Study Abroad: Israel
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Teressa Hamsher

Paterno Fellow
Hometown: Nazareth, PA
Majors: Psychology and International Politics
Minor: Spanish

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this experience though the Schreyer Honors College Listserv promoting the Distinguished Honors Faculty Dinners. A professor in attendance, Dr. Ann-Killebrew, was offering a Spring Break travel opportunity to Israel.

Tell us a little bit about your experience

My experience in Israel was nothing short of awe-inspiring. While I had travelled abroad before, I had never travelled to a place that holds so much meaning for many different types of people. It was sobering to go to sites where people had waited their whole lives to attend, pray, and be close to their God. Also, I was able to experience a wildly different culture from my own. The Middle East has very different expectations and social norms, especially for women, and I grew as a global student by learning these norms and being sensitive to them through my dress and actions. Of course the food and landscapes were amazing, but the historical, spiritual, and personal value of the different places we went is what truly defined my experience.

"I gained a very scholarly knowledge base on the history of Israel and the Middle East through lectures and museums, but was also able to witness it for myself."

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically, I was positively impacted, especially as an International Politics student. The role that Israel plays in the Middle East is integral to understanding modern International Relations. The creation of Israel is one of the most cataclysmic events in modern history, and the reaction of the surrounding areas to Israel has complicated and revolutionized relations in the Middle East, as well as US relations with these other countries. While we were in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, these political factors were largely and visually at play, and my professor made a point of explaining them when she needed to. Therefore, I gained a very scholarly knowledge base on the history of Israel and the Middle East through lectures and museums, but was also able to witness it for myself.

What are your career goals or plans? How did this experience impact them?

My career plans include working with women, hopefully internationally, in a legal or humanitarian aspect. Going to an area of the world where the role of women is very different from the United States, I was able to gain a stronger understanding for how women are viewed, how they view themselves, and how this impacts their ability to thrive. I think it is often a misconception of “The West” that women in different areas of the world are seriously oppressed, but travelling to Israel showed me that one must understand the religious and cultural context before passing judgment on what oppression means. This taught me a very important lesson which I believe will make me more successful with my career goals in the future.

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