As I prepare for the exciting challenge that is college, I reflect on my past experiences, particularly one between my sophomore and junior year. While most young adults used their summer vacation as a time to relax, rejoice and prepare for the following school year, I joined a Jewish youth group called NFTY and traveled Israel with thirty-nine other teenagers from around the United States. As excited as I was for this trip, I was also nervous for I did not know a soul. On my trip, I discovered what my Jewish heritage meant to me, made great relationships, but more importantly I learned life lessons that I will incorporate throughout every aspect in my life.
One of my experiences in Israel was visiting the city of Jerusalem (both New and Old). Visiting Jerusalem and seeing how many religions around the world consider the city as such a sacred place had rekindled my faith which seemed to be a small presence in my life. In addition, Jerusalem made me grateful for what I have and not to take anything for granted. Being raised in a small town in upstate New York, having to interact with the less fortunate was a situation I was not prepared for. Coming face to face with the less fortunate than I made me realize that nothing in my life will be given to me. The world is full of obstacles for which I solely accept for my responsibility and my future will be a direct reflection of my determination.
Another experience during my trip was hiking from East Israel (the Sea of Galilee) to West Israel (the Mediterranean Sea), a distance of 30 miles in 5 days. On day one, we started walking at 5 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m.; my legs were numb, I could barely stand, I felt like I had just ran a marathon. Still, I had an incredible sense of accomplishment that could not be vanquished by my aches and pains. The next four days were similar to the first, the pains only intensified. Yet as my soreness grew, so did my feeling of achievement. Finally, we arrived at the Mediterranean Sea, I felt a level of accomplishment and a sudden realization. I had never hiked farther or done anything as physically exhausting in my life; I realized when given any challenge, I have the ability to conquer.
My trip to Israel was an overall exciting and educational experience. I got the opportunity to interact with a group of teenagers that I am very close to today. Exploring Israel taught me to be open-minded, helping me realize that as a person, I am part of a vast world full of challenges that will test my merit on a daily basis. Also, the physically demanding task of hiking the country taught me perseverance, to embrace any challenge knowing I will succeed. These are lessons that I intend to use for the rest of my life.
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