Gann students have the choice of spending a semester living and learning in Israel. Goldie Davoudgoleh '16 recently returned and shared her thoughts.

Before I embarked on what was to be the journey of a lifetime, my father sat me down and asked me what my main objectives for my next three months in Israel were. After deeply thinking about it, I narrowed it down to three points: I wanted to get a strong education while living in a foreign country, I wanted to embrace Israeli culture, and I wanted to gain a sense of independence. When I arrived back at Gann a couple weeks ago, my dad asked me if I had accomplished all my goals, and I was proud to tell him that I had.

Going on a program like this in high school is like getting a taste of college. When I think of college, besides classes and studying, I think about responsibility and independence. As I prepared myself for my three months abroad, I knew that those two pieces of college would also apply to this program. Sharing a dorm with 11 other girls may not sound independent, but living in a dorm environment put me in charge of managing my priorities while still allowing myself to have fun. Once I was able to successfully manage my responsibilities for school and in the dorm, I was able to experience that independence. Many high schoolers don’t get the opportunity to live a college-related lifestyle during high school, and I’m really glad that I had the chance to take on that type of lifestyle in order to slowly ease myself into college in the future.

Different from family vacations or tourist trips, we lived Hod HaSharon, a town outside of Tel Aviv, and had the opportunity to experience Israeli culture as locals. During our free time, we were able to get to know our new home on a more personal level by engrossing ourselves in the culture. In addition to the local culture, we were also able to fully embrace Israel’s culture as we traveled from the Galil to the Negev on our trips, or tiyulim. On our tiyul to Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s progressive culture, we learned about how the idea of Israeli culture began and became what it is today. We were also able to experience Israelis’ way of life when we visited Irony Hey High School in Haifa in the beginning of the semester. We stayed with Irony Hey teens, experiencing their daily lives while making new friendships along the way. Through this trip, I realized that Israeli culture — though different from American culture in many ways — is really unique and one of the parts that I love most about Israel.

 I know that I’ll be able to take my experiences and memories in Israel with me as I continue on through high school and then on to the rest of my life. Without the many incredible features of the Gann Israel program, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the three objectives that I explained to my father over three months ago. I hope that my classmates and I take our new connections and friendships back with us to our lives in greater Boston and that we always remember this unforgettable trip that brought us together.

 Although it sounds cliché to say that this program was life-changing, I honestly don’t know how else to describe it.

This story originally appeared on Gann's website.