By Alexandra Macia
Many students at this university look forward to going abroad for at least one semester during their undergraduate experience, but for many Jewish students, going abroad can look a little different.
Carlie Deren, a senior marketing and supply chain major, studied abroad in Rome during the second semester of her junior year.
“I went abroad because I heard about what an incredible growing experience it was. I knew that I wanted to take time to travel the world on my own, and abroad was the perfect way to do that,” said Deren.
Deren said she appreciated that coordinators for Jewish events abroad reached out to her, even though she didn’t end up using them.
“It was a viable option, but when abroad you feel this constant need to go see and do everything you can,” said Deren. “I found it challenging to stay in touch with religious things such as Shabbat dinners and services.”
Despite this struggle, Deren made sure to visit important Jewish sites, such as the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the oldest and largest synagogue in Prague.
“Those Jewish experiences meant so much to me, and I got to share stories that I know about my heritage with friends who are not Jewish. It was really cool to see,” said Deren.
Because there was a large group of students who went with her from this university, along with the high proportion of students at this university who happen to be Jewish, Deren said there were a lot of Jewish students with her abroad.
While Deren enjoyed the experience, she said she did have some concerns about going to Europe because of the anti-Semitism that is growing there again. She found comfort in having other Jewish students on the trip with her, especially while visiting sites such as the Anne Frank House.
“Although I liked going through it and explaining it to my non-Jewish friends, they aren’t as impacted seeing those kinds of things as we are. Having students with me that share that kind of emotional attachment made it much more comforting in those experiences,” she said.
Julia Garber, a junior marketing major, plans to study abroad in Rome in the spring.
Garber said the process to go abroad has been easy since she has always known she wanted to go to Italy. She said she is now just waiting for her visa appointment.
Garber has yet to check out any of the religious resources abroad, but she plans to visit Jewish sites in Europe.
“I definitely want to check out the temples around Europe. A few of my friends and I also want to go to Israel for one of the Jewish holidays, which will be a very unique and fun experience,” said Garber.
Sophie Silvermintz, a junior hearing and speech sciences major, already studied abroad in Rome last semester.
“It was a really difficult decision for me specifically because of religion, in terms of keeping Shabbat and kosher. But I had heard such great things from so many people and even though I felt like there weren’t many resources for Jewish students studying abroad, I got connected with an organization called KAHAL,” said Silvermintz.
KAHAL, otherwise known as “Your Jewish Home Abroad,” connects students with the right resources when abroad so they can “meaningfully engage with the Jewish community and deepen their Jewish identity,” according to their website.
Besides KAHAL, Silvermintz said there weren’t many resources for Jewish students studying abroad, although having an organization like KAHAL was extremely useful in her decision.