Over the past few months with our video chats, and the past few days in person, we have begun to get to know the Technion students in our cohort. However, today, I think we really started to form a strong connection.

In the evening, we joined with the Technion students on the beach and participated in a stew-making activity called poike. Originating from South Africa, poike is the name of a cast-iron pot in which you slow cook a wide variety of ingredients. It has become quite popular in Israel, especially among youth movements and scouts.

The Israelis showed us how it was done: we dug a pit in the sand, gathered wood, kindled a bonfire and started throwing vegetables, chicken and rice into the pot. As the stew cooked and the sun set over the sea, we passed the time with a few rounds of “speed dating.” The topics for conversation ranged from, “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” to “What is your dream?” and everything in between.

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Some topics brought us to common ground. For example, one Israeli and I both agreed that teleportation would be a pretty great superpower. Yet other topics showed me just how different our experiences are. I was reminded of this when the topic was, “When was the last time you cried?” and one of the Israelis told me about how he lost a few of his best friends in the war in Gaza a few years ago. It hit me that even though we are at similar points in life, in the middle of college, our experiences leading us there have been vastly different.

While many Israelis have gone through major maturing experiences in the army before college, most Americans enter college fresh out of high school, still immature. Despite this difference, I know that we can still share our experiences with each other and learn a tremendous amount. When talking about our dreams, one Israeli told me about how he quit his cushy job as an electrical engineer at a big company and decided to make a tour guide book for Israel in Chinese. We talked about wanting to work for ourselves, even if it means passing up on more immediately convenient opportunities. “Follow your dreams,” he reminded me at the end of the night. I know that this moment, among countless others from the trip, will stay with me as I continue my journey.

And by the way, the poike was delicious.

Sammy Cherna is an electrical engineering and computer science student at MIT.

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