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This is my story

Rachel Strauss ’13

Basic Training

Before attending the University of Hartford in 2009, I took a gap year to study in Israel. I wanted a chance to live independently and explore my Jewish faith. I decided to go on a nine-month program with my youth group, Young Judea.

During my time in Israel, I was able to take classes in Hebrew, work in a school for children with special needs, and volunteer my time to those less fortunate. I immersed myself in Israeli culture, and I was exposed to different walks of life. I was constantly learning more about my heritage and more about myself.

While volunteering at a soup kitchen, my time was cut short in a way that I didn’t expect. It was an ongoing war period, and the Israeli army, in need of help, was recruiting visitors. My friends and I volunteered, and for two months, we lived on an army base and wore uniforms. We learned basic training and held different jobs on the base, including packing boxes of supplies for soldiers. We participated in the morning flag pole ceremony, lineups, and other events on base. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget.

Spending the year in Israel was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I became more independent, and learned more about myself. I also learned that life can be unpredictable and you should live life to the fullest. On my trip, friends became family, and I made memories that will last a lifetime.

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