Students not only have classes on campus, but also take field trips every week.

“The land of Israel becomes a living classroom,” Ostroff said.

Fridland said she took a field trip every three to four days. The group would stop at multiple locations each trip.

After learning about a trek made by the Jewish people following a revolt, Fridland’s class took a field trip to hike the same path.

“[We were] literally following in their footsteps,” Fridland said.

Fridland said students first had a four-and-a-half hour long class centered on Israeli history each day they spent at the Alexander Muss campus. Though the class was intense and fast paced, she loved it.

The other part of days spent on campus consisted of hour-long general studies classes, which were individually tailored to each student so he or she could take classes corresponding to their studies back home. Fridland’s general studies classes were chemistry, geometry, English and European history.

According to Fridland, she enjoyed having smaller classes in which she was either alone with the teacher or with one other student who was learning similar concepts. Students formed close bonds with the teachers because they spent so much time with them.

“We all respected the teacher, and we all adored having … a teacher who was so passionate about what they were teaching,” Fridland said.

After being back at GBN for nearly a month now, Fridland feels caught up in her classes and said her teachers have been understanding and helpful. The biggest challenge she has faced after returning is missing the friends she made on the trip. 

Josh Morrel, world language instructional supervisor at GBN, said studying abroad can be a really meaningful and fulfilling experience if the student is mature enough to appreciate it.

According to Morrel, International Education Night, which took place on Nov. 6, 2017 at GBN, was created to make students and parents aware of travel abroad opportunities like the one Fridland participated in.

“[As world language teachers], we definitely work hard and do our best to make sure students are aware of [cultural study opportunities],” Morrel said.

Ostroff said the program offered at Alexander Muss is a transformative experience that allows a high school student to develop his or her identity and love for Israel.

“You will piece together who you are, … who your ancestors are, where you came from and where you are going,” Ostroff said.

Fridland said her experience at Alexander Muss inspired her desire to serve in the Israeli Defense Force and ultimately move to Israel.

“The biggest thing [now] is that I know what kind of Jew I am and what kind of Jew I want to be,” Fridland said.

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Student embarks on educational experience in Israel