By Elizabeth Smith
Most students dreaded returning to school after winter break, but sophomore Jessica Boico had been counting down the days—instead of resuming classes at South for the spring semester, she is studying abroad in Israel until May 29. She is the first student from South to participate in such a program. Boico will be learning everything that a typical student in the United States would learn in a different country.
Boico first heard about the program, called NFTY EIE High School, when the vice principal of the school, David Solomon, visited her summer camp in order to recruit attendees.
At first, Boico was not very excited about the program. “When I first heard Mr. Solomon’s speech, I thought this was something that I would never do.”
But after hearing about past participants’ positive experiences with the program, she reconsidered the possibility of going. A camp friend who attended this program last spring persuaded Boico to make her final decision. She told Boico how amazing her experience was, after which Boico said she “fell in love with it and has been counting down the days ever since.”
Currently, Boico is staying in the city of Tzova, which is located 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. She is living on a kibbutz, or “mini community,” called Tzuba, where she and her peers will be staying in a hotel. Each room in the hotel is a suite with two 2-person bedrooms, a common area, and a bathroom. Roommates are chosen randomly so everyone has a chance to make new friends right away.
The school is only a two-minute walk from the hotel. Unlike in the United States, the school week in Israel is Sunday through Thursday because of Shabbat, a weekly holiday that many Jewish families celebrate in order to honor the week and the day of rest. Another big difference from South is that the school day is much longer in Israel – 10 hours! This allows for a more extensive schedule.
In the morning, Boico learns to speak and write in Hebrew and then learns Jewish history. In the afternoons, she attends all of the same general-studies classes that she would take at South. These classes are customized to ensure that every student is prepared for their finals when they return home. For this reason, general studies classes usually have only two to three students. “The teachers and the school really just want you to strive and succeed. Also, your grades apparently improve a lot, which is great,” Boico said.
Boico has been excited about taking Jewish history classes in Israel because she will be able to visit so many historic sites. Some days, the schedule is completely altered so that the students can visit the places they are learning about. “We even go to Poland for a week to see the concentration camps,” Boico added.
Boico’s mom, Jodi Yedvab, said, “I am very excited for Jessica to have this amazing opportunity. My wish is that Jessica will get the most out of this time in her life. It is a chance to see new things, meet new people, learn another language, and have the experience of a lifetime.”
As Jessica continued to learn more about the program, she became even more enthusiastic about her experience. “I hope to have memorable experiences with people I probably otherwise would have never met. I think Israel will open my eyes to how beautiful, how harsh, how bad, and how incredible the world really is,” she said.