If I had to label my study abroad experience with one word it would be “indescribable”. Coming from a lower middle-class family, we didn’t have many exotic or bougie family vacations. My family made so many sacrifices for me to ensure they could do things like send me to college, help me buy a car, and put me through dance lessons even when it seemed the bills were almost impossible to pay. My parents put a lot of hard work, late nights, and overtime into me and my hopes and dreams all while also instilling those same qualities within me. High school was a really difficult time in my life because I was balancing dancing at a ballet school on a work scholarship where I could only afford to attend as long as I worked at the studio as well, dancing for half my school day at a performing arts high school, finding time to do schoolwork between working the front desk or helping customers or dancing, being the only teenager I knew who was working 40 hours a week on top of these other commitments, and simply being a teenager and trying to have fun. If you can find a place somewhere in that list for “Family Vacation to Europe” let me know! Sure, having a great work ethic and sense of determination are wonderful qualities to have but I did miss out on being a kid just having fun, living carefree.
Now that I’m studying abroad in Jerusalem I get to do the two things I’d only ever dreamt of: dance under the world’s most prestigious dancers, dance teachers, and dance makers and travel to whatever country my heart desires! Overworked and exhausted high school Kim would be so proud to see College Kim dancing her heart out one day, touring the Holy Land visiting religious sites the next day, going for a weekend getaway with her friends to Tel Aviv the day after that, and finally relaxing and just focusing on being young and living life every other day after that. Having the ability to study and travel at the same time has shown me so many things about myself and the world around me that I never would have discovered had I not come to Israel. Growing up in a household where sacrifices were made every day to ensure a better future for me has made me appreciate my time abroad so much more. And how wild is it that I get to live here in Israel for not one but two whole semesters? Last semester was amazing in the ways that I learned about dance, my body, teaching dance, and myself as a person. I never thought I’d come to Israel and undergo such powerful emotional and artistic transformations so quickly. I’m coming into this semester the same way I came into last semester, with lots of hopes and dreams and no expectations. I could never have expected that I’d become this trusting, thoughtful, lively, intelligent, free spirited artist in only a semester… but I did become this wonderful person that I could only ever have dreamed of becoming in just one semester. Why start tacking on expectations now when it’s the hopes and dreams that hold all the surprises? Living in Israel has truly reshaped me as a person and I can’t believe that I still have another whole semester of growing to do here!
Author: Kim Reyes