Jason Reynolds, one of my favorite authors, once said, “Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can’t put yourself in a situation where you're uncomfortable, then you will never grow. You will never Change. You will never learn.”
I have always aspired to live a life that embraces the unfamiliar and new experiences that offer me a chance to adapt to a new environment. Studying abroad in Jerusalem at The Hebrew University has allowed me to live out one of my life’s mantras. Studying abroad is an amazing chance for students like me to experience new cultures and truly embrace a different culture. As the airplane was descending into Tel-Aviv, I became overwhelmed with emotions - one being primarily joy. I have been dreaming of coming to Israel since I was a little girl. The country is full of such important religious significance for me. I am a believer so words cannot fully express how significant it is for me to live where important figures in the Bible lived. To live so close to the sea of Galilee, Mount of Olives and Bethlehem is mind-blowing. I have been able to explore and experience this throughout my first month here. For the month of February every morning for 5 hours I have intensely studied Hebrew through a program called Ulpan. The program has allowed me to meet exchange students from around the world: Denmark, Germany, Korea, and Spain to name a few. Each day is full of grammar, vocabulary, and cultural history. After Hebrew class is over, I then go to The Jerusalem Academy of music and Dance to take a Gaga class. Gaga is an improvisational form. Israeli Choreographer Ohad Naharin developed the improvisational dance form to help members in his company gain a better grasp on his dance form. He transformed how contemporary movers interact with dance. The first couple of weeks here were grueling, my days were long, jet lag was very intense, and language barriers were everywhere. The grocery store, coffee shops, and public transportation were new and overwhelming experiences all because of being an English speaker.
As an African American woman, I am often the only black person. This is one obstacle that I expected coming to Israel; however so far it has only enhanced my learning experiences. I have started many conversations and made new friends just due to the fact that my skin and hair are different. Not all these conversations are comfortable people touching my hair without permission or staring at me on the bus is unsettling. However, some conversations have been enriching and each encounter has allowed me to learn something about myself and/or educate others about what it means to be a black woman. This semester, I hope to continue to explore the city of Jerusalem and visit well known and lesser known sites. I hope to also spend this semester abroad meeting local artists and hearing from minority voices within varying communities here. I am excited for more opportunities to learn and engage in the uncomfortable because that is the only way that I will grow, change, and learn.
Author: Dominique Dempsey