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Stephen Muss (Miami)

My generation is fortunate to live in an era when travel is convenient and much more affordable.

My generation is fortunate to live in an era when travel is convenient and much more affordable.  Nowadays, especially in relatively privileged communities, it is not uncommon for teenagers to go on vacation with their families and see vast swaths of the world. As pleasant as these trips may be, they are seldom long enough to offer immersion in local culture.

Thankfully, students have another option: studying abroad. Study abroad programs, such as Alexander Muss High School in Israel, provide a more complete experience in another country. In addition to visiting the most popular attractions, one has time to explore less well-known, yet equally captivating sites. While in Israel, I have not only visited iconic destinations, such as Masada and the Western Wall, but also fascinating gems like Safed and rebel strongholds from the Bar Kochva Revolts. Depending on the duration of one's stay, they may have an opportunity to immerse themselves in and master the local language; the semester program here in Israel, for example, provides ample exposure to Hebrew as well as regular classes.

Although I am not yet fluent, I find that I am much better at understanding Hebrew and can perform simple tasks, such as asking for directions or buying groceries. One can also familiarize themselves with the culture, as well. When living abroad, one gets a taste of daily life as well as a priceless chance to experience local traditions. I have been lucky enough to celebrate the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot with Israeli families. Teenagers learning in a foreign country get to meet many interesting people. I have made connections with teachers that may help me going forward and, of course, forged friendships that will last a lifetime. Through these interactions, I have heard a wide array of ideas and beliefs, both religious and political, which I never would have been exposed to in the United States. The best aspect of studying abroad is that students can enjoy the positives of a regular vacation without missing out on their education. I am taking all of the courses that I would be enrolled in back home and will seamlessly rejoin my classes upon my return. All in all, studying abroad is a priceless opportunity that every student should take.